Last year’s Super Bowl champions, the Baltimore Ravens, were a slight favorite to defeat the Green Bay Packers on their home turf Sunday. However, in a battle of the two highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL, it was the Packers who came away with a road victory by a score of 19 – 17.
The first half of this game proved to be both ugly and bruising. Rookie Eddie Lacy had some success running the ball which allowed Mason Crosby to connect on two field goals that proved to be all the scoring in the first half. Aaron Rodgers and company just could not get their aerial onslaught together and there were two very costly injuries. Wide receivers James Jones and Randall Cobb both exited early with leg injuries, leaving the Packers with just two healthy receivers.
While the Packers struggled on offense, the Packer defense was remarkable. Playing without Clay Matthews III seemed to bring out the best of inside linebacker A. J. Hawk. For the second week in a row Hawk was all over the field making tackles and sacks. Hawk is now 29 years old and in his eighth season in Green Bay. The former high draft pick has been largely known for his durability and lack of productivity in creating big plays — until this year. For whatever reasons, Hawk is having a pro-bowl type of year. Defensive backs Morgan Burnett, Davon House and rookie Micah Hyde also provided high-octane spark to the Packer D.
The game opened up a bit in the third quarter when Rodgers hit on two explosive passes, the second of which was a 64-yard touchdown toss to Jordy Nelson which gave the Packers a 16 – 3 lead. In the fourth quarter the Packer defense, which had carried the team for most of the day, had a couple lapses. Jerron McMillian was badly beaten on successful Raven passes but Mason Crosby came to the rescue. Crosby converted four of his five field goal attempts in the day. With four minutes left, Crosby’s final field goal put the Pack up 19 -10.
With a two-score lead the Packers surrendered a quick Raven touchdown. The score was now 19 -17 with the pressure on the Packer offense to run out the clock and salt away the victory. Rodgers and the Packers delivered with a clutch 52-yard pass completion to Jermichael Finley and some patient and powerful running by Eddie Lacy. So the Packers boost their record to 3 – 2 and return to Lambeau next week to take on the Cleveland Browns.
Cheeseheads who have observed the high-scoring aerial circus that Aaron Rodgers has provided during his tenure in Green Bay may have witnessed a startling change in the chemistry of the Packers. Instead of overpowering opponents with points, is it possible that the 2013 Packers are transforming their identity to one which utilizes a powerful running attack and relys on their defense to win games? It sure looked that way to me Sunday.
The Browns are better than expected this year but are no way considered an elite NFL team. The Packers should be a touchdown favorite. Look for them to build upon how they won versus the Ravens, via tough defense and a large dose of Eddie Lacy.