GREEN BAY – Survival.
That’s what the last four plays came down to. The Chargers had racked up 548 yards of offense on Sunday, but they needed three more, and they had four cracks at it against a Packers defense that already had been on the field for 85 plays.
Two failed runs and two incomplete passes later, Green Bay’s defense had the game-winning stop.
Play No. 89 was a fourth-and-goal pass breakup at the goal line with 15 seconds left by rookie cornerback Damarious Randall. He batted away Chargers QB Philip Rivers’ quick toss in the flat for running back Danny Woodhead, preserving the Packers’ 27-20 victory at Lambeau Field.
“We had to hunker down, and we did that,” linebacker Clay Matthews said. “Big play by a rookie, especially when we needed it most. I’m glad he’s here.”
Woodhead hadn’t been Randall’s man at any point until the final play. The rookie corner and first-round draft pick was focused on his zone responsibility, and when he saw tight end Antonio Gates covered, he leaked out to go after Woodhead as Rivers fired it.
“It was just kind of knowing Rivers in the clutch moments, the guys he wants to go to,” Randall said. “It was Gates and No. 39, and that’s the side he was looking to.
“I was just reading the eyes of the quarterback.”
That quarterback had enjoyed one whale of a day until then. Rivers set records by a Green Bay opponent for most passing attempts (65) and completions (43) in a game, and his 503 passing yards tied for the second-most all-time against the Packers.
For much of the game, Rivers’ favorite target was Keenan Allen, who had 14 catches (on 15 targets) for 157 yards in 2½ quarters before leaving with a hip injury. The Packers appeared to have caught a break there, but it turned out Allen’s absence didn’t slow down Rivers any.
Gates and Malcom Floyd each had 95 yards receiving while Woodhead added 63 as Rivers had every answer against a Packers defense that was trying everything. He waited for downfield routes to open when he had time, and he got the ball out quickly against various blitzes.
Rivers had found an open man, Dontrelle Inman, on a do-or-die fourth-and-goal on the final play of the first half and had converted on third down nine times in the game.
“We just couldn’t get off the field,” defensive back Micah Hyde said. “We just didn’t win the one-on-one matchups today, simple as that. Thank God for our red-zone defense.”
The final sequence included tackles on Woodhead runs by Matthews and Datone Jones on first and third down, respectively, and an incomplete pass to a well-covered Gates on second down.
The Chargers came away empty early in the second quarter, too, when they went for it on fourth-and-3 from the Green Bay 12. Hyde broke up a pass to Gates to keep the Packers ahead, 14-3.
The other big stop came midway through the fourth quarter. The Packers led, 24-20, when the Chargers drove to the Green Bay 40, but Randall broke up a deep ball in the end zone for Floyd and Jones got through for a sack, forcing a punt.
“That’s what you’re supposed to do,” cornerback Casey Hayward said. “You have to bend but don’t break.”
The Packers’ No. 7 defensive ranking will take a hit after this one, but no one in the locker room cared.
The defense had survived its first rough outing since the first half back in Week 1 in Chicago, and the crunch-time, goal-line stand put the Packers at 6-0 heading into the bye week.
“Real gritty wins, especially against good teams, it’s good to see that,” Matthews said. “Hopefully that builds character and it means something going forward.”
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