OAKLAND – On the biggest drive of the game, and maybe the season, the only thing the Packers didn’t do was put it in the end zone.
Backed up to their own 5-yard line with a four-point lead in the third quarter, the Packers handed it to Randall Cobb out of the backfield, resurrected the back-shoulder pass to James Jones, overcame an offensive pass interference penalty and converted three third downs.
Unfortunately, nineteen plays, 92 yards and eight minutes, 11 seconds later, Green Bay had to settle for a chip-shot field goal for a seven-point advantage midway through the fourth quarter. What eventually became a 30-20 victory at O.co Coliseum over the Raiders wasn’t secured as soon as it could have been.
“It’s a great drive, and those are daggers to the defense,” right tackle Bryan Bulaga said. “When you can start at the 5-yard line and work it all the way down there, those kill defenses. But I think everyone was pretty upset we didn’t put that one in. You’ve got to be able to put those in the end zone.
“Those are big, momentum-swinging drives.”
In a twist given the tough starting field position, the running back was Cobb rather than Eddie Lacy or James Starks, and the all-everything receiver came through.
Carrying the ball on four of the drive’s first 10 plays, Cobb rushed for 18 yards. His 5-yard run started things and got the offense some breathing room, and he later converted on third-and-1 with a 4-yard run around right end.
“I don’t know if it was a surprise,” Cobb said. “They saw us run out there before, so they had time to figure out what they were going to do, what they wanted to call. We were able to throw that in as a wrinkle and create some opportunities for us.”
Cobb later made a key catch and broke tackles on his way to a 19-yard gain that converted on second-and-17 and got the ball in the red zone.
Prior to that, the back-shoulder throw made a comeback with Jones snagging two for 14 yards apiece.
Even without the touchdown, it was the Packers’ longest scoring drive of the season at 92 yards. Three more yards would have made it even sweeter, but it was a sign the offense could put together a clutch drive in a difficult spot.
It came after an erratic first half during which the Packers punted on four of their first five possessions and then fumbled away a promising drive late in the half. The inconsistencies remain the most frustrating aspect of all.
“You see flashes of it and you see multiple drives of it and momentum that gets built and we put it together, and there’s times where it’s just … like the first half, it’s unacceptable football,” Bulaga said. “We still have a lot to improve on, there’s no doubt. The most important thing is to be getting wins, and getting wins heading into the postseason here.”
Big homecoming: Playing where he grew up and against his 2014 team, Jones had a big day with six catches for 82 yards, including a 30-yard TD.
The No-Cal native and San Jose State alum insisted his performance wasn’t about revenge against the first of two teams that cut him this past offseason, though.
“I tried not to get my emotions built up in this game,” he said. “I don’t hold no grudges on nobody. I just go out every game and try to play well. It wasn’t trying to get back at the Raiders. I love the dudes over there.”
His touchdown moved him into the team lead with eight this season, and it capped a quick three-play, 53-yard drive to give the Packers the lead back right after the Raiders had moved ahead.
Jones nearly had another score in the fourth quarter, but he was called for offensive pass interference on a back-shoulder throw at the pylon, nullifying the TD.
“My only thing is the guy waited two hours and 32 minutes to throw the flag after he heard the roar of the crowd or whatever it may be,” Jones said. “That’s the one that’s going to stop me from sleeping.”
Special teams spark: It started with back-to-back tackles for loss on punt returns by Jeff Janis and Aaron Ripkowski. Then Janis added a 47-yard kickoff return that preceded Jones’ TD catch, and Micah Hyde had productive punt returns of 14 and 10 yards to give the offense good field position.
The Packers’ special teams not only did the job on Sunday but provided a spark at times, continuing solid work in the game’s third phase that has gone on most of the season.
The day ended on a sour note with Mason Crosby’s unnecessary 49-yard field goal getting blocked late in the fourth quarter, but that didn’t take away from the role special teams played in the win.
“When everybody gets involved and starts moving in the right direction, it makes big plays happen,” Ripkowski said. “It gets the team going. You see your teammates selling out, and it makes you want to work harder and sell out as much as they’re doing.
“I’d say it’s preparation, studying film. It’s not rocket science. It’s all about fundamentals, technique, and when you show up in practice, you can do it in the games.”
Injury update: The Packers reported two injuries from the game. Left tackle David Bakhtiari exited the game with an ankle injury, and outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott left with a quadriceps injury.
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