Game Review: Same Script, Different Day

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The script was old before Sunday, and all it did was get another repetitive chapter in Jacksonville. The Packers once again gave themselves a chance to win a tight game, only to suffer from the same failures that have dogged the team all season long. Red-zone struggles, short-yardage hiccups, late defensive lapses and a crucial offensive turnover all played a part in a 20-16 loss to the Jaguars. - More Packers-Jaguars Game Center


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The script was old before Sunday, and all it did was get another repetitive chapter in Jacksonville.

The Packers once again gave themselves a chance to win a tight game, only to suffer from the same failures that have dogged the team all season long. There have been red-zone struggles, short-yardage hiccups, late defensive lapses and crucial offensive turnovers, and they all played a part in a 20-16 loss to the Jaguars at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium.

The defeat was the Packers' fourth straight, dropping them to 5-9 and officially eliminating them from postseason contention. It's the team's sixth loss this season by four points or less, including the last three in a row.

"It's frustrating because it seems to be the same thing every week," offensive lineman Daryn Colledge said. "I'm tired of doing the same interview. It's like, 'Ah man, it was so close. You guys had an opportunity. What happened at the end?'

"Right now need to find a way to get it done in the end so we can stop talking about what we didn't do."

What the Packers didn't do early in the game was punch the ball in the end zone. After allowing an opening-drive TD by the Jaguars, the Packers dominated the rest of the first half, rolling up 193 yards of offense.

But three trips inside the Jacksonville 10-yard line produced just one touchdown, a 4-yard pass to Greg Jennings, to go with two field goals for a precarious 13-7 halftime lead.

Then an uneventful third quarter finished with a dramatic momentum shift, and the Packers never fully seized control again.

Having just crossed midfield, the Packers faced second-and-1 on the Jacksonville 44. A conversion and one more first down would have at least put the offense in position to make it a two-score game.

But Ryan Grant, who surpassed 1,000 yards on the season in the second quarter, was stuffed for no gain on both second and third down. And after the end-of-quarter break, fullback John Kuhn was stacked up as well on fourth-and-short, turning the ball over on downs.

"We're not finishing drives," Grant said. "We've got to find a way to get that."

The suddenly fired up Jaguars drove 56 yards for a touchdown, a 14-yard pass from David Garrard to running back Maurice Jones-Drew, to re-take the lead at 14-13.

The Packers had to answer, and did. But as has been the case so often this season, it was with a field goal and not a touchdown, and that would prove costly once again.

James Jones' third long catch of the game, this one for 34 yards, put the Packers right back in scoring range at the Jacksonville 33. A dropped pass by Grant that could have gone as far as first-and-goal stalled things momentarily, and after Aaron Rodgers scrambled for a first down at the 22, a sack by Reggie Hayward made it third-and-long and led to the field goal for a 16-14 lead with 5:35 left.

"We've had our chances," Rodgers said. "We just haven't executed when we needed to. Today it goes back to the same stuff -- third-down conversions, red-zone efficiency. We get into the red zone four times and get three field goals. Leaving 12 points out there on those three drives, that's disappointing."

So was the defense down the stretch. Jacksonville wasted no time coming right back, taking just six plays to go 80 yards for a touchdown. A 41-yard pass to a wide-open Dennis Northcutt (five catches, 127 yards) started things, and Garrard's 14-yard quarterback draw in the red zone set up the score.

{sportsad300}Garrard (21-of-33, 238 yards, 2 TD, 105.4 rating) had the ball punched out from behind by Will Blackmon on the key third-down draw from the 18, but the fumble bounced right back to him at the 2-yard line, and Jones-Drew (70 combined yards, 2 TD) ran it in on the next play.

That left the Packers down by four with two timeouts, 1:50 left, and 86 yards to go. Three straight completions by Rodgers (20-of-32, 278 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 87.8 rating) moved the ball out to the Green Bay 48, but after a timeout, Rodgers overthrew tight end Donald Lee deep over the middle, and Reggie Nelson intercepted with 40 seconds left.

The ending was all-too-familiar for Rodgers, who expressed frustration in himself more than anyone else for failing to pull another one out of the fire.

"I need to make plays, and I haven't been doing that as well or as often as I want to be or should be," Rodgers said. "I take it on myself. It's disappointing. I have to make the throws. I get paid to make those plays down the stretch, and I haven't been making them, so I take that on my shoulders."

But as Head Coach Mike McCarthy has said often this season, there's plenty of blame to go around, especially when the efforts late in games continue to come up short.

"It's one thing to keep fighting but another thing to continue to lose," defensive back Charles Woodson said. "Fighting is just not enough.

"Fighting every week and being in the game down the stretch, and not being able to -- whether it's the defense getting off the field or the offense scoring - it's just not enough to fight."

Not when the results don't change.

"At some point, if you're going to be a good football team, you have to be in situations like that and get the job done at the critical part of the game," said Jones, who posted a career-high 132 yards receiving. "We haven't done that this year. There's a lot of things you can put your finger on to say why, but we haven't gotten it done, and that's the big point."

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