EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – What a way to get off the schneid.
The Packers notched their one and only road victory of 2018 in dramatic fashion on Sunday, rallying twice from two touchdowns behind and eventually pulling out a 44-38 overtime decision over the Jets at MetLife Stadium.
Aaron Rodgers’ 16-yard touchdown pass to his favorite target, Davante Adams, a little over 3½ minutes into the extra period was the game-winner for the now 6-8-1 Packers.
“I’m really proud of the fight of the team today,” interim head coach Joe Philbin said. “It certainly wasn’t a perfect football game by any stretch of the imagination.
“But to battle back from 15 points down in the second half, the second-to-last week of the season, to get our first road win, speaks a lot about the character of the guys. They never stopped believing they could get the job done and found a way to make enough plays to win a game.”
An already banged-up defense took another hit when top cornerback Jaire Alexander left with a groin injury, and that contributed to the Packers falling behind 14-0.
From there, the game got, and stayed, pretty crazy the rest of the way.
The Packers pulled within 21-20 early in the second half, only to fall behind 35-20 late in the third quarter after two Jets touchdowns were sandwiched around a turnover.
But Green Bay came back with four consecutive scoring drives, beginning with an early fourth-quarter field goal, to finally outlast New York in a game full of penalties but also plenty of wild entertainment.
Rodgers, who hadn’t rushed for a touchdown since late 2016, had two 1-yard scoring runs in the fourth quarter – the first a bootleg, then a fourth-and-goal sneak/reach with 1:12 left for the Packers’ first lead of the day. His own read-option, two-point run made it 38-35 Green Bay.
“It was a lot about momentum,” said Rodgers, who posted season highs in attempts (55), completions (37) and yards (442), with two passing TDs to go with his two rushing ones and a 103.8 passer rating. “Some people don’t believe in momentum on a football field, but we kind of got it there, got it going pretty good in the fourth quarter.”
The Jets (4-11) appeared to snatch it back, as they did much of the day, on special teams. Andre Roberts’ 51-yard kickoff return to the Green Bay 38-yard line put New York in position to tie or perhaps win the game in regulation.
The Packers’ defense held and forced the tying field goal, but the special-teams letdown was one of several on the day that directly contributed to 17 Jets points.
Roberts had a 99-yard kickoff return for a score in the first half, Packers rookie J’Mon Moore fumbled a kickoff in the second half that led to a New York TD, and the Jets also converted a fake punt for a first down late in the game, though Green Bay’s defense eventually got the stop there as well.
“We knew going into the game they had a good return game. We knew that,” Philbin said. “We have to do a better job and go back to work.”
The Jets’ downfall was their pass coverage, specifically four defensive pass interference flags down the stretch that aided the Packers’ comeback. For the game, New York had 16 penalties for 172 yards to Green Bay’s 10 for 86.
MetLife Stadium hosted a Week 16 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the New York Jets.
Shortly after Green Bay won the overtime coin toss, the third of those interference penalties gave the Packers 33 yards and a third-and-10 conversion. A handful of snaps later (including penalties on both sides), Rodgers found Adams to end the first OT possession with a touchdown.
It was Adams’ 11th reception on the day, for 71 yards, putting Green Bay’s top receiver just two catches away from breaking Sterling Sharpe’s 25-year-old franchise record of 112 receptions in one season. Adams will enter next week’s finale needing 134 yards to top Jordy Nelson’s team record of 1,519 single-season receiving yards.
The finish ruined Jets rookie QB Sam Darnold’s impressive day (24-of-35, 341 yards, three TDs, 128.4 rating) and gave Green Bay’s young receivers something more to celebrate.
Rookie Equanimous St. Brown had a nice game (five catches, 94 yards) before departing for a concussion evaluation, while Marquez Valdes-Scantling (5-75) and Jake Kumerow (3-68, first NFL TD) also chipped in.
Running back Jamaal Williams might have been the most impressive offensive performer, turning in a workhorse day with 156 yards from scrimmage (95 rushing, 61 receiving) and nary a break.
“The guy is a football player, and that’s a high compliment as far as I’m concerned,” Philbin said. “He’s tough, he’s smart, gives you everything he has. He’s versatile, a real team player.”
Williams’ all-out effort epitomized how the Packers battled on Sunday, even as their second straight playoff-less season winds down.
Asked what an effort and a victory like this means, Rodgers simply said, “That it matters.”
Before the game, Philbin reiterated a message he had delivered right after last week’s loss in Chicago, the seventh straight tough trip the Packers had endured this season.
He said: “I told the team we’ve got one more opportunity to go on the road together, with this group of men, and win a football game … and that’s what occurred.”