Green Bay Packers survive shorthanded Baltimore Ravens

Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers did exactly what they should have done against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.

Come out victorious and with a third consecutive NFC North Championship.

Rodgers tied Brett Favre’s franchise record for career touchdown passes and the Packers held off the spirited Ravens 31-30 when Darnell Savage and Eric Stokes smashed the pass at two points. While he may have lacked style points, the Packers improved to 11-3 posting their fifth win of the season against a team with a record winning team.

While this was a battle between the division heads and the main Super Bowl contenders, it was a mismatch on paper of significant proportions. The Ravens were not only without 2019 MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson, but they lined up without their two starting corners, two starting safeties and a veteran cornerback; furthermore, their starting location came out with a concussion in the first half.

It took a little while, but Rodgers finally started rolling against the exhausted high school.

And, once the Packers found answers against unleashed tight end Mark Andrews, who scored two early touchdowns, the defense held back Tyler Huntley and the Baltimore offense for much of the game.

But it was all only temporary, and a runaway turned into a nail rodent.

When the Packers failed to deliver the finishing blow midway through the fourth quarter after a save at fourth base, the Ravens scored a touchdown on Huntley’s 3-yard scrum. With a score of 31-24 and 4:47 on the clock, the Packers needed a few first tries to win the game. Instead, Justin Madubuike beat right guard Royce Newman and sacked Rodgers on the third down. A bad punt gave the ball to the Ravens at Green Bay 49’s with 2:24 left.

Packers at Ravens: two X factors

Beyond obvious names like Aaron Rodgers, these two players will have key roles for the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at the Baltimore Ravens.

Huntley ran for 15 when Preston Smith rushed in and lost control. Back-to-back completes at Andrews for wins of 6 (on third and 5) and 12 moved the ball to 11. A play later, Huntley climbed in the middle for an 8-yard touchdown. That’s 31-30 with 42 seconds to go.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh aimed for victory instead of overtime. The Ravens sprinted for Andrews, but safety Darnell Savage and cornerback Eric Stokes each got their hands on the ball. This set the stage for a side kick. Green Bay special teams, who were outmaneuvered for the second straight week, saved the day by recovering running back AJ Dillon on the offensive kick.

Kicker Mason Crosby wins the first coin tosses as often as most people win the lottery. But Crosby won this one, which gave the Packers the ball to start the second half. Green Bay took the opportunity to take a 21-14 lead coming out of the break. Rodgers converted a third and 6 on a floating catch from Davante Adams and a third and 1 in which it looked like tight end Josiah Deguara was stopped before the chains.

On third and 10 from the red zone threshold, the Packers benefited from an interference call on cornerback Kevon Seymour for his fleeting shot from Allen Lazard’s jersey during Lazard’s fall. Taking into account a first and a goal at 9, Rodgers threw a touchdown pass to Aaron Jones. Lazard picked linebacker Josh Bynes, allowing Jones to work his way up for an easy score.

The Ravens edged closer to 21-17 on the possession that followed. A false start on guard Ben Cleveland turned a 4-1 opportunity into a 38-yard field goal.

What this means: The Packers remain No.1 in the NFC and have won their third straight division title under Matt LaFleur. They started the day tied with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals atop the NFC with a 10-3 record. Arizona was stunned in Detroit, one of the biggest upheavals of the NFL season. It wasn’t just that the Lions won, but the ease with which they won, a 30-12 loss on the strength of three touchdowns from Jared Goff. The Buccaneers welcome the freefall Saints (6-7) on Sunday night.

Game ball: Eric Stokes gave up a lot of finishes but most of them were nickel dimers thanks to consistently excellent tackles. With the game on the line, he broke the two-point pass to tight end Mark Andrews.

Key statistic: Aaron Rodgers completed 23 of 31 passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns, good for a 132.2 passer rating. In his last four games, despite barely practicing, he threw 13 touchdowns against zero interceptions. The Packers weren’t perfect, but they didn’t have any sales.

And after: The Packers will host the Cleveland Browns for Christmas. The Browns (7-6) were supposed to host the Las Vegas Raiders on Saturday, but that game was pushed back to Monday due to COVID taking a big bite out of the Cleveland roster.

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