(WLAX/WEUX) – At the halfway point of the 2020 season, the Packers graded out with a 6-2 record and first place in the NFC North Division, in prime position to compete for a No. 1 playoff seed in the all-important months of November and December.
Green Bay began the third quarter of their season in the opposite form, struggling and devoid of energy in a lackluster 24-20 victory over the now 1-9 Jacksonville Jaguars at cold and windy Lambeau Field Sunday.
“We will challenge everybody in this organization that’s a part of this team to bring more emotion,“ said head coach Matt LaFleur. “You can’t take these opportunities for granted.”
Aaron Rodgers and the offense started slow but came to life from a source other than Davante Adams or Aaron Jones.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling had a career day when the struggling Green Bay offense needed it against a determined Jacksonville defense that contained Jones and the run. He caught four passes (no drops) for a whopping 149 yards and showcased his big-play ability with a highlight-reel 78-yard touchdown reception that sparked his team early in the second quarter.
It’s well known that the 6-foot-4-inch Valdes-Scantling can stretch defenses with his elite speed, but he also displayed savvy route-running. He found open space on a crucial third-down catch for 22 yards in the second quarter and also set up Davante Adams’ game-winning reception with an 18-yard catch-and-run in the fourth stanza.
He continues to earn Aaron Rodgers’ trust and is proving to be a reliable complement to Adams in 2020, showing marked improvement from two inconsistent past seasons.
It took a last-minute defensive stand in the fourth quarter to preserve the victory.
The Smiths Brothers totaled 10 tackles (five each) for the game, but it was Preston’s sack of quarterback Jake Luton on the Jaguars’ final drive that helped the Green Bay defense seal the 24-20 victory.
After a sack by Rashan Gary for a six-yard loss to set up 3rd-and-16 at the Green Bay 42, Preston Smith dumped Luton for a 10-yard loss and a 4th-and-26 pass fell incomplete with 1:01 remaining. The Packers defense, minus starting cornerbacks Jaire Alexander and Kevin King, gave up 109 yards on 23 carries by rookie sensation James Robinson, but just 13 points on the scoreboard.
Jacksonville led 3-0 after one quarter, but Green Bay took the lead early in the second on MVS’ big play. Jacksonville answered with one of their own, courtesy of their special teams unit.
Keelan Cole ignited the Jags with an electrifying 91-yard punt return to take a 10-7 lead at Lambeau Field. Cole fielded JK Scott’s punt at the 9-yard line, bolted untouched through an alley on the left side of the Packers’ coverage unit, and then only had Scott to beat.
Cole’s stutter-step fake at the Green Bay 30-yard line jelly-legged the punter and he cruised into the end zone. Cole also scored the Jaguars’ only offensive touchdown on a 12-yard pass from Luton to tie the game at 17 in the third quarter. He returned three punts for 113 yards, a 37.7-yard average.
Of the defensive stand to seal the win, LaFleur said, “I felt like that was the first time our team came alive. You could feel it on the sidelines (with) everybody rooting from one another. We need that from the opening kick. That’s the standard.”
After victories of depleted San Francisco and lowly Jacksonville, Green Bay had better bring emotion and their A-game into Indianapolis Sunday afternoon to face the Colts’ top-ranked defense. That game will be televised exclusively in Western Wisconsin at 3:25 p.m. on FOX 25/48.