GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Green Bay blowout just about everyone had expected never materialized.
Aaron Rodgers connected with Donald Driver for a 4-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter, Mason Crosby made up for an earlier miss with a 25-yard field goal and Green Bay escaped with a surprisingly tough 24-15 victory Sunday over the NFL’s worst team, the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“It was definitely a grind-it-out type victory today,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.
Not a real pretty one, either. Still, it gave the Packers (5-3) a third straight victory.
“It’s good to be on this side of an ugly win,” Rodgers said. “The way we played on offense, especially the last couple weeks, the expectations were we were going to come out and maybe blow them out. But we didn’t start fast, we didn’t have enough juice early on and didn’t play well enough on offense to get that done.”
James Jones had seven catches for 31 yards, and Green Bay’s special teams chipped in with yet another score, recovering a blocked punt for a touchdown for the first time in 22 years. Davon House blocked Bryan Anger’s kick in the second quarter, and the ball rolled around until Dezman Moses fell on it in the end zone.
“You never know which play is going to be the play that determines the game,” Moses said. “It turned out being a lot closer game than we expected. So all those plays count, and that was definitely a big one.”
The Jaguars (1-6) are the NFL’s worst team even when they have Maurice Jones-Drew. With their best player out because of a foot injury and Blaine Gabbert nursing an injury to his non-throwing shoulder, Jacksonville figured to be an easy mark for the Packers.
“They’re an NFL team, not to get that wrong, but the Jacksonville Jaguars stayed around in Lambeau Field,” Jermichael Finley said. “They were supposed to have been under the Frozen Tundra at halftime.”
Instead, the Jaguars were in it right until the end.
They put up 341 yards of offense, more than 100 above their average, and got big contributions from Cecil Shorts and Rashad Jennings, Jones-Drew’s backup. Jennings rushed for 59 yards and added another 56 yards receiving. Shorts had a career-best 116 yards on eight catches, including a 24-yard reception to set up Josh Scobee’s 32-yard field goal that cut Green Bay’s lead to 21-15 with 6:50 left.
But Gabbert — who had his first 300-yard day, going 27 of 49 for 303 yards — came up empty on key plays of two critical drives in the fourth quarter, and the Jaguars hurt themselves repeatedly with drops and untimely penalties.
“I hate to stand up here again with another loss, but … there’s some positives that we can take from this game,” Jacksonville coach Mike Mularkey said. “We came into a tough environment and some guys had to step up and make some plays for us. Including our quarterback, which I thought he did.”
Green Bay’s offense hadn’t missed a beat without top receiver Greg Jennings, who will have surgery Tuesday to repair the torn abdominal muscle that has sidelined him for most of the season. Jordy Nelson and James Jones picked up much of the slack, and the emergence of Randall Cobb gave Rodgers yet another weapon.