The Packers went three-and-out on two of their opening three possessions, and it appeared they might do so once again on their fourth drive. But on third-and-9 at the Green Bay 23, Jennings beat rookie cornerback Chris Cook down the right sideline and made a juggling catch near midfield before cutting it across the middle for a 47-yard gain to the Minnesota 30.
“The game can be changed by one play, and we had a spark on offense,” Jennings said. “I caught the ball on the sideline and then other guys stepped up and started making plays. Once you see one guy make a play, someone else makes a play and everything starts to come back where you want it to be. That’s what happened. We were able to start sustaining drives and move the ball.”
Jennings’ game-long catch on Cook didn’t result in a touchdown as the Packers were forced to settle for a 42-yard Mason Crosby field goal to even the score at 3, but they certainly seemed to find their rhythm offensively after that.
After Green Bay’s defense forced a three-and-out on Minnesota’s next series, the offense took over at the Packers’ 20 and quickly went to work. Rodgers completed three passes to start the drive to three different receivers for 30 yards, and then three plays later, connected with wide receiver James Jones down the right sideline for a 39-yard gain to the Minnesota 11.
Rodgers dodged a bullet on the next play, as his overthrown pass intended for Jennings was nearly intercepted at the goal line by a diving Husain Abdullah. But the duo hooked up on the next play, with Rodgers spinning away from pressure to his left before finding an open Jennings in the end zone for the 11-yard touchdown.
“I was running a little hook route over the ball, and it actually worked out,” Jennings said. “He was extending the play with his feet. He scrambled and I was running to the corner. He kind of stopped and he pointed back in. He threw it behind (Abdullah) and I was able to come up with a catch.”
The Packers took a 17-3 lead to the break and didn’t waste much time adding to it as Jennings came up with another big play, this time on second-year cornerback Asher Allen. Rodgers ran a play-action fake to running back Dimitri Nance and found Jennings near the sideline at Minnesota’s 35. Jennings came back to the ball and put a nifty move on Allen, spinning away from him to easily take it the rest of the way for the score.
“That’s kind of crazy because I watched film the first time we played them, and someone that put a move on him kind of got him turned around like that in a previous game they had,” Jennings said. “It was kind of like déjà vu all over again, except I was running the ball. It worked out.”
Jennings made it a career performance by adding one more touchdown catch in the fourth quarter. On third-and-1 at the Minnesota 22, Rodgers again ran a play-action fake, this time to running back John Kuhn, before lofting a perfect throw to Jennings in the end zone with Allen blanketing him.
Most of the damage by Green Bay’s receivers came against the young duo of Allen and Cook, something wide receiver Donald Driver said the Packers felt they would be able to accomplish with veteran corner Antoine Winfield covering the slot receiver.
“Honestly, any defender, as a receiver your mindset is you’ve got to win your one-on-one matchup,” Jennings said. “I think across the board we felt like if we were given the opportunity, we were going to have to win, regardless of whether it was myself, Jones, Drive, Jordy.
“We felt like we are capable of winning our matchups each play, and that’s what took place today.”
Jennings became the first Packer to post three touchdown receptions in a game since wide receiver Javon Walker did so at Indianapolis on Sept. 26, 2004. Jennings finished the afternoon with seven receptions for 152 yards (21.7), the second-highest yardage output of his career behind only a 167-yard performance at Detroit on Sept. 14, 2008.
After a sluggish start to the season that included a three-game stretch with a total of six receptions for 65 yards, Jennings has returned to his big-play ways ever since. Sunday afternoon was his fifth straight game with six-plus receptions as he became the first Packer since wide receiver Sterling Sharpe (12 straight) to post six or more catches in five consecutive games.
“Greg is one of the best receivers in the league,” Rodgers said. “We are very fortunate and blessed to have him on our team. Just find him ways to get the ball. I think he did a great job for us. When you throw just a comeback to him and he turns into a big-time touchdown, it makes you look like a lot better quarterback.
“When (tight end) Jermichael (Finley) went down (with a knee injury in Week 5), we made a conscious effort in our mind, myself pulling the trigger and the coaching staff, to find more ways to get Greg the ball.”