1-0; Packers hold off Jaguars in opening thriller
From Michael Cohen, JSonline
~JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Jaguars began a potential game-winning drive Sunday against the Green Bay Packers at their own 37-yard line with 3:17 remaining. Poor clock management left them with the two-minute warning and no timeouts.
Trailing 27-23, they crisscrossed midfield after penalties on both teams, with a holding call against safety Morgan Burnett breathing new life into a bleak scenario. A 22-yard completion to Allen Robinson — who fumbled and then recovered his own mistake — moved the ball inside the red zone. With mere seconds remaining, the Jaguars were alive.
But failed attempts brought them to fourth-and-1 with seconds remaining. Blake Bortles completed a pass to Allen Hurns on the right side, and the Packers stacked him up.
For all intents and purposes, the Packers made a goal-line stand. They left balmy, swampy Jacksonville with a 27-23 win.
Turning point: The Jaguars took the lead with 1:09 remaining in the second quarter when Bortles lofted a beautiful throw down the right sideline for tight end Julius Thomas on a 22-yard score. But 69 seconds was more than enough time for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, who covered 75 yards in five plays for a go-ahead score. The touchdown gave the Packers a 21-17 lead. They did not trail for the remainder of the game.
Big number: 630 — Days between receiving touchdowns for wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who caught a 6-yard score from Rodgers late in the second quarter. Rodgers rolled right and found Nelson in the back of the end zone. Nelson’s last touchdown was Dec. 21, 2014.
What went right: Criticized relentlessly last season, the passing game for the Packers began slowly Sunday afternoon. Rodgers finished the first quarter 2-of-5 for 11 yards. But the offense chugged to life quickly and, by game’s end, demonstrated a few elements missing in 2015. There was a 32-yard completion to Randall Cobb, who generated separation down the middle of the field. A 6-yard touchdown to Nelson, who finished with six catches for 32 yards in his first game back since suffering a torn ACL. A dart-like throw from Rodgers to Davante Adams for a 29-yard score against skin-tight coverage from former Packer cornerback Davon House. The total passing yardage did not wow you, but the types of passes completed were a step in the right direction.
What went wrong: Throughout training camp, cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr. rotated his players through different positions in the secondary. All three of his second-year players — Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins and LaDarius Gunter — took reps on the perimeter and in the slot, which the Packers call the “star” position in their nickel alignment. Randall began Sunday’s game on the perimeter with Rollins manning the slot, and they switched late in the second quarter.
But Rollins had a very rough drive in the closing minutes of the first half, twice giving up huge plays. First he was beaten by wide receiver Hurns on a double move that turned into a 30-yard gain. Then Thomas got behind him for a 22-yard touchdown. The Packers went with Gunter in the star position to start the second half, and he was quickly involved in a pass to Hurns that yielded 38 yards. In total the numbers for Bortles (24-of-39 for 321 yards) were solid, but it was his ability to generate big plays burned the Packers at times.
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