The beat up and battered Green Bay Packers (4-2) overcame an inactive list that featured five starters and two other key role players to beat the Cleveland Browns (3-4), who didn’t bring a quarterback to Lambeau Field capable of beating Aaron Rodgers and his patchwork targets Sunday afternoon.
It was over when…
…Jarrett Boykin reached out and crossed the goal line on a 20-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter. It completed a career day for the fill-in receiver, and dashed any hope of the Browns staging a comeback.
- Aaron Rodgers: Much is made about the terrific depth of Green Bay’s offensive weaponry, and for good reason. When healthy, this unit can match any other in the NFL. But Rodgers proved Sunday that he’s still clearly the man that makes everything work for the Packers offense. Minus Randall Cobb, James Jones and later Jermichael Finley, Rodgers threw for three touchdowns and finished with a passer rating of 117.5. It was an impressive performance given the circumstances.
- Jarrett Boykin: Injuries create opportunities, and Boykin took his Sunday and ran with it. The former undrafted free agent caught a team-high eight passes for 103 yards and the dagger touchdown. A fourth stringer who received limited chances before injuries struck, Boykin stepped up to the plate and became the fourth Packers receiver to record a 100-yard game in 2013.
- Davon House: It was difficult not to give Sam Shields a game ball after he all but took Josh Gordon out of the contest. He’s really the first to do so in 2013. But House was equally impressive, as he picked off his first career NFL pass and defensed three others. This was a group effort in making Brandon Weeden look like a college freshman.
- Jamari Lattimore: This former college defensive end gives the Packers an athleticism and hitting combination that has been missing since Desmond Bishop blew out his hamstring. In his second career start, Lattimore tallied 12 tackles, one sack and a pass defensed. The kid can play. Brad Jones better hurry back.
The Packers had a plus-69.2 passer rating differential in this game. Rodgers finished at 117.8, Weeden 46.8…Despite 42 passing attempts, the Browns had just 133 yards passing and took three sacks. Cleveland also failed to complete a pass over 20 yards…Eddie Lacy broke 80 yards rushing for the third straight game, and also added a career high five receptions for 26 yards…The Browns rushed for just 83 yards on 23 carries, good for a 3.6-yard average. Take away Weeden’s two scrambles and the average drops to 3.0. Their longest run was just 11 yards…Cleveland had just 89 yards and a handful of first downs in the first half…The Packers are allowing just 13 points per game over the last three weeks, two of which came without Clay Matthews…Cleveland’s 216 total yards represented the third offense Green Bay has kept under 300 this season. The Packers held four teams under 300 in 2012…The Browns averaged 47.3 yards over four kick returns. Travis Benjamin went for 86 yards, and Fozzy Whittaker had a 56 yards return…The Packers defensed seven passes and hit Weeden eight times…Cleveland had four drives of eight or more plays but scored just three total points on those drives…Two penalties negated Cleveland recoveries on onside kicks late in the fourth quarter…Rodgers broke his three-game streak with one touchdown pass with three Sunday. He’s now on pace for nearly 35 this season.
– It was difficult to watch football with any seriousness after seeing Jermichael Finley get stretchered off the field with a neck injury. Forget any “can he play next week?” talk. This was a scary, scary sequence for a human being and family. Finley’s teammates were visibly shaken. Neck injuries can change lives.
– In my game preview, I asked if the Packers could limit Cleveland’s combination of Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron. Mission accomplished. Cameron caught a late touchdown, but Green Bay all but shut these two playmakers down. In fact, only two of Weeden’s first 20 passes went to either player. Gordon came in averaging over 100 yards and finished with 21, and Cameron averaged just 7.9 yards on seven catches. Neither was a big factor.
– Jeff Triplette is about as insufferable as NFL referees come. His crew enforced 22 penalties Sunday. Eight calls resulted in first downs.
– Red zone update: Green Bay went 3-for-4 in scoring touchdowns inside the 20-yard line. The one failure came when no receiver could get open as Rodgers scrambled on third down. But as we touched on this week, the Packers were due to rebound in the red zone if the mistakes dried up and the luck improved. Guys like Finley and Eddie Lacy, who each scored red-zone touchdowns Sunday, are so important when the Packers offense enters the condensed area.
– The Packers are in first place in the NFC North for the first time this season. Holding onto their lead will require the continued navigation around a myriad of injuries, but this team is obviously no stranger to such to these situations. Keep calm and carry on.
– A final trip to the Metrodome to take on the Vikings is up ahead. Minnesota is playing the Monday night game and will have a short week, but Josh Freeman might be able to spark an otherwise sinking football team. We’ll see. Packers-Vikings games under that roof rarely disappoint.
Zach Kruse is a 25-year-old sports writer who contributes to Cheesehead TV, Bleacher Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He also covered prep sports for the Dunn Co. News. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at email@example.com.