An early 14-0 lead made it seem like the Green Bay Packers might cruise to an easy victory in Oakland. By halftime, however, it was 14-13, and the Raiders even came all the way back to take a second-half lead, before Green Bay pulled away at the end.
Here are the five biggest takeaways from the Packers’ 30-20 win over the Oakland Raiders.
1. A displeased Aaron Rodgers
The scoreboard shows Green Bay scoring 30 points, but don’t assume that means it was a great day for the Packers offense. Their first touchdown of the game came after an interception that gave Aaron Rodgers and company the ball inside the red zone, and their second score came directly on a returned interception from Damarious Randall.
Rodgers threw for only 204 yards on 39 attempts, finishing with a 68.8 passer rating. Those aren’t exactly the type of numbers that have twice earned Rodgers the league’s Most Valuable Player award.
In total, Oakland’s offense had 79 more yards than Green Bay's did. The Raiders also gained more yards per play and won the time of possession battle.
This led to some interesting postgame comments from Rodgers.
Among his comments, Rodgers said, "We weren’t very effective. We had less than 300 yards. And we had a terrible first half. ... We don’t have a clear-cut direction (on offense); we’re too inconsistent."
Referencing the team’s 92-yard drive that fell short of producing a touchdown, Rodgers wasn’t looking at the positive in that, either. "I think we got three points out of it, so it wasn’t very effective," he said.
Watch the interview for yourself on the team’s website. It’s quite telling.
2. James Jones: veteran difference-maker
Davante Adams dropped a would-be touchdown, and Randall Cobb had a lot of his production in the series when he was lined up in the backfield. Adams and Cobb combined for 10 catches and just 72 yards. Those two were supposed to be the Packers’ top wide receivers after Jordy Nelson went down in the preseason.
Fortunately for Rodgers, Jones (wearing his hoodie), cut by Oakland after last season, came to play against his former teammates. Jones had six catches for 82 yards and one touchdown. Those numbers would have been even better had Jones not had a second touchdown wiped off the board by a questionable offensive pass interference call near the goal line.
Jones has had several games this season in which he failed to show up, but at times the 31-year-old receiver has been a significant contributor. Try to imagine Green Bay’s offense this season had Ted Thompson not signed Jones right before the regular season. Would the Packers have two fewer wins? Maybe more? It’s got to be among the best $870,000 (the amount of Jones’ one-year contract) Thompson has ever spent.
3. Run-game inconsistency
In Green Bay’s Week 14 win over Dallas, it looked like the Packers were back to running over their opponents on the ground. Between Eddie Lacy and James Starks, the offense dominated the Cowboys in that game with their 35 carries.
This week? Lacy’s rollercoaster season continued, finishing with 23 yards on 11 carries. And sure, Starks’ box-score numbers appear to be better on first glance, but he fumbled and turned the ball over, which led to a Raiders scoring drive.
Many observers (myself included) attributed the re-commitment to the running game in Week 14 as a direct result of Mike McCarthy taking back the play-calling. But it didn’t carry over a week later.
Until Lacy – and to a lesser but still important extent Starks – can run well on a consistent basis, it’s difficult to picture Green Bay winning multiple playoff games this season.
4. Ups and downs for Damarious Randall
Randall was given an early Christmas present – from Derek Carr, with love. The second-year Raiders quarterback threw a bad pass that landed right into Randall’s waiting arms, and he ran it back for a touchdown. It will look great in Randall’s end-of-season statistical recap, but it wasn’t anything close to being a spectacular play by him.
With Sam Shields sidelined due to a concussion, Randall was the top outside cornerback for the Packers. That meant Randall was left defending young stud receiver Amari Cooper. In the long run, it will have been a great experience for Randall to compete against Cooper. But the battle in this game was won by Cooper, who had six catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns.
5. A win, a playoff berth
Seven consecutive playoff appearances is the model of consistency in the NFL. Thompson and McCarthy aren’t perfect in terms of their decision-making, but to put together a roster that gets to the dance this many times in a row is an incredibly impressive feat.
With a 10-4 record and games against fellow NFC playoff teams awaiting the end of Green Bay’s regular-season schedule, the Packers are in. It hasn’t been one of their more impressive seasons in recent years – especially on offense – but there are at least 18 other NFL franchises that would love to get into the playoffs despite having flaws.
As it stands now, the Packers’ path to the Super Bowl would require beating the Vikings at Lambeau Field in the wild-card round, then winning at Arizona, followed by beating the currently undefeated Panthers in Carolina. That’s a very tough road. But at least Green Bay has given itself a chance to compete and see if the team happens to peak at the right time.