It was a disastrous start, but the Green Bay Packers pulled it together and rallied to defeat the New York Jets 31-24 at Lambeau Field.
The Packers fell behind almost immediately after a botched snap between rookie center Corey Linsley and quarterback Aaron Rodgers gave the Jets the ball deep in Green Bay territory. New York quickly got the ball into the end zone and jumped out to an early 7-0 lead.
It got much worse for the Packers as the Jets continued to march the ball down the field with little resistance from the Green Bay defense. New York had a sudden 21-3 lead early in the second quarter and Packer Nation grew nervous.
Thankfully it was a good day for a rally as the Packers’ offense woke up in the second quarter and Green Bay pulled within five as the Jets led 21-16 at the half.
Green Bay dominated the second half and hung on to win 31-24, thanks in part to a poorly-timed timeout that wiped out the game-tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
So who were the best and the worst from the Packers’ first win of 2014? Let’s take a look.
WR Jordy Nelson
It seemed like Nelson was the only Packer who showed up to play 60 minutes of football. He consistently provided a spark when the offense needed it and his 80-yard touchdown late in the third quarter proved to be the game winning score.
Nelson had nine receptions for a career-high 209 yards and a touchdown on the day. If anything, his performance proved that he not only earned that new contract he signed in the offseason but that he also might still be underpaid.
DE Mike Daniels
The Packers had been searching for a heart and soul for their defense since Charles Woodson left after the 2012 season, and it seems they found that in Daniels.
Daniels wreaked havoc again Sunday against the Jets, getting a critical sack of New York QB Geno Smith. Not only that, but he kept his teammates fired up after the Jets humiliated the defense in the early part of the game. There’s a lot of problems on that unit right now, but Daniels isn’t one of them. He’s obviously part of the solution.
Marty Mornhinweg with an assist from the refs
Not sure if Mornhinweg thought he was still head coach of Lions or not, but he can’t call a timeout. He’s not the head coach. Luckily, the officials had no idea who made the decision and blew the whistle that prevented what would have been the game-tying touchdown pass.
After having plenty of those kinds of breaks not go their way, the Packers were more than happy to catch one for a change. The Jets were eventually stopped on that drive and Green Bay ran out the clock to seal the win on the subsequent possession.
Head coach Mike McCarthy
As hard as his team was fighting to come back and win this game, McCarthy seemed like he was trying to lose it.
With his team down 21-6, the Packers coach opted to kick a field in the second quarter instead of trying to punch it in the end zone. On the kickoff immediately after, Green Bay trailing 21-9 at this point, McCarthy called a surprise onside kick that not only backfired but also reeked of desperation.
Thrown in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Green Bay bench and a horrible decision to challenge a Jets completion later in the second half and it was not his finest hour on the sideline.
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers
Another read-option team, another soiling of the bed by Capers’ unit.
After all the re-tooling the coaching staff did on the defensive side of the ball, it was the same old Green Bay defense early and often against the Jets. The unit, mainly in its new 4-3 “hybrid/elephant” look, was constantly on its heels as New York and Smith used the read-option at will to march down the field and take a 21-3 lead.
Thankfully the defense tightened down in the second half but that was after they shifted mainly to their 3-4 base defense. Capers, for his own sake, can ill afford many more meltdowns early in games like the past two weeks. The defense needs to improve, especially with three consecutive games against division opponents up next.
OL Derek Sherrod
Bryan Bulaga needs to return and fast.
After it looked somewhat possible he could have played this week since he practiced Wednesday, the Packers instead gave the start to Sherrod and he almost got Rodgers killed on Green Bay’s first drive.
The clock is ticking for the 2011 first round draft pick, and these last two weeks have not inspired much confidence. The Seahawks and the Jets have two very good defensive lines, but some improvement has to be shown week-to-week and Sherrod has not shown it.
He had a quieter game after early struggles, but those consistent early struggles will eventually put the Packers in a hole they can’t emerge from.——————
Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke