Packers survive; Saints dive – Packers News @ PFT

Green Bay gets crucial victory as New Orleans fades away

GREEN BAY – A dozen games from now as the 12-4 Packers prepare for the playoffs, the week that was will stand as more than a footnote to this season. It will be the week that was many things, including …
** The week that reminded everyone why receiver James Jones is so valuable to the Packers. Jones had touchdown catches of 12 and 14 yards, as well as a crucial grab for a first down on the final drive. While Greg Jennings battles injuries, Jones has stepped up in a big way and was instrumental in Green Bay’s 28-27 victory over the Saints.
This week will be remembered as …
** The week that the Packers’ locker room was galvanized by an extraordinary shared experience. They were the victims of replacement referees – on Monday Night Football, no less – a circumstance that hasn’t happened to many NFL teams. The Packers are among the few, and it could have elicited many negative responses from the team.
Mostly, after a 24-hour cooling off period, the Packers followed head coach Mike McCarthy’s lead and handled themselves with dignity. They didn’t make excuses. They got their minds on New Orleans.
They did what good teams do after a tough loss. They learned from it and moved on. The mediocre teams simply move on, and the bad teams? Well, they point fingers and place blame.
The Packers did neither in the aftermath of the “Inaccurate Reception.”
The offense and Aaron Rodgers looked like its old explosive self. Rodgers threw for four touchdown passes despite being gouged in the right eye midway through the third quarter. Cedric Benson piled up 84 yards in 14 carries while giving a semblance of a running threat. Jordy Nelson grabbed eight passes, and Randall Cobb showed his quickness while being used creatively.
Defensively, the Packers did enough to outlast Drew Brees and the New Orleans offense. Brees brought the Saints back after the Packers’ backup quarterback, Graham Harrell, fumbled inside the New Orleans’ 5. Brees promply marched the Saints to a touchdown and a 24-21 lead. Kicker Garrett Hartley extended the lead to 27-21 early in the fourth quarter.
That’s when Rodgers capped a seven-play, 57-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Nelson, who bulled his way into the end zone.
Green Bay’s defense did enough from there to capture the win.
This week will be remembered as …
** The week that McCarthy proved willing to trust his special teams by calling a fake punt deep in his own territory and early in the game. Fullback John Kuhn lined up as the personal protector, received the direct snap, and rushed off left guard for a first down.
The call is gutsy, but more than that, it’s good football. McCarthy and special teams coach Shawn Slocum reacted to what they saw on film. When the situation presented itself in the game, they pounced on the opportunity. The Packers’ special teams have improved more than any of the units this season.
This week will be remembered as …
** The week that a sense of normalcy returns to the Packers as they gather themselves for a tough stretch featuring three straight road games.
The Packers are battle tested after a week that saw them overcome not one, but two really poor calls that could have cost them the Saints game. The catch given to Marques Colston was ridiculous, and Darren Sproles clearly fumbled while returning a kickoff in the fourth quarter.
Still, Green Bay persevered and prevailed.
They have the Indianapolis Colts and rookie quarterback Andrew Luck in their sights, and they have a difficult but important week behind them.
Last week’s prediction: Packers 35, Saints 24 (Packers, 28-27)
Season: 2-2
This week’s prediction: Packers 35, Colts 10
Chris Havel is a Packers News expert and national best-selling author. His latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio ( Havel also hosts Event USA’ Player Autograph Parties the evening before home games.