GREEN BAY – The Packers took their worst field position of the day and fashioned their longest drive of the season.
Then they basically did it again.
Backed up to their own 2-yard line in a tie game, and again on their own 11 with a one-score lead, Green Bay’s offense executed when it needed to in the fourth quarter on Sunday to pull out a 21-13 win over the Texans at a snowy and slippery Lambeau Field.
“A good, bad-weather win,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said moments after the Packers evened their record at 6-6 with the final quarter of the season to go. “It’s a lot of fun to play in this type of atmosphere at Lambeau Field. In a lot of ways, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.”
On the two long touchdown drives, the Packers drove 187 yards in 20 total plays, this after coughing and sputtering to barely more than 100 yards through almost three quarters. The 98- and 89-yard scoring drives rank 1-2 in length on the season for Green Bay.
“We just needed to put something together,” said quarterback Aaron Rodgers. “It starts with one first down.
“We had good field position early in the game and kind of squandered it.”
The missed opportunities included a fumbled snap at the Houston 2-yard line after an opening-drive turnover by the Texans set up the Packers in great shape.
Four other drives started at the Green Bay 40 or better, yet the Packers produced just one touchdown – on a 9-yard catch by Randall Cobb – until the game was really on the line.
“We tilted toward our pass game,” McCarthy said. “I thought the protection was good. Aaron did a lot of good things. He extended a couple big plays.
“He’s playing great football.”
McCarthy criticized himself for not “getting the run game adjusted” sooner, and a failed fourth-and-2 Aaron Ripkowski run near midfield was probably the height of the frustration. Eventually, he turned the game over to his quarterback.
Each drive featured one explosive run, a 13-yarder by Ty Montgomery and a 19-yard reverse by Jeff Janis, but it was the explosive passes that made the difference.
Four throws of 17 yards or more, three of them to receiver Jordy Nelson, including a 32-yard TD when he was wide open in the end zone, helped Rodgers finish with a 108.9 passer rating (20-of-30, 209 yards, two TDs). It marked his third straight game over 100.
Rodgers’ mobility was limited somewhat by a balky hamstring, but aside from not taking off on a scramble full-speed, he didn’t change much about his game.
The Packers had just one third-down conversion in the game until the two long drives, when they went 3-for-3.
“We were trying to find what personnel group was going to give us that jolt,” Rodgers said. “It turned out to be the three-receiver set with Ty in the backfield that gave us that jump.
“To put together two drives with over 180 yards of offense is pretty special. We had a couple nice drives last week to close the game out and did the same this week.”
The Texans struggled to generate much in the unfamiliar conditions against Green Bay’s defense. After getting the early turnover, the Packers also stopped Houston on downs near midfield and forced three punts in pitching a first-half shutout.
Houston finally got on the board on its first drive of the third quarter, scoring on a fourth-and-1 pass from QB Brock Osweiler to receiver Ryan Griffin to tie the score at 7.
The Texans didn’t score again until a coverage breakdown allowed DeAndre Hopkins to escape for a 44-yard TD with 1:51 left. It wasn’t the way the defense wanted to finish and otherwise solid day, but receiver Davante Adams recovered the onside kick and the Texans were finished.
“There was a number of guys out there gutting it out, playing through injury and so forth,” McCarthy said of his defense. “I can’t say enough about Clay Matthews (shoulder) and Nick Perry (club cast on hand) and Jake Ryan (ankle) for pushing through some things. Hopefully, we get a little healthier this week.”
Next up is a visit from Seattle, a game that looms even larger due to Detroit (8-4) winning in New Orleans to maintain a two-game lead over the Packers in the NFC North.
McCarthy said he’s hoping to get “a player or two” back from injury again as the next week progresses, but outside of that and the Seahawks, the rest of the picture is not on his radar.
“I told the team this the other day – until you win 10 games in this league, it’s nonsense to talk about anything else,” McCarthy said. “We’re not worried about Detroit or any other team out there or anybody’s record.
“We have six wins and we know we have to get to seven fast.”
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