Game Review: Winning Streak Hits Four

The Green Bay Packers are approaching every game these days like it’s a playoff game, and in the process they keep moving closer and closer to an actual playoff spot. Monday night’s 27-14 win over the Baltimore Ravens in front of 70,286 at Lambeau Field was the Packers’ fourth straight victory, putting them at 8-4 and keeping them among the leaders for an NFC Wild Card berth. - More Packers-Ravens Game Center

The Green Bay Packers are approaching every game these days like it's a playoff game, and in the process they keep moving closer and closer to an actual playoff spot.

Monday night's 27-14 win over the Baltimore Ravens in front of 70,286 at Lambeau Field was the Packers' fourth straight victory, putting them at 8-4 and keeping them among the leaders for an NFC Wild Card berth.

In an ugly contest that featured seven turnovers and 23 penalties for a combined 310 yards, the Packers overcame enough of their miscues to survive and keep their winning streak and postseason aspirations very much alive.

"Games like this are ugly sometimes, and no matter what it looked like on the exterior, on the interior it feels very beautiful," linebacker Nick Barnett said. "They were fighting for their playoff chances and we were fighting for ours, and it was a battle.

"It's huge. Every game from here on out the rest of the year is important. There's so much relevance and so much significance in these games. We can't afford to go into a game with any other attitude than our back is against the wall."

It seemed at intermission like the Packers might have an easy time of it against the Ravens (6-6) after an early field goal, a Baltimore turnover in the red zone, and two Green Bay touchdown drives in the second quarter staked the Packers to a 17-0 halftime lead.

Touchdown receptions by Jermichael Finley and Donald Driver in the final five minutes of the first half had the Packers in control, and a good drive to start the second half had a chance to put the Ravens away early.

But after catching a slant pass that would have converted a third-and-6 inside the Baltimore 35-yard line, Driver fumbled. Baltimore's Chris Carr recovered, and the momentum shifted.

The Ravens responded with a 71-yard touchdown drive - after managing just 72 yards of offense in the first half - and Joe Flacco's 12-yard TD pass to Kelley Washington made it 17-7.

On Green Bay's next offensive snap, a low throw by Aaron Rodgers deflected off Driver's leg and into the arms of linebacker Jarret Johnson, giving Baltimore the ball on the Packers' 42. One of nine pass interference penalties in the game, this one on Green Bay's Tramon Williams in the end zone against receiver Demetrius Williams, put the ball on the 1 and running back Willis McGahee ran it in from there.

Suddenly, in a span of 30 seconds, the Ravens had two touchdowns and were within 17-14. And when Mason Crosby subsequently missed a 38-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, the game had the look of one that was slipping away.

But it didn't.

"I was very proud and excited the way they overcame the adversity throughout the football game," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "The adversity that we overcame throughout the football game is something that we'll definitely carry forward with us."

First it was the defense that rose up, getting a three-and-out with the help of an offensive pass interference penalty on Baltimore receiver Derrick Mason that wiped out his 46-yard reception against cornerback Charles Woodson.

Then it was the offense, going 49 yards in a quick four plays, with Finley hauling in a 19-yard TD pass for his second score of the night to make it 24-14.

And finally it was the defense again, getting two huge turnovers on Baltimore's next two possessions to preserve the two-score lead.

The Ravens were poised to score quickly once again after a 68-yard kickoff return by Baltimore's Lardarius Webb and another pass interference call on Tramon Williams in the end zone made it first-and-goal on the 1. Woodson knifed through to take down McGahee for a 2-yard loss and then Williams redeemed himself by intercepting a scrambling Flacco, who tried to throw back across his body to Demetrius Williams in the end zone and paid dearly for the bad decision.

Linebacker A.J. Hawk then punctuated the defensive effort with an interception on the first play of the Ravens' next drive, as he blanketed tight end Todd Heap on a middle seam route and snagged Flacco's throw near midfield.

{sportsad300}"I thought we did a great job today finally finishing that fourth quarter," Barnett said. "We were able to prove ourselves as a finishing defense, but we're far from where we need to be.

"I'm not going to say we're the Steel Curtain, back in the day or anything. But we're just going to keep doing what we do, and hopefully we can prove to everybody else we're one of the best defenses."

Indeed, the defensive effort was impressive, and good enough for the Packers to hold onto the league's No. 1 ranking in yards allowed. Baltimore finished with just 185 total yards - penalty yards don't count in the offensive statistics - as the Packers contained running back Ray Rice (54 yards rushing, 17 receiving) and made things generally miserable for Flacco, who completed less than 50 percent of his throws (15-of-36 for 137 yards), was sacked three times, intercepted three times and posted just a 27.2 passer rating.

"Their defense is notoriously known for being a good defense and being physical and shutting teams down, and we thought it would be a good game for us to go out and do what they say they do," Barnett said. "I have so much respect for that defense, ... but we wanted to come out and show that we're a good defense, too, and it's not just a floozy ranking that's out there. We're playing hard."

That goes for the whole team, as Rodgers had just his second multi-interception game of the season but still produced (26-of-40, 263 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT, 87.8 rating) against a formidable defense, with a big assist from Finley (7 catches, 78 yards, 2 TDs). Rodgers also had the team's longest rush of the night, a key 23-yard scramble up the middle to help set up one of the second-quarter touchdowns.

With the win, the Packers remained ahead of both the New York Giants (7-5) and Atlanta Falcons (6-6) in the NFC Wild Card chase. Dallas and Philadelphia are also 8-4, with Dallas currently holding the tiebreaker for the NFC East lead, so for the time being the Packers are even with the Eagles as the top two Wild Card contenders with four games remaining.

"We control our own destiny, so that's always kind of what you want," Rodgers said. "We did a nice job winning last three home games knowing what we had to do. Big wins against Dallas and San Francisco, and tonight against a football team that was fighting, still is fighting for their playoff lives. It's a big win for us."

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