GREEN BAY—Grit is the word they used to describe their performance. When the score was 21-3 in the Jets' favor, other words might've been more appropriate.
The Packers are 1-1 and tied for the division lead today because they have a quarterback that can throw for 346 yards and three touchdowns after beginning the game by fumbling the ball away, and because they have the grit, poise, whatever else you want to call it to rally from an 18-point deficit and score a 31-24 win. That's what the New York Jets forced the Packers to do in their home opener at Lambeau Field on Sunday.
"They have grit," Coach Mike McCarthy said of his players. "I really like the character and makeup of our team. We improved as a team today."
There were boos when it was 21-3, and especially after McCarthy called a running play on third-and-goal from the 5-yard line and then ordered a field goal that cut the Jets' lead to 21-6. This one had the potential to turn ugly.
"The fans weren't too happy about a couple of those field goal decisions. Mike made the right calls," Aaron Rodgers said.
"We just didn't bring a lot of energy to the game. It was a bad start. We didn't put anything together until the second quarter, when we showed some grit … and got things rolling," Rodgers added.
Once the Packers got rolling, it wasn't a matter of if the Packers would close the gap, it was only a matter of when that would happen. It happened in the third quarter, when Rodgers drove the Packers 67 yards for the go-ahead touchdown – a 1-yard pass to Randall Cobb – and for the game winner to Jordy Nelson after the Jets had tied the game at 24-24. The game winner was an 80-yard bomb.
"He's not a big me guy. He gets overlooked a lot of times," Rodgers said of Nelson, who had a career day in catching nine passes for 209 yards.
When it was 21-3?
"There wasn't a lot of panic from myself, but there were some nerves. That touchdown going into the half gave us a lot of confidence we could win that game," Rodgers said of a 10-play, 97-yard touchdown drive that followed a Tramon Williams interception with just 1:52 to play in the half and the Jets holding a 21-9 lead. Mike Daniels forced the interception when he hit Jets quarterback Geno Smith as he threw.
It was the Rodgers-to-Nelson combination that also clinched the win when the Packers needed just one more first down to kill what was left of the clock.
"Jordy spoils us. He plays that way all the time. He's just a clutch, clutch player," McCarthy said of his star wide receiver.
What might the long-term effects of this win be for the Packers? Does it have value as a morale builder?
Absolutely, any time you encounter adversity and conquer it," McCarthy said. "Big plays change outcomes of football games. We were definitely in a spot and stayed the course. It says a lot about their grit."
"Today is a character building win for us," Rodgers said, then flashing forward to next Sunday's game in Detroit. "That'll be the first of three division games we need to win."
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