Tight end Jermichael Finley played a part in helping the Packers jump out to a 17-0 halftime lead against Baltimore on Monday night, and after leaving the game briefly in the third quarter with a knee injury, he came back to make another key touchdown catch in the fourth quarter to help put the game away.
Finley led the Packers on Monday night with seven receptions, which matched his career high, for 79 yards and two touchdowns, the first multi-score game of his two-year career.
"He's done a great job for us," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "He really adds an extra dimension to our offense and opens things up for Greg and Donald and James. Having Jermichael out there just gives us another weapon. You have to kind of figure out how you're going to guard him.
"It really presents some matchup problems when he's playing well, and he made some nice catches tonight. He had a good feel I think for the soft spots in the zones."
With the Packers holding a 3-0 lead midway through the second quarter, Finley caught a game-long 29-yard pass from Rodgers down the middle to Baltimore's 19. Three plays later on a 3rd-and-7 from the 16, Rodgers connected with Finley again, hitting him on the right sideline with safety Dawan Landry covering for a 14-yard gain to the 2.
On the next play, Finley lined up in the backfield and went in motion to the left before Rodgers threw a fade that he caught over safety Tom Zbikowski for a touchdown. Zbikowski was starting in place of perennial Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed, out for the first time in over four years with a hip injury.
"(Reed's) a great, great safety, and you've got to capitalize when you don't have your weapon," Finley said. "A-Rod told me to time your jump, it's coming, so I had to make a play on the ball."
Finley finished the first half with five catches for a team-high 56 yards, but got a scare early in the second half when he was forced to leave the game on the first possession after re-injuring his knee when a defensive lineman rolled into him.
Finley originally sustained the injury to his left knee making a catch on the opening drive of the game at Cleveland in Week 7. The knee sprain forced him to miss the next three games with the Packers losing two of those contests.
"It scared me," Finley said. "I thought I re-tweaked it. I came in and checked it out. It's all right. It just scared me.
"When we came up here we were rushing. I was hurting myself trying to get undressed to get re-taped. I had to get back out there and make plays."
After returning to the field late in the third quarter, Finley didn't waste much time doing that. With the Packers' lead trimmed to 17-14, Rodgers rolled out to his right and found him inside the Baltimore 5, and Finley ran over Zbikowski before extending the ball past the goal line for the 19-yard score with linebacker Ray Lewis attempting to bring him down.
"They blitzed and I had to jump off my route," Finley said. "I saw A-Rod scrambling so I had to break off my route ASAP. When I turned off my route, the ball was in the air."
Since returning from the knee injury against San Francisco in Week 11, Finley has caught 17 passes for 158 yards (9.3 avg.). That reception total leads the team and ranks No. 5 in the league among tight ends over that span, trailing only Atlanta's Tony Gonzalez (25), Dallas' Jason Witten (24), and San Francisco's Vernon Davis (18) and San Diego's Antonio Gates (18).
The seven-catch showing against Baltimore was also Finley's third game this season with six-or-more receptions, making him the first Packers tight end since Jackie Harris in 1992 to accomplish that in a season. Monday night's performance earned him some nice words from Rodgers in the locker room after the game.
"That's big," Finley said. "If a quarterback comes over and tells you you're playing big and he loves it, that means you're going to keep getting the ball. So that's good on my part, and I've got to give props to my wideouts too who helped me get open by making plays. Everything is looking good. I love it."