Rodgers leads Packers to victory

Published 11:55 pm Monday, December 7, 2009

The standings say the Green Bay Packers are in good shape for the playoffs. But Monday night’s victory over the Baltimore Ravens showed they still have some work to do to be taken seriously once they get there.

Aaron Rodgers threw three touchdown passes, including two to tight end Jermichael Finley, and the Packers beat the Ravens 27-14 in a penalty-filled game Monday night.

It was the fourth straight win for the Packers (8-4), solidifying their spot in the NFC wild-card race. But it certainly wasn’t pretty.

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The teams 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 still can save its season.

“We are still breathing,” Harbaugh said. “We are still alive.”

Baltimore was called for five pass interference penalties, the most by a team in a single game since the New York Giants in 2001.

The Packers were 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 Donald 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. Former Packers defensive back Frank Walker recovered, giving the ball back to the Ravens at their own 29.

Flacco drove the Ravens to the Green Bay 12, where he faced third-and-7. Given a free play after defensive lineman Johnny Jolly jumped offside, Flacco found Kelley Washington in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown. Washington tried to do a “Lambeau leap,” but fans pushed him out of the stands.

The play was upheld on a replay review, cutting the Packers’ lead to 17-7.

After the Packers nearly fumbled the ensuing kickoff, Rodgers watched as his first pass of the next possession bounced off Driver’s leg and into the arms of linebacker Jarret Johnson, giving the ball back to Baltimore at the Green Bay 42.

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.

The Packers drove to the Baltimore 17 thanks in large part to a 15-yard face mask penalty by Ray Lewis on Greg Jennings, but the Packers were pushed back by a holding penalty on right tackle Mark Tauscher and the Packers had to settle for a field goal — but Mason Crosby missed from 38 yards.

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 at the Baltimore 49, 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.

But Lardarius Webb ran the ensuing kickoff 68 yards — another special-teams meltdown for a Packers team prone to giving up big returns — and Tramon Williams was called for pass interference.

But Williams recovered two plays later, picking off Flacco in the end zone to give the ball back to the Packers and preserve the lead.

A.J. Hawk then picked off another Flacco pass, and the Packers drove for a 32-yard field goal by Crosby to seal the victory.