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Packers get boost from onside kick

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Monday, Dec. 21, 2009
 

Green Bay's offense already was on one heck of a roll, and the last thing it needed was a boost of confidence.

Still, the Packers got a boost when Steelers coach Mike Tomlin called for an onside kick with his team winning by two points and less than four minutes remaining in Sunday's game.

"The onside kick just showed that they really couldn't stop our offense," Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers said.

Rodgers led his team down the field in less than two minutes and scored what appeared to be the game-winning touchdown when he hooked up with James Jones for a 24-yard score. The Packers converted a two-point attempt for a 36-30 lead.

The Steelers offense, which also couldn't be stopped, bailed Tomlin and the defense out when it marched down the field and scored the winning touchdown as time expired. Jeff Reed's extra point gave the Steelers a 37-36 victory.

The talk of the Green Bay locker room following the game was Tomlin's decision to call an onside kick.

"It was a gutsy call for one," Rodgers said. "I don't think they felt like they could hold up. We got on a roll there and were scoring touchdowns."

Actually, the No. 1-ranked defense in the league the past two years couldn't stop the Packers the entire game, and the majority of the damage came through the air.

Rodgers threw for 383 yards and three touchdowns and picked apart the Steelers' much-maligned secondary, forcing Tomlin to attempt the gimmick play with his team ahead, 30-28.

"Greg Jennings said the same thing when they did that," said Packers receiver Donald Driver. "It was like they knew they couldn't stop our offense. After we got on a roll, they realized they didn't want us on the field at all."

Even the Packers' defense, which allowed 537 total yards and a team-record 503 passing yards to Ben Roethlisberger, got a burst of confidence from the onside kick.

"We would like to think that," linebacker Clay Matthews said. "Anytime you kick it onside and it doesn't go your way, we would like to think that there is some kind of implication there."

The Steelers had no answer for the Packers' passing game.

After a slow start and some drops, the Packers started to impose their will on the Steelers' secondary midway through the first quarter.

"We felt confident throwing the football," Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said. "That is why our passing numbers were where they were."

Green Bay called 48 pass plays and only 12 rushing attempts, and three of those runs were scrambles by Rodgers.

"The one area we wanted to attack them was matchups outside," Rodgers said.

Rodgers completed passes for 83, 49, 27 and 24 yards. In the first quarter alone, Rodgers went only 4 of 12 but threw for 148 yards.

"We were able to do exactly what we wanted to do and that was make big plays," Driver said. "We just came up a play short."

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