BALTIMORE (AP) – The Green Bay Packers are beginning to make progress in their effort to become a team capable of playing in the Super Bowl.
Baltimore, on the other hand, appears stuck in neutral.
Green Bay’s 19-17 victory over the Ravens on Sunday, combined with its dominating effort against Detroit one week earlier, left Packers coach Mike McCarthy beaming.
“We definitely played a total game,” McCarthy said after Green Bay knocked off the defending NFL champs. “I would say these last two weeks we’ve taken a step as a football team. I did not feel that way after the first three games.”
Aaron Rodgers threw a 64-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson, Eddie Lacy ran for 120 yards and Mason Crosby kicked four field goals for the Packers (3-2), who won their first game on the road.
Rodgers went 17 for 32 for 315 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He played most of the game without two of his top three receivers – James Jones hurt his left knee on a first-quarter play, and Randall Cobb left for good in the second quarter after being struck on his right knee on a tackle by Matt Elam.
Jones and Cobb will be evaluated on Monday, McCarthy said.
Baltimore (3-3) dropped out of a first-place tie in the AFC North with its second loss in three games. The Ravens had won 13 straight at home against NFC foes, but in this one their running game sputtered and they didn’t reach the end zone until the fourth quarter.
Joe Flacco went 20 for 34 for 342 yards, but he was sacked five times and lost a fumble.
“In order to sustain drives, you need to get first downs on first and second down,” Flacco said. “You need to get some chunks in there, and we’re not doing that.”
Here are five more things we learned about the Packers and Ravens:
BEST FOOT FORWARD: Lacy wore down the Baltimore defense, which usually takes pride in snuffing out opponents’ ground games.
His work, particularly late in the game, did not go unnoticed by McCarthy.
“Our offensive line wanted the ball at the end of the game,” the coach said. “We gave it to them and Eddie Lacy finished the game.”
Lacey piled up 40 yards in the fourth quarter to help the Packers fend off the Ravens, who cut a 16-3 deficit to 19-17 with 2:04 left.
STANDING `EM UP: The Ravens had a first-and-goal at the 4-yard line in the second quarter, but the Packers’ defense stiffened and blunted four successive rushing attempts.
Linebacker A.J. Hawk – who had three sacks and helped make up for the absence of injured linebacker Clay Matthews – said that goal-line stand was a turning point in a tight game.
“To have a chance at stopping a team from the 1- or 2-yard line, your D-line has to penetrate and get into the backfield,” Hawk said. “We felt like if we kept hitting them and kept making them bounce to the outside, guys were flying to the ball.”
Ray Rice tried unsuccessfully twice to go up the gut and got swarmed, then was brought down at the 1 trying to turn the outside corner. All three times, safety Morgan Burnett was in on the tackle.
On fourth down, defensive end Mike Daniels and linebacker Nick Perry hauled down Bernard Pierce at the 1 on an attempt from behind the right guard.
MONROE DOCTRINE: Left tackle Eugene Monroe made his first start for the Ravens after getting a complete week of practice under his belt.
The big offensive lineman was obtained in a trade with Jacksonville on Oct. 2 but was inactive against Miami last Sunday. Against Green Bay, however, he replaced Bryant McKinnie, who was placed on the inactive list.
“I felt fine, it felt normal. It was a normal game day for me,” Monroe said. “There’s a lot of newness being on a different team. I got acclimated pretty quickly.”
No one was blaming Monroe, but the offensive line did not play well. Flacco was under pressure most of the day and the running game produced only 47 yards.
MANY HAPPY RETURNS: Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones got an early opportunity to show he was ready to play after missing the previous four games with a knee injury.
Jones showed his speed was still there when he returned the Packers’ first kickoff 30 yards. He finished with 102 yards on four returns and caught four passes for 42 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown that got the Ravens to 16-10 in the fourth quarter.
“Joe threw a great ball and I did what I do best, catch the ball,” Jones said. “I would feel a lot better if we got the `W’. Other than that, health-wise, I feel good.”
NEXT MAN UP: After James Jones went down, followed by Cobb, the Packers didn’t panic.
Rodgers just looked for someone else to throw to, such as Jermichael Finley and Jarret Boykin, both of whom contributed key catches down the stretch.
“We have enough athletic tight ends to make up for it,” Nelson said. “So we ended up running the same plays, with just a different personnel group. And then of course Jermichael made the big third down catch at the end to somewhat secure the win. And Boyk made a huge play for us.”