Packers 31, Jets 24: Anatomy of an 18-Point Comeback

How the Packers created an 18-point hole and then climbed out of it Sunday vs. the Jets. 

Credit: USA Today Images Benny Sieu

Credit: USA Today Images Benny Sieu

Comebacks from more than three scores down in the NFL do not happen in one play. They first require a great deal to go wrong and then a great deal to go right.

The Green Bay Packers' comeback win after being down 18 points to the New York Jets Sunday was no different. 

A sluggish start on offense—highlighted by an early turnover—combined with horrific early defense to provide the visiting Jets a 21-3 lead. Patient but efficient quarterback play from Aaron Rodgers and a string of stops on defense allowed Green Bay to close the gap and take its first lead before the game hit the fourth quarter.

A 21-3 game turned into a 31-24 win when the Packers went on a 28-3 run starting with just over five minutes left in the second quarter. 

Any panic? No. Worry? Absolutely.

"There wasn't a lot of panic from myself, but there were some nerves, for sure," said Rodgers, who completed his first comeback of more than 14 points of his career. "We weren't doing anything on offense, and we gave up three touchdowns on defense. So we knew we needed a big play."

The Packers eventually got big plays from both sides of the football. A somewhat fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on your shade of green) timeout preserved the comeback. 

Here's how it happened:

 

What Went Wrong

--Nightmare start: Games don't begin much worse than a botched snap on the first offensive snap. After just one play, the Packers had both squandered the opportunity to start the game with the football and given New York excellent position. It represented Aaron Rodgers' first mishandled center exchange since 2008. The Jets took over at the 18-yard line and scored the game's first touchdown five plays later. Two minutes in, it was 7-0 New York. The Packers then responded with a four-play, -1-yard drive that featured two sacks and a quick punt. 

--Defensive collapse: The Jets' next two drives each spanned at least 80 yards and ended in the end zone. A well-designed option play for 37 yards was followed by Geno Smith's 29-yard touchdown to Eric Decker, who burned cornerback Sam Shields on a double move. After a Mason Crosby field goal cut the lead to 14-3, the Jets marched 80 yards on 14 plays, picking up three third downs and a fourth down to set up Chris Ivory's slam-it-down-your throat touchdown. Twenty minutes in, the scoreboard at Lambeau Field read Jets 21, Packers 3. "We're at home," David Bakkhtiari said. "We're the Green Bay Packers. It's a little different. We were a little stunned." An embarrassing home-opening loss and 0-2 start felt like a very real possibilities. 

 

What Went Right

--The clock: Aaron Nagler's "Whole lotta ballgame" mantra came alive, a Twitter trademark into football reality. No one wants to be down 21-3 at any time, but if you're going to be looking at an 18-point deficit, you might as well have 40 minutes left on the clock. That's an entirety for a team quarterbacked by Aaron Rodgers. 

--Patience: Rodgers didn't approach the comeback with any sense of panicked hurry. Smart. You can't erase an 18-point hole on one play. Facing that sort of deficit, some quarterbacks might ditch the plan and play with a sense of restlessness. Instead, Rodgers chipped away, slowly cutting into the lead while still avoiding the mistake that could have ended the comeback attempt. After the Jets went up 21-3, Rodgers was 19 of 32 for 276 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions (118.8 passer rating) the rest of the way. "I thought Aaron did a great job staying the course," coach Mike McCarthy said. 

--Hello, Defense: The Jets' first three offensive possessions netted 21 points and 180 yards. From there, the Packers defense held New York to the following drive results: punt, interception, end of half, punt, punt, field goal, punt, punt, turnover on downs. The Jets' final nine drives resulted in three points and just 139 yards. Only three of the final nine lasted five or more plays, while three other drives netted negative yards. Mike Daniels and Davon House were exquisite, especially in the second half. Can't make a comeback without getting stops on defense. The Packers made more than enough after an ugly start. "We have Superman at quarterback," House said. "Let's get him the ball."

--Turning point: Amazing, the Packers needed just one turnover to storm back. That's not the norm. The Bears forced four takeaways, including two in the second half, to help push along their 17-point comeback over the 49ers Sunday night. However, Green Bay's one turnover was a big one. The Jets recovered a "surprise" onside kick and were driving for more points before the half, but Mike Daniels' jarring hit on Smith forced a bad deep ball that Tramon Williams rather easily intercepted near the goal line. Had the Jets not given it away and scored any points on the drive, maybe we're talking about the 0-2 Packers today. Huge takeaway at that juncture in the game. 

--One drive, new game: Williams' interception kept the game at 21-9, but the offense's 97-yard march changed everything going into the half. Mike McCarthy had the audacity to stay in attack mode, despite being backed up at the 3-yard line and the obvious anxiety about the possibility of a safety. Rodgers completed five straight passes to start the drive, then hit rookie Davante Adams on third down to give the Packers 1st-and-goal at the Jets' 6-yard line. With eight seconds left in the half, Rodgers found Randall Cobb on an inside slant to cap the march and close the gap to just five points. The Packers won't have many more impressive drives this season. 

--Big play Jordy Nelson: Rex Ryan said post game that Nelson "was Jerry Rice out there today." Pretty much. Nelson had a career-high 209 receiving yards, including 143 in the second half. His 33-yard catch-and-run set up Green Bay's initial go-ahead score. On the Packers' first play after the Jets tied up the game, Nelson burnt Dee Milliner on a double move for an 80-yard touchdown that served as the game-winner. He then clinched the game with a 15-yard reception on 3rd-and-3 coming out of the two minute warning. He was too fast and too tough for a Jets defense that refused to double him.  

--A little luck: Any comeback needs a little good fortune. Smith's 4th-and-4 touchdown pass to Jeremy Kerley was negated by a timeout that was not called by head coach Rex Ryan. The Packers may argue they were due a little good luck on a Hail Mary-ish type play. Green Bay held on the next fourth down play. Comeback complete. 

 

Zach Kruse contributes to Cheesehead TV. He is also the Lead Writer for the NFC North at Bleacher Report. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at [email protected].

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Comments (25)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Evan's picture

September 16, 2014 at 09:39 am

In regards to the last point about "luck," I think it's pretty clear that at least Ha Ha heard the whistle and knew the play didn't count. He waved the TD off immediately. Maybe if he didn't know it was a dead play he plays it better and it doesn't get completed?

That said, if a play is taking place, I want all players to act as if it's live.

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zeke's picture

September 16, 2014 at 10:22 am

Agreed, although if the situation had been reversed I don't think anyone would be referring to the timeout as bad luck. It's clear the ref blew the whistle and ended the play. Of course we'd all still be talking about how the season ended on week one, but not bad luck.

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Idiot Fan's picture

September 16, 2014 at 11:08 am

I totally agree. I actually think people are making too much of the timeout. All of the players swear they heard multiple whistles. I even heard them on the TV. If even for a half-second you think the play is dead, it's not hard for a WR to run by you.

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Nerd's picture

September 16, 2014 at 12:18 pm

If you wanna talk about luck, let's talk about that "incomplete forward pass" that was really a lateral. That was a HUGE break for the Jets.

Yet people wanna talk like the Packers got some kind of a gimme.

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DrealynWilliams's picture

September 16, 2014 at 02:10 pm

Ahhhhh! Forgot abou that. Good one.

Didn't we have all of the momentum at that point?

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DrealynWilliams's picture

September 16, 2014 at 02:10 pm

Ahhhhh! Forgot abou that. Good one.

Didn't we have all of the momentum at that point?

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The TKstinator's picture

September 17, 2014 at 09:44 pm

Maybe not "all", but at least 67%.

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RCPackerFan's picture

September 16, 2014 at 11:06 am

There always is some luck one way or another.

But luck can go both ways.
There was that play where Peppers hit Smith as he was throwing, but the throw went sideways/backwards which I believe should have been ruled a lateral throw, which would have been viewed as a fumble. Packers would have had the ball inside of the 20.

The Jets were lucky that play was overturned, because another official maybe would have kept it a fumble.

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Evan's picture

September 16, 2014 at 11:29 am

Or that big Decker sideline catch. Initially ruled an incomplete. If the refs didn't reverse their call, Rex would have had to challenge and I don't think there was conclusive evidence to overturn it.

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Nerd's picture

September 16, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Say what you want about this team, but they are NEVER out of any game. They always fight and never give up, no matter how down they are.

They usually do get down though, which is a problem. But they can come back from any deficit.

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davy jones's picture

September 16, 2014 at 01:52 pm

They are NEVER out of any game....

unless its against the Seahawks.

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RCPackerFan's picture

September 16, 2014 at 01:58 pm

believe it or not, but they had a shot in that game until Jones' holding penalty converted converted a 3rd down to a 1st down.
The previous drive they drove down got the TD, was within 13 points and just wore out the Seahawks defense on that drive. If they got the ball back with 8 minutes left and got another TD they would have been within 6 with however much time left.

So yeah, they weren't completely out of that game either.

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White92's picture

September 16, 2014 at 02:37 pm

Completely agree there. It was unfortunate too since the call seemed very ticky tacky to me. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if they got that 3 and out and closed the game to a 6 point deficit.

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Bohj's picture

September 16, 2014 at 05:58 pm

"Sources" yeah sure. I'll uh, just check with the boys down in McKenzie's Lab. They uh, got uh, four more physicians working on this case. They've got em working in shifts. Sources! Ha.

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Packatron's picture

September 17, 2014 at 09:35 am

Anytime someone quotes Lebowski it's a +1.

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murphy's picture

September 16, 2014 at 08:34 pm

You know one of the guys who sells Bratchos? Those things look awesome. I can't wait to try some! Hope they are worth the $12.

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BradHTX's picture

September 16, 2014 at 08:37 pm

"I'm not being a pessimistic jerk here."

Love ya, Cow, but ya gotta make it a little tougher for us than this. No one gets any points for fruit hanging this low...

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zeke's picture

September 17, 2014 at 12:29 pm

Kudos to you for not revealing the identity of your inside source, thereby violating the troll/jackass code of honor. You are truly a brave soldier of the internet.

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Evan's picture

September 17, 2014 at 12:44 pm

For what it's worth, Bulaga is practicing as we speak.

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RCPackerFan's picture

September 17, 2014 at 01:04 pm

That can't be right can it?
Cow wouldn't lie to us would he?

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Evan's picture

September 17, 2014 at 01:06 pm

Lie, never.

Make wrong predictions at a near statistically impossible rate, yes.

I'm sure whoever his deep throat is was just mistaken.

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RCPackerFan's picture

September 17, 2014 at 01:20 pm

yeah, your right. He said it was just what he was hearing. So he didn't lie...

lol. i guess they were just thinking of big guys..

Perhaps he misunderstood whoever his deep throat is, and heard Bulaga when they were actually talking about Mulumba.

http://espn.go.com/blog/green-bay-packers/post/_/id/13227/packers-lose-l...

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FITZCORE1252's picture

September 17, 2014 at 03:15 pm

Yeah, I'm sure your mom feels terrible.

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murphy's picture

September 17, 2014 at 09:50 pm

Your "source" ain't never been right!

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Amanofthenorth's picture

September 17, 2014 at 01:24 am

I am not being... I simply am.

cow zen

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