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Offense Gets Into Fourth-Quarter Groove

PITTSBURGH - While there is no doubt some disappointment after the Packers’ last-second loss at Pittsburgh, one bright spot that came out of the defeat was the performance of Green Bay’s offense down the stretch on Sunday. - More Packers-Steelers Game Center

PITTSBURGH - While there is no doubt some disappointment after the Packers' last-second loss at Pittsburgh, one bright spot that came out of the defeat was the performance of Green Bay's offense down the stretch on Sunday.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers led the offense on three scoring drives in the final stanza, a 22-point output that was a season-high for the fourth quarter. It was the most points scored by the Packers in the final quarter since they put up 24 points at Detroit (Sept. 14, 2008) with the help of two interception returns for touchdowns.

Trailing 24-14 late in the third quarter, Rodgers orchestrated a 13-play, 69-yard drive that was capped off with an 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jermichael Finley. The 13-play march was the Packers' second-longest touchdown drive of the season behind only a 15-play one vs. Dallas in Week 10.

The possession looked like it was doomed early on after Rodgers was brought down by linebacker LaMarr Woodley and nose tackle Casey Hampton, the first and only time he was sacked on Sunday.

The 7-yard loss put the Packers in a third-and-16 from their own 25, but Rodgers found wide receiver Donald Driver on a crossing route to pick up 19 yards and the first down. Three plays later the offense faced another third down, but Rodgers rolled to his right to buy some time and found Greg Jennings on the right sideline for a 14-yard pickup to Pittsburgh's 37 as Jennings absorbed a big hit from safety Ryan Clark.

After Rodgers picked up 3 yards on a quarterback sneak on a 3rd-and-1, he had one more third-down conversion left in him. On 3rd-and-6 from Pittsburgh's 11, Rodgers lobbed a jump-ball pass in the corner of the end zone to Finley, and the second-year tight end leaped over Clark to come down with the touchdown.

"I think when you watch the film, that was one area we wanted to attack them was matchups outside," said Rodgers, who completed 8-of-11 passes in the fourth quarter for 96 yards, two touchdowns and a 138.6 passer rating. "With Jermichael being back in the lineup, he really gives us another great option where we can split him out on his own side or work him on the three-receiver side, and he had a great game tonight.

"I've got to give the offensive line a lot of credit. I thought they did a great job tonight. Communication-wise between Scotty (Wells) and I and the rest of the guys was great. I thought Scott really did a great job of managing a number of their different looks on defense. We were on the same page, so I was able to get the ball out of my hand pretty quickly and guys made plays."

When Pittsburgh extended its lead to 27-21 on a 34-yard field goal from Jeff Reed with just under 10 minutes remaining, Green Bay's offense didn't waste any time in responding.

Taking over at his own 38, Rodgers connected with Finley on two passes for 5 and 6 yards respectively before finding wide receiver Jordy Nelson down the right sideline for a 27-yard completion to Pittsburgh's 24. Nelson made a nice play, coming back to get the ball with cornerback William Gay covering him.

Running back Ryan Grant, who had only six carries to that point and eight in the game, found a big hole on the left side on the next play and took the ball 24 yards for the score, giving the Packers their first lead of the afternoon at 28-27.

"They blitzed into the run," Grant said. "Korey Hall did a great job of adjusting on the run and really picking the backer up. I saw it coming and I was like, 'Well, I hope Korey makes that adjustment.' But he did and he plays on his feet. He's a smart player so he did a great job on that.

"Once I got to the secondary I saw they were locked up on the outside. I saw Jordy had a good block, and then it was just me and the safety. I kind of froze him a little bit. He thought I was going to cut it back, so I just took it outside."

{sportsad300}After Pittsburgh's offense answered with another field goal to take a 30-28 lead with less than four minutes remaining, the Steelers took a risk and attempted an onside kick rather than give the ball back to Green Bay's offense. Pittsburgh cornerback Ike Taylor recovered Reed's kick, but he touched the ball at the 39-yard line, one yard shy of the required 10 yards to give the Packers great field position.

"It was a gutsy call, for one, but I don't think they felt like they could hold up," Rodgers said. "We had gotten on a roll there. We were scoring touchdowns and fortunately we cashed that in."

Cash it in they did, as Rodgers hooked up with wide receiver James Jones on a 24-yard touchdown pass on 3rd-and-14. Jones made a nice fake inside on cornerback Joe Burnett, and the cornerback lost his footing as Jones made his move back outside.

"It was just man-to-man and we had a post corner route on," Jones said. "When I broke inside, he jumped the slant route real hard and I was able to get back outside. Aaron made a great throw and I was able to get in the end zone. Big play, but we didn't finish the game."

After Rodgers completed a pass to running back Brandon Jackson for the two-point conversion and a 36-30 lead with a little more than two minutes remaining, the offense had to watch the Steelers' offense put together an impressive drive of their own to snatch away the victory.

"It's a tough loss," said Rodgers, who finished with 383 yards passing, three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 101.3 passer rating. "It really is, but I think we showed a lot of character being able to come back. We got on a roll offensively and kept that going.

"I think the onside kick just kind of showed that they really didn't feel like they could stop our offense. We got our chances to take the lead back and did. Unfortunately they made one more play than us tonight."

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