From Brian E Murphy, Packers Insider senior editor
~It wasn’t pretty.
Well, the snow was.
But the offense was ugly. And so was the defense at times, particularily on third and longs for Houston.
Green Bay Packers strong safety Morgan Burnett (42) picks up a fumble by Houston Texans tight end Ryan Griffin (84) during the first quarter of an NFL football game at Lambeau Field on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Green Bay. -Photo: Brett Coomer, Houston Chronicle
From Ryan Wood, USA Today Network
~GREEN BAY – With Lambeau Field a snow globe, the Green Bay Packers pulled away in the second half Sunday for a 21-13 win against the Houston Texans.
The Packers controlled the entire game, though they only had seven points to show for it at halftime. They strung together two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter after the Texans had even the score.
With the win, the Packers improved to 6-6. They kept alive their hopes for punching a playoff ticket, though they still need help. The Packers’ only real chance at the postseason is to chase down the Detroit Lions and win the NFC North, and the Lions won a road game at the New Orleans Saints on Sunday to maintain a two-game lead.
The Packers travel to Detroit for their finale Jan. 1, so they need to cut one game into their deficit in the next three weeks.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers finished 20-of-30 passing for 209 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 108.9 rating. It was his third straight game with his passer rating exceeding 100.
Rodgers’ favorite target against the Texans was receiver Jordy Nelson. The veteran Nelson continued his impressive return from last season’s torn ACL, catching eight of the 10 passes Rodgers threw to him for 118 yards a touchdown. He became the third NFL receiver with 10 touchdown catches this season, joining Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Mike Evans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Texans’ offense mostly stalled in the snow. Showing little explosiveness, quarterback Brock Osweiler completed 21-of-34 passes for 195 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 99.3 rating.
Here are some quick thoughts on the Packers’ win:
» Mike McCarthy’s internal tug-of-war with his play-calling approach continued. Perhaps because of the snow, the Packers played through the first half with a balanced game plan. After two drives in the third quarter, their pass-run split was 21 to 13. That changed when McCarthy called 10 passes and two traditional runs during a 12-play touchdown drive that gave the Packers a 14-7 lead they never surrendered. It was yet another example that when the Packers’ offense is at its best, it ditches the run and airs it out.
» If the Packers insist on running the football more, they might consider a running back rotation that phases out veteran James Starks. There was a noticeable difference between newcomer Christine Michael, receiver Ty Montgomery and Starks. The most egregious example came on third-and-1 in the first half, when Starks ran parallel to the line of scrimmage and lost three yards. Michael, who began the season in Seattle, took four straight handoffs to begin the next drive and immediately showed more burst. Montgomery also had productive runs, leading the team with six carries for 40 yards. It isn’t an ideal scenario: Michael’s playing time is limited to his knowledge of a new playbook, and Montgomery might not be able to take 15 hits a game carrying the football. But both showed enough explosiveness and productivity to get more carries.
» Speaking of running the football, fullback Aaron Ripkowski had three carries for 14 yards and for the second straight week rumbled into the end zone for a touchdown. He remains the only Packers running back to carry the football into the end zone this season, with no rushing touchdowns for any halfbacks.
» Clay Matthews picked up where he left off Monday night in Philadelphia, splitting time between inside and outside linebacker. Matthews played inside linebacker in the Packers’ favored nickel formation, and moved to outside linebacker in dime. He appeared to be on a snap count six days after injuring the AC joint in his left shoulder on the receiving end of a vicious block. A large bulk of Matthews’ snaps came on third down.
» The Texans’ final drive of the first half effectively ended when outside linebacker Julius Peppers sacked quarterback Brock Osweiler for a 10-yard loss. It gave Peppers 142.5 sacks in his career, moving him past former New York Giants pass rusher Michael Strahan for fifth on the all-time list. Peppers now has 6.5 sacks this season, including one sack in each of the past three weeks.
» Inside linebacker Jake Ryan tweaked his ankle and missed a few series in the first half, but returned and finished the game. Outside linebacker Nick Perry injured his hand but played with a club.