BALTIMORE—It’s a win that clearly energized the Packers, their coach and their quarterback.
“We knew we were coming into an incredible environment. Our theme was true grit,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said following a 19-17 win over the Super Bowl-champion Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.
It is the Packers’ first road win of the season and McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers spoke of it with emotion.
“That’s real football,” McCarthy said of what was a hard-hitting, low-scoring defensive game until offense seized control of it with a flurry of big plays in the fourth quarter.
“Days like today remind you why you love this game so much. I’m proud of our guys, especially our young guys,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers came to life in the second half with a 64-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson that gave the Packers a 16-3 lead late in the third quarter. Needing to convert a third-down play late in the game to maintain possession of the ball and clinch the win, Rodgers found Jermichael Finley over the middle for a 52-yard gain that clinched the win.
“I was about 99 percent going to Jermichael on that. I kind of told him that. We had man coverage. They rushed five. J-Mike ran a great route. Unfortunately, he ran out of bounds but he gave Eddie (Lacy) a chance to finish it. He made a play when we needed it,” Rodgers said.
Lacy pounded out the final seconds of the clock en route to a 120-yard rushing day, his first-ever 100-yard game. He started the day with 47 yards combined on two runs.
The Packers lost wide receivers James Jones (leg) and Randall Cobb (knee) in the first half. Cobb went down late in the half when he was cut at the knees by rookie safety Matt Elam following a reception. Rodgers took exception to the tackle.
“He had enough time to make a legal hit in the hitting zone. I felt he had plenty of time not to take a guy’s legs out,” Rodgers said.
The Packers appeared to have the game in hand when the Ravens faced a fourth-and-21 play just outside the two-minute warning, trailing 19-10. Tandon Doss was able to get behind the coverage, however, and Joe Flacco hit Doss in stride for a 63-yard gain. Flacco pitched a touchdown pass to Dallas Clark on the next play, and the Packers’ lead was down to two points with 2:04 to play.
Defense was the star of the show for most of the day. With Clay Matthews sidelined by a broken thumb, veteran linebacker A.J. Hawk made the splash-type plays for which Matthews is famous. Hawk recorded three sacks, five tackles for loss and three quarterback hurries in what might be the finest performance of his pro career.
Nick Perry, playing in Matthews’ place, made a big sack late in the first half. It forced a fumble that was recovered by rookie Datone Jones, and led to a 31-yard Mason Crosby field goal that staked the Packers to a 6-0 lead at halftime.
“We took a step today,” McCarthy said. “We made it clear after last week. We needed to take a step.”
Was it the Packers’ best performance of the season?
McCarthy repeated the question and then said: “I feel we played a total game. I felt that way last week. I didn’t feel that way after the first three games.”
Despite it having been a low-scoring game for most of the day, the yardage totals were high. Rodgers threw for 315 yards, one touchdown, one interception and an 84.8 passer rating. He was at his best at crunch time.
Flacco threw for 342 yards, two touchdowns and a 112.6 passer rating. He was sacked five times.
“Offensively, we’re struggling a little bit, but we made enough plays to win,” Rodgers said.
They made enough plays to also feel great about the win.
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