GREEN BAY, Wis. — A month ago, the Green Bay Packers were worried that their season was slipping away.Now they’ve won four straight after beating the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night.
Yes, Monday’s 27-14 win was monumentally ugly. But that didn’t matter afterward, because the Packers are suddenly sitting pretty in the playoff race.
“It wasn’t pretty out there, but a win is a win,” Packers wide receiver Donald Driver said. “We had to get this one to stay ahead in the playoff race.”
While the Packers (8-4) are in good position to earn an NFC wild-card berth, Monday’s win showed they still have some work to do to be taken seriously once they make it to the playoffs.
Aaron Rodgers threw three touchdown passes, including two to tight end Jermichael Finley. But Rodgers also had a pair of interceptions, two of the combined seven turnovers in the game.
The teams also committed 23 penalties for 310 yards, tying for the second-highest yardage total in an NFL game.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy called the penalties “unbelievable for both sides” but said he was happy with the way his team responded to trying circumstances — something they hadn’t done well early in the season.
“I’ll say this about our football team: I was very proud and excited the way they overcame the adversity,” McCarthy said.
The Ravens (6-6) struggled in coverage without star safety Ed Reed, who sat out with hip and ankle injuries.But Ravens coach John Harbaugh insisted his team is “still breathing” in the playoff race.
“We’ve got plenty to be encouraged about,” Harbaugh said. “We’re in a tight race for the wild card, we are every bit in it. Everybody, they’ll say what they’ll say. It’s a week-to-week proposition in this league.”
This week wasn’t so good.
Baltimore was called for five pass interference penalties, the most by a team in a single game since the New York Giants in 2001, according to STATS LLC.
Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said he didn’t think one call cost them the game.
“Bottom line, (the) call was made,” Lewis said. “You don’t gripe about it, you just keep on moving.The Packers weren’t much better, getting flagged four times for pass interference.
Rodgers was 26 of 40 for 263 yards with two interceptions, only his sixth and seventh of the season.
While Reed’s replacement, Tom Zbikowski, came up with one of the interceptions, the Ravens struggled in coverage.
Baltimore’s Joe Flacco was 15 of 36 for 137 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions. The Packers sacked him three times.
The win is a continuation of a significant momentum swing for the Packers, who were 4-4 after looking bad in back-to-back losses to Minnesota and Tampa Bay in early November but haven’t lost since.
They’ve worked out some of their pass protection problems — Rodgers was sacked only once Monday night — and their defense appears to be getting more comfortable in the 3-4 scheme installed by defensive coordinator Dom Capers in the offseason.
“If our defense plays like it did tonight, we’re going to be tough to beat,” Rodgers said.
Leading 17-0 at halftime and seemingly cruising, the Packers suddenly found themselves scrambling after a pair of turnovers, both involving Driver, allowed Baltimore to get back in the game.
The Packers were driving on their first possession of the second half when Driver caught a pass in Ravens territory and fumbled as he turned to run upfield. Flacco made the Packers pay, throwing to Kelley Washington for a touchdown. Washington tried to do a “Lambeau leap,” but fans pushed him out of the stands.
Rodgers watched as his first pass of the next possession bounced off Driver’s leg and into the arms of linebacker Jarret Johnson. Flacco went deep, drawing pass interference on Packers cornerback Tramon Williams. Willis McGahee scored on a 1-yard touchdown run two plays later, cutting the lead to 17-14 in the third quarter.
After a missed field goal by Green Bay’s Mason Crosby, Flacco then threw deep downfield to Derrick Mason, who caught the ball but was called for offensive pass interference against Charles Woodson. Mason compounded the problem by drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty afterward, and the Ravens had to punt from their own 9-yard line.
The Packers got the ball back, and Rodgers threw to Korey Hall and Driver for first downs before finding Finley for a 19-yard touchdown pass and a 24-14 lead with 10:31 remaining.
The Packers allowed a long kickoff return and Williams was called for pass interference, but Williams came back to pick off Flacco in the end zone to preserve the lead.
“It was getting frustrating a little bit out there,” Williams said. “But, you know, it can get like that sometimes. As a defensive back, you have to have a short term memory and continue playing. Something will eventually happen in your favor and luckily it did for me tonight.”