Two teams, both of which had been eliminated from the playoffs and had clinched sub-.500 records, met in MetLife Stadium this afternoon. Nevertheless, both had some valuable intangibles at stake.
The Packers were trying to avoid their first winless road record for an entire season since 1958, the year before Vince Lombardi arrived to turn Green Bay into Titletown.
The Jets, despite their four wins, wanted to show they could perform well against a quality opponent in their home office on Fan Appreciation Day.
And QB Sam Darnold, although he didn't put it this way during the week, was eager to keep showing his rookie season growth when being measured against superb 14th-year veteran Aaron Rodgers.
Darnold played well in passing for a career-high 341 yards and a career-record-tying three touchdown passes. But Rodgers was the wily Houdini down the stretch, rushing for two TDs and throwing for two, including the game-winning strike to WR Davante Adams for Green Bay's 44-38 overtime victory.
It was another difficult fall-from-ahead loss for the Jets, now 4-11, who led by 14 points for much of the first half and by 15 after the third quarter before Rodgers led the Pack (6-8-1) on a 24-3 blitz in the final quarter and OT.
Here are 11 mostly chronological takeaways from the wild happenings during the Jets' tough loss to the Packers.
1. Good Start, Bad Finish
The Jets took the opening kickoff and moved smartly down the field on the Packers as Darnold hit his first two passes for first downs and Elijah McGuire burst free for a third. But the drive stalled and then Jason Myers came on for a 45-yard field goal and did something he hasn't often done in this Pro Bowl season ... he missed wide left. Myers thus had his streak of 14 straight FGs at home snapped and went to 31-of-34 overall on the season.
Images from the Week 16 Matchup at MetLife Stadium
2. Take Two
But after a stop of Rodgers and the GB offense short of midfield, the Green & White were at it again. Starting from their 17, Darnold was hot and so were his receivers as Jermaine Kearse and Chris Herndon made big third-down conversions. Two plays after Herndon's 15-yard grab to the Packers 4, McGuire took the toss left, cut it inside and went in untouched for the 7-0 lead. It was McGuire's third TD in the seven games he's played this season. And Darnold finished the first quarter with 8-for-10 passing for 111 yards, his most in an opening quarter this season.
The defense was also smokin' with a pair of third-down stops of Rodgers, one under heavy pressure by Frankie Luvu, the second on Henry Anderson's fourth sack in five quarters. That set up the offense for another TD drive, Darnold's 33-yard strike to a wide-open Robby Anderson and a 14-0 lead with 9:02 left in the first half. Darnold at this point was out-Rodgers-ing Rodgers with 12-for-14 passing for 180 yards — already his most in any half this season.
4. Andre to the Rescue
After the Packers crept to within 14-7, Andre Roberts supplied more highlight video footage from his Pro Bowl season. He roared through the Packers' coverage for a 99-yard kickoff-return TD to get the lead back to 14 points. Roberts' return was the Jets' first with a kickoff since Joe McKnight went to the house vs. the Texans in 2012. It was also the 20th TD returner by the 11th different Jets kick returner since 1997. Finally, Roberts is the only Jet with a kickoff-return TD, punt-return TD and receiving TD in the same season.
5. Quick Cuts
The second quarter turned into a multitude of big plays for the Pack before and after Roberts' return. Before the runback, Rodgers returned to vintage form as he directed a six-play, 90-yard drive to Aaron's 49-yard connection with first-year WR Jake Kumerow, who eluded safeties Darryl Roberts and Jamal Adams for the score to cut the Jets' lead to 14-7. After it came a 65-yard march to RB Jamaal Williams' 7-yard TD leap over Adams to the pylon. And Mason Crosby hit a 42-yarder with two seconds left in the half to cut the hosts' edge to 21-17.
6. High-Powered Jets
It may have seemed like the Jets offense had cooled off late in the first half. Not so. Darnold directed a TD drive of 75 yards on seven plays to a Chris Herndon 5-yard TD catch. Then after the Packers lost a fumble on the ensuing kickoff (rookie Anthony Wint forcing, Rashard Robinson recovering), Sam struck again in two plays with a 20-yard TD toss to McGuire. Suddenly the Green & White lead was back to 35-20 with 17 minutes to play. And Darnold's passer rating was up to 155.5, just 2.8 points shy of a perfect rating for the game.
7. Pack on the Way Back
Rodgers and the Pack took over at their 6 with 9½ minutes to play. The first play picked up 39 yards, 24 on a reception by Equanimeous St. Brown plus a 15-yard personal foul on Darryl Roberts for rocking him right after the catch, springboarding the visitors across midfield. Then they went for it on fourth-and-1 for a conversion to the Jets 35. Then Buster Skrine's 26-yard pass interference call and Adams PI in the end zone put the ball at the 1, from where Rodgers rolled into the end zone to make it 35-30 with 6:32 to play.
8. Fake News
It looked as if the Jets weren't going to get that first down they needed on their next drive. But after a third-and-1 sneak by Darnold from the Jets 31 gained nothing, upback Rontez Miles got the short snap on the fake field goal and got to the 35 to move the chains. While the offense couldn't get another first down, it did succeed in getting the Packers to burn through their last two timeouts. But after the punt, the visitors had the ball at their 17 with 3:12 to play.
9. Game on the Line
Rodgers wasn't done moving the ball with his legs as well as his arm. On second down from the Jets 24, he rolled left and kept running to the Jets 1 before Adams rocked him out of bounds. Three downs produced no yards. With no realistic field goal option, the Packers went for it on fourth down, Rodgers kept, leaped and barely broke the plane. The Packers then went for two, Darryl Roberts intercepted and ran all the way for a seeming defensive two-point conversion. But the flag in the end zone was for holding on Roberts. Rodgers kept on this two-point try and it was good as the Packers went up 38-35 with 1:12 to play.
10. Down but Not Out
If it looked like the Jets were done, they didn't consult Andre Roberts, who took the short kickoff 51 yards to the GB-38. Now the Jets were in position for a tying field goal or a winning touchdowns. They moved only to the 15 but couldn't budge from there. So on came Myers for a game-tying 33-yard FG. It was good and the Jets went to their first overtime game since beating the Jaguars at MetLife, 23-20, in Game 4 last season.
11. Working Overtime
Green Bay won the toss and received the opening kickoff. It would be the only series of the extra session. In short order Rodgers had the Packers at the Jets 18, in large part thanks to a 33-yard pass interference call on CB Trumaine Johnson for shoving Valdes-Scantling on the deep route, then a 7-yard PI on Skrine against Valdes-Scantling to the 6. Rodgers kept for the score ... except that RT Bryan Bulaga was called for holding. Finally, Rodgers ended the game with his 16-yard post route to WR Davante Adams past Morris Claiborne.