The Green Bay Packers got a solid performance on both sides of the ball to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-17 at Lambeau Field on Sunday.
Despite the win, the Packers are concerned about a key injury to Pro Bowl cornerback Jaire Alexander who may miss several games after injuring his shoulder in the second half.
Aaron Rodgers threw for 248 yards and two touchdowns and he ran for another score while Randall Cobb caught both of Rodgers’ scoring passes.
The win improved the Packers record to 3-1 on the season and they stay a game ahead of the Bears and in first place in the NFC North.
Here are 10 things we learned from the Packers victory over the Steelers:
- The Packers Running Game Revived
Despite all the talk about the slow start for the Packers running game this season, the team got the job done on the ground against Pittsburgh.
A.J. Dillon led the way with 81 yards on just 15 carries including a 25-yard run that is now the Packers longest gain on the ground this season.
Aaron Jones added 48 more yards on his 15 carries and the team totaled 131 yards on 33 tries. Aaron Rodgers scored the team’s only rushing touchdown of the game.
The running game allowed the offense to keep the Pittsburgh defense guessing. They ran the ball 33 times and threw 36 passes, giving the team outstanding balance on offense.
They were also able to control the football as the Packers led in time of possession 34:41 to just 25:19 for the Steelers.
- Aaron Rodgers Tied Dan Marino
Late in the third quarter, Rodgers hit Cobb for his second scoring catch of the day. That gave him 420 career touchdown passes, tying him with Hall of Famer Dan Marino for sixth on the NFL’s all-time list.
Rodgers needs one more TD pass to tie Philip Rivers for fifth-place all-time. After that, he has a ways to go to move into fourth place on this list, which is still held by Brett Favre who has 508 career TD passes.
Rodgers wasn’t spectacular today, but he was efficient and came up with key plays when he needed to. He also didn’t turn the ball over in this game.
Rodgers’ final quarterback rating was a solid 95.6 and the Packers led from early in the second quarter until the end of the game. You get the feeling if Rodgers needed to do more to win this game, he could have.
- Randall Cobb Still Has It
Many people questioned the logic of bringing Cobb back at this stage of his career, but the veteran receiver showed he still has what it takes to be a consistent contributor to the offense.
With Marquez Valdes-Scantling on the IR, Cobb assumed a bigger role. He finished second on the team with five catches and led all Packers receivers with 69 yards. His second touchdown catch was a thrilling grab that saw him slide and get both feet in bounds in the end zone while being closely covered. It was a real veteran play.
Cobb’s experience and chemistry with Rodgers will be assets for the Packers in the coming weeks.
- Jaire Alexander Is Likely To Miss Some Time
This win came at a cost. Pro Bowl cornerback Jaire Alexander left the game in the second half with a shoulder injury after he made a tough tackle on Pittsburgh running back, Najee Harris. Alexander headed to the locker room on a golf cart and did not return to the game.
The preliminary report is that Alexander suffered an AC joint injury in his right shoulder with further tests set to be conducted early this week to see if there is any additional damage.
If the AC joint is the only injury, Alexander still could miss up to six weeks as he recovers from this injury.
The Packers were already without Kevin King for the second consecutive game as he recovers from a concussion.
Even if King returns and is healthy, the loss of Alexander is a big one for the Green Bay defense. Defensive coordinator Joe Barry will no longer be able to count on one of his corners being able to largely shut down one half of the field. This will be a tough injury for the Packers to overcome.
- The Pass Protection Held Up
For the second straight week, the Packers makeshift offensive line held up well and the team won. The offense went with a good number of quick releases and still helped Yosh Nijman out with tight ends and running backs blocking on his side, but the Steelers were limited to three sacks in this game although they finished with eight quarterback hits.
The Packers offensive line did a good job of run blocking today and overall did enough for the offense to move the ball and put 27 points on the board.
Still, the offense would benefit from the potential return of Elgton Jenkins if the Pro Bowl offensive lineman is ready to play next week in Cincinnati.
- Eric Stokes Continues to Learn
First-round pick Eric Stokes continues to learn and adjust to life in the NFL. Like most rookie corners, he had his strong moments and his struggles.
Stokes made his first career NFL interception late in the game on a play that iced the win for the Packers and he broke up two passes to lead the team in that category.
But he was also called for another pass interference penalty and the Steelers did pick on him early in the game, especially on their opening drive that resulted in a touchdown and put them ahead 7-0.
The growing pains are expected but with Alexander’s injury, Stokes is about to be called upon to play a bigger role in this defense.
- The Blocked Field Goal Controversy
The Packers dodged a bullet late in the first half when Mason Crosby’s 31-yard field goal attempt was blocked and returned for an apparent touchdown by Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. The play was nullified by an offsides penalty and Crosby made his second chance at the kick from five yards closer.
This was a major turning point in this game. Had the play stood, the Steelers would have taken a 17-14 lead into the locker room at halftime. Instead, Green Bay led 17-10.
Replays showed that the play was a close one and the Packers were fortunate to get the call which could have gone either way.
- Special Teams Continue to Struggle
The blocked field goal try was just one more example of the team’s overall special teams struggles. Kick and punt coverages continue to be inconsistent and the Packers need to improve in these areas. The Steelers had a 40-yard kick return and averaged 33.0-yard per runback on three returns. On punt returns, the Steelers gained 14 yards on their only runback.
Meanwhile, the Packers return units continue to struggle. Kylin Hill averaged a mere 18.5-yards per runback on kick returns and the team averaged only 15.7-yards per kick return. On punt returns, Amari Rodgers gained zero yards on his only runback of the game.
Officially, Crosby made all his field goals and punter Corey Bojorquez averaged 46-yards per punt and one of his kicks was downed inside the Steelers 10-yard line.
- Kingsley Keke Came Up Big
With Za’Darius Smith on the IR and Preston Smith missing part of the first half due to an injury, the Packers needed other players to step up and contribute to the pass rush. Kingsley Keke answered the call. Keke got a strip sack that forced Ben Roethlisberger to fumble and Kenny Clark fell on the ball for a key turnover for the Packers.
Keke had another quarterback hit for the Packers while Rashan Gary had a sack and two hits. De’Vondre Campbell also had a quarterback hit and once again led the team in tackles.
The defense held the Steelers to 282 total net yards for the game and finished with two sacks and two turnovers.
- The Packers Got the Job Done
This wasn’t a spectacular victory, but the Packers took care of business and did what they needed to do to get the job done against a team they were expected to beat.
The Packers were efficient and deserved to win this game. Now they have to figure out how to handle the injury to Alexander and get ready for the Bengals next week in Cincinnati.
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