GREEN BAY – The big plays the Packers were missing a week ago against Baltimore were in full effect from the opening whistle Sunday at Heinz Field.
Quarterback Brett Hundley used his full array of offensive weapons to its fullest in the most explosive showing Green Bay’s offense has put together since Aaron Rodgers went down with a broken collarbone last month in Minnesota.
It was nearly enough to topple the Pittsburgh Steelers on their home turf at Heinz Field.
Davante Adams (55 yards), Randall Cobb (39 yards) and Jamaal Williams (54 yards) each were on the receiving end of lengthy touchdown throws from Hundley, who fashioned a 134.3 passer rating without a turnover.
While Green Bay ultimately fell 31-28 on the heels of Chris Boswell’s game-winning 53-yard field goal as time expired, the Packers’ offense showed the cohesiveness they’d been hinting at prior to last Sunday’s 23-0 loss to the Ravens at Lambeau Field.
“Being a competitor, it’s going to hurt, you’re going to feel it a little bit, especially when it’s this type of loss,” said Adams, who led the Packers with five catches for 82 yards. “It was a close game, it came down to the wire and it hurts when you don’t finish it off. But I think this team can rally together and, you know, finish strong.”
For the fifth straight week, the Packers moved the ball on their opening series prior to a Pittsburgh blown coverage opening up the sideline for Cobb’s second touchdown reception of the season, capping a 12-play, 59-yard drive.
Green Bay turned the early momentum into another touchdown-producing series on its second possession when center Corey Linsley helped spring Williams for a 54-yard touchdown off a screen pass to give the Packers a 14-6 lead.
Without Aaron Jones (knee) and Ty Montgomery (ribs) for the second straight game, Williams again handled a bulk of the backfield responsibilities in producing 135 total yards (66 rushing, 69 receiving) and two touchdowns on 25 touches.
“Give thanks to Corey,” said Williams of his touchdown catch. “If Corey didn’t make that play, Shazier definitely would’ve got me. But after that, I saw it was open and they were overplaying. I saw field and I was trying to get to the end zone.”
The Packers again started fast on their first possession of the second half with Hundley finding Adams open down the sideline for the 55-yard touchdown, Hundley’s longest pass of the season.
Green Bay’s defense earned two of its three takeaways in the second half, but the offense wasn’t able to convert either into points. However, the Packers did have a resurgence midway through the fourth quarter when Hundley engineered a 12-play, 77-yard series, culminating in Williams’ 4-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 28 with 2:02 left.
With a 25-yard pass to tight end Richard Rodgers on the first play sparking the offense, Jordy Nelson (third-and-1) and Adams (fourth-and-6) had key conversions to keep the drive going.
“Just score – score and play our game,” said Williams of the team’s mindset. “Everybody in there like Jordy, they’re used to all that stuff. I think I did a great job of keeping cool, especially having them in the huddle to keep me going.”
The Packers’ 28 points were the most any team had scored against the now 9-2 Steelers aside from Jacksonville’s 30-9 win on Oct. 8, which is the last time Pittsburgh has lost.
As it looks to keep its playoff hopes alive, Green Bay hopes to carry over those positives into next week’s home game against Tampa Bay.
“The season ain’t over,” center Corey Linsley said. “It’s not like we’re sitting here hanging our heads. It sucks, but there’s a lot we can learn from, there’s a lot that we got better at, some things we’ve still got to get better at.”
Two weeks after being activated off injured reserve, former second-round pick Jason Spriggs made his first career start at right tackle. Spriggs’ shot:
Spriggs stepped into the starting lineup last week against the Ravens when Justin McCray exited with a knee injury. While McCray practiced this week, Spriggs took a good deal of the reps at right tackle. McCray was filling in at center with Linsley limited with a back issue.
“Ever since I started practicing, I’ve been working at right tackle knowing that’s kind of an up-in-the-air spot,” said Spriggs, who was made aware Saturday that he was going to start. “Justin has been playing well and we’re going to ride with him, but he was a little banged up. So I came in.”
With his insertion into the starting lineup, Spriggs became the fourth different right tackle to line up next to veteran right guard Jahri Evans this season, joining Bulaga, McCray and Ulrick John, who received some reps as the sixth offensive linemen Sunday.
“I felt like he played well early in the year before he got dinged-up and went down,” Evans said. “He’s been working hard every day in practice and his number was called again today on ‘Sunday Night Football,’ and I felt like he came out and performed well.”
With Clay Matthews out with a groin injury, second-year linebacker Kyler Fackrell had two tackles in his first NFL start Sunday.
Almost there: Blake Martinez’s 15 tackles (12 solo) against the Steelers puts the second-year linebacker only one away from his first 100-tackle season.
His 99 tackles through 11 games have Martinez ranked fourth in the NFL behind Washington’s Zach Brown (110), Cleveland’s Joe Schobert (101) and Seattle’s Bobby Wagner (100).
“He deserves everything he gets,” defensive tackle Mike Daniels said. “He’s a phenomenal kid. Plays his heart out. He definitely just works and wants to be the best. When you have a guy like that, eventually you get out what you put in.” Injury front:
The Packers managed to leave Heinz Field no worse for wear on the injury front. Cornerbacks Kevin King (shoulder) and Damarious Randall (cramping) exited momentarily at two different points, but both returned.
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