By Chris Havel
Special to Event USA
Green Bay’s 44-38 overtime victory against New York Jets paves way for 1st win streak
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Aaron Rodgers is a terrific leader, a tremendous competitor and a Hall of Fame talent
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Oh, by the way, the Packers played at the Jets Sunday.
Rodgers’ performance in Green Bay’s 44-38 overtime victory in East Rutherford, N.J., reaffirmed everything and proved nothing. It reaffirmed that …
** No. 1 – The Packers are slightly above average with Rodgers and awful without him. When an All-Pro quarterback has to play nearly his best to defeat one of the NFL’s worst teams it says more about the Packers than their quarterback;
** No. 2 – The Packers’ offensive line, defensive line, edge rusher and safety positions all need help. In the first three rounds (four picks) they need to find an eventual replacement for Bryan Bulaga at right tackle, Clay Matthews and Nick Perry at edge rusher and Mike Daniels/Mo Wilkerson at defensive end.
So what did the Packers’ overtime win accomplish?
Aside from dropping the Packers from 11th to 13th in the first round of the 2019 draft, it may have provided a wonderful teaching point for the young players, the point being it’s not only essential but fun to win on the road.
Many NFL observers focus on the importance of home-field advantage: Building it, relying on it, maintaining it.
While it’s true Green Bay’s championship teams in 1996 and 2010 dominated at Lambeau Field, they will swear to a man that the road wins were a galvanizing force. There was nothing better than going to the Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich., being crammed into a small, stale-smelling visitor’s locker room, and emerging with a resounding victory in front of thousands of haters wearing a scowl along with their Honolulu blue and silver jerseys.
Rodgers expressed precisely these thoughts after the game.
“It’s good for the young guys to see what the locker room on the road feels like with a win, what the plane flight feels like,” Rodgers told reporters. “How special that plane ride is after a road victory.”
The Packers’ first road win of the season was definitely special, aside from the special teams’ play, that is.
Rodgers completed 37 of 55 passes for 442 yards, two touchdowns and a 103.7 passer rating. He also ran five times for another 32 yards and two touchdowns.
Most impressive, perhaps, was Rodgers’ attitude.
There weren’t any gestures or histrionics after a teammate – often a young receiver – made a mistake. Rodgers just clapped, shouted encouragement and got ready for the next snap.
Who knows? Maybe a certain 35-year-old Pro Bowl quarterback is growing up with his young receivers.
Equanimeous St. Brown caught five passes (on five targets) for 94 yards, while Marquez Valdes-Scantling added another five catches (on nine targets) for 75 yards.
Jake Kumerow, the preseason sensation, caught three passes for 68 yards and his first NFL touchdown. Kumerow took advantage of a Jets’ defensive breakdown and sprinted 49 yards for the touchdown to cut the Jets’ lead to 14-7.
Davante Adams, the leader of the receivers, caught 11 passes for 71 yards and the game-winning touchdown in overtime. Adams sounded relieved the Packers finally got their first road win in nine games, dating back to last season.
“It would have been pretty pathetic if we had gone the entire season without one,” Adams admitted.
Jamaal Williams also had a big day.
Williams rushed 15 times for 95 yards, a 6.3-yards-per-carry average, and scored a touchdown after giving great effort near the sideline and end zone.
The Packers trailed by 14 points twice in the first half and again by 15 points in the fourth quarter. Each time they rallied.
“I think it speaks a lot about the character of the guys,” Philbin said. “They never stopped believing that they could get the job done.”
The Jets’ special teams nearly scored a victory for the home team. Andre Roberts answered Kumerow’s touchdown catch with a 99-yard kick return for a touchdown to make it 21-7. The Jets’ Rontez Miles took a direct snap on a fourth-and-1 punt from the Jets’ 31 to gain four yards and the first down. Anthony Wint also forced J’Mon Moore to fumble on a kick return.
In other games, those would’ve been game killers. On Sunday, they proved to be challenges waiting to be overcome.
The Packers (6-8-1) got a gutty defensive performance after an awful start. The Jets’ offense carved up the Packers’ defense on its way to a quick 14-0 lead.
Injuries to Jaire Alexander and Lane Taylor in the first half complicated things, but the Packers kept playing on. Rookies Tyler Lancaster, James Crawford and Tony Brown all battled. In fact, Lancaster – a 313-pound defensive tackle from Northwestern – has 17 tackles in December. That’s more than Montravius Adams has in two years.
At any rate, Rodgers was pleased with the outcome. He definitely wasn’t second-guessing his decision to play despite a sore left knee and an ailing groin muscle.
He had something to prove.
“That it matters, even when the record isn’t great and you’re not going to the playoffs,” Rodgers said. “That I have a lot of pride. I love competing in anything. I don’t want to look back in 20 years and wonder, ‘What if I had played that game? Could something special have happened? What would it look like to my teammates if they knew I kind of quit on them?’ I hope my teammates know I’m never going to quit on them.
“I’m going to battle through anything I’ve got, and they did the same.”
If Rodgers’ teammates didn’t know it before Sunday’s win, they know it now. It’s just unfortunate that it came to that.