The Green Bay Packers insisted they didn't take the downtrodden Jacksonville Jaguars lightly. They also blew off any suggestion that a rash of injuries impacted a mundane performance Sunday.
No matter the reason, the Packers struggled to put away the Jaguars, escaping with a 24-15 victory at Lambeau Field.
"I don't really think it's something we need to talk about," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said of playing without eight starters, including dynamic receivers Jordy Nelson (hamstring) and Greg Jennings (groin). "I'm not disrespecting the people on the inactive list. Their preparation this week was cut short because of the stress we had at practice. I felt the team was ready to play coming out of Friday. I thought segments of our football team didn't come out with the energy or the focus.
"I felt that we were on a little bit of a roller coaster there as far as certain segments or individuals. We have to get that removed."
While Green Bay's offense sputtered, the Packers' defense forced three consecutive three-and-outs in the third quarter. That bought time for Aaron Rodgers to get into gear.
Rodgers finished 22-for-35 for 186 yards with two touchdown passes and no interceptions.
A 31-yard completion to James Jones was the big play early in the fourth quarter. On second-and-goal, Rodgers hit Driver with a 4-yard touchdown pass, giving the Packers (5-3) a 21-12 lead with 12:36 remaining.
The Jaguars answered, but for the second time in the game, they had to settle for a field goal after reaching the red zone. Josh Scobee's 32-yard kick made it 21-15 with 6:50 to play.
A Green Bay three-and-out gave Jacksonville a chance to take the lead.
Two catch-and-run check-downs to Maurice Jones-Drew's replacement, Rashad Jennings, turned into gains of 15 and 18 yards to midfield. On fourth-and-4, Blaine Gabbert looked for Justin Blackmon on a crossing route, but Packers safety Morgan Burnett collided with Blackmon, and Gabbert's pass was almost intercepted.
That gave Green Bay the ball at the 44 with 2:55 to go. Faced with third-and-7, Rodgers went deep to Jones, and William Middleton was flagged for interference, giving the Packers 37 yards and a critical first down. The Packers then ran the clock down to 28 seconds, when Mason Crosby hit a 25-yard field goal to put the game away.
Jacksonville (1-6) lost its fourth in a row despite Gabbert's first career 300-yard game (27-for-49, one touchdown, no interceptions, 303 yards).
The Jaguars haven't scored a second-half touchdown since Week 3.
"I hate to be standing up here again with another loss, but there are some things that showed up today that I was pleased with," Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey said. "There are some positives that we can take from this game playing in a tough environment. Some guys stepped up and made some plays for us today, including our quarterback, which I thought he did."
The Jaguars, 15.5-point underdogs, survived a blocked punt recovered for a touchdown to trail just 14-12 at halftime.
Green Bay took a 7-3 lead with its only strong drive of the first half, punctuated by Rodgers' 5-yard pass to Randall Cobb. The Packers extended their advantage to 14-3 midway through the second quarter. Green Bay's Davon House blocked a Bryan Anger punt, with the loose ball bouncing and dribbling into the end zone, where it was recovered by Dezman Moses.
"Coach called the corner to come off the edge," House said. "I came, they pointed me out, so I kind of tried to disguise like I wasn't going, and I got down, and then when I was coming, they called me out so I was surprised they didn't come block me, and I was, 'Oh, (darn), I might be able to block it.' Just diving and trying to make a play."
The Jaguars, however, wouldn't wilt. After settling for a field goal following first-and-goal at the 10 late in the second quarter, Jacksonville got the ball back at the Green Bay 13-yard line on rookie Andre Branch's sack, strip and fumble recovery.
On third-and-goal, inches from the end zone, Gabbert went play-action and dumped the ball to backup lineman Guy Whimper, who made a nice grab on a low pass for the touchdown. The Jaguars went for two but failed when first-round pick Blackmon dropped Gabbert's pass.
"It was something that we practiced during the week, and I have a little history playing tight end in college (for East Carolina)," Whimper said. "We practiced it, and they called it in the game and we executed."
Jacksonville outgained Green Bay 233-91 in the first half, with most of the Packers' yards coming on the 69-yard touchdown drive. The Jaguars managed just 102 yards in the second half and failed to get a first down on four of six possessions.
NOTES: The game inactives could have formed a good team. The Packers were without six starters: safety Charles Woodson, fullback John Kuhn, cornerback Sam Shields, linebacker Nick Perry and receivers Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson. The Jaguars were without four starters: running back Jones-Drew, cornerback Derek Cox, safety Dwight Lowery and receiver Laurent Robinson. ... Before the game, the Jaguars released linebacker Brandon Marshall and offensive tackle Herb Taylor. They activated defensive end John Chick from the physically unable to perform list and promoted quarterback John Parker Wilson off the practice squad. ... Driver joined Brett Favre as the only players in franchise history to play in 200 games. He's the 22nd receiver in NFL history to reach that milestone. ... Rodgers' touchdown pass to Driver was the 153rd TD toss of his career, moving the quarterback past Bart Starr for second place in team history. Favre leads the way with 442. ... The Packers' blocked punt was the team's first since 2003 and its first touchdown off a blocked punt since 1990.