JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jalen Ramsey sat at his locker after his first NFL game, scrolling through his phone. Nearly all of his teammates had already showered or left after a 27-23 opening week loss to Green Bay. The rookie defensive back, almost always ready to talk, had few words.
“Just another game,” he offered when asked about playing against Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
A moment later, after a couple more short answers, he was asked if he had anything else to say.
“No,” he said, spinning his chair away.
Then: “He didn’t throw my way. Write that.”
Rodgers didn’t need to. On the game’s biggest play, Ramsey was behind him, with a fistful of the former MVP’s No. 12 jersey.
It was third-and-10 on the Jaguars’ 29 with less than a minute to go in the first half. The home team was up three, backed by momentum and a buzzing crowd. The pocket began to bust and Ramsey curled around Rodgers, closing his right hand on the back of his jersey. Rodgers had bailed on his primary target, Randall Cobb, and darted his eyes toward the other side of the field, where the Jags’ Davon House was hanging all over Davante Adams. As he fell backward into the clutch of Ramsey, Rodgers released the ball, making the kind of decision that most quarterbacks would be benched for.
Asked later on how tight the window was for Rodgers, Adams quipped, “The window was cracked.”
The pass was a laser, low to the ground and just barely catchable. Still, Adams got his arms underneath it and grasped it. Rodgers was already on the ground at that time, and a flag for defensive pass interference was on its way there.
No matter. Touchdown: a play that turned the entire game. The Packers went ahead 21-17 – the eventual margin of victory – and went into the locker room at halftime ready to take the ball again to start the second half.
“I got a hand on him,” Ramsey said, “and he threw a touchdown.”
Adams knew he’d be asked about that throw after the game, and when a reporter started to form the question, “Did you think Aaron could get that ball … ”
Adams cuts off the question: “YES.”
But seriously, how did he do it?
“Lotta core exercise in the offseason,” Rodgers joked.
Just a little smoke and mirrors from the wizard. Rodgers was sacked only once on Sunday, and that too was a sterling play by the quarterback – dashing and ducking out of pressure from all sides and finally falling right near the line of scrimmage. He saved so many downs and drives on Sunday in just that fashion. Basically the entire game was a tight window. The entire season might be the same.
There were stops and starts all afternoon for the Packers.
“Getting the flow on offense is challenging,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy offered.
That’s to be expected opening weekend, especially in 90-degree temperatures that had many in the crowd sitting on the shaded concrete in concourses instead of out in the blazing heat. But Rodgers admitted this has been an issue for a while now. About halfway through the second quarter, the Packers had 32 yards of total offense.
“I don’t think we played all that well offensively,” Rodgers said. He highlighted the team’s final drive, which could have put the game away but instead ended up giving the Jaguars one final chance to drive the field and win.
He called it “embarrassing.” It included a Rodgers scramble, a 2-yard loss by Eddie Lacy, a delay of game penalty, and an incomplete pass to Jordy Nelson.
“Too many scoring drives with the juxtaposition with three-and-outs,” Rodgers said flatly.
If you look at the box score, it’s hard to tell how the Packers scored enough to win. Lacy had 61 yards and no touchdowns. Rodgers was the team’s second leading rusher. The team’s two leading receivers, Cobb and Adams, barely had 100 yards between them. Nelson being back from an ACL injury is a major bonus, but it’s easy to see a lot of the year going this way: defenses dropping into coverage, daring Lacy to beat them, and hoping Rodgers doesn’t find those windows.
The Packers may not have a tried-and-true recipe for championships, but who cares? Tom Brady hasn’t had a superstar running back for years, and he’s done just fine. Perfect throws almost always beat perfect defense, and that was true again Sunday. Ramsey knows it.
There really isn’t more for a rookie or anyone else to say. The Jags played well enough to win, and Rodgers beat them. That’s what the all-time great quarterbacks do, and we should all appreciate it even more with Peyton Manning retired and Tom Brady suspended.
“I will never doubt that man,” Adams said.
Who possibly could?