GREEN BAY, Wis. – No Aaron Jones and David Bakhtiari. No Kevin King and no Darnell Savage.
No momentum, either, after last week’s embarrassing loss at Tampa Bay.
None of that was a problem for the Green Bay Packers, who dismantled the Houston Texans 35-20 on Sunday.
Without Jones, Davante Adams caught 13 passes for a career-high 196 yards and two touchdowns and Jamaal Williams had 114 total yards and one touchdown. Without Bakhtiari, Billy Turner moved from right tackle to left tackle to help provide the time for Aaron Rodgers to throw for 283 yards and four touchdowns. Without King and Savage, the Packers took away Houston’s downfield passing game and allowed one touchdown in the first 58-plus minutes.
The Packers started fast and kept rolling, improving to 5-1. The Texans, who had played much better since replacing Bill O’Brien with Romeo Crennel, trailed 21-0 at halftime and fell to 1-6.
“I said it was an anomaly and, obviously, we wanted to back that up,” Rodgers said. “That game is an outlier I believe and today was more in line with our first four weeks.”
By Wednesday, the Packers had grown weary of having to answer for last week’s 38-10 loss at Tampa Bay.
“One out of five,” Rodgers reminded reporters last week.
Houston won the toss and deferred. Rodgers and Co. made them pay by opening their sixth consecutive game with a first-drive score. The Texans lost their No. 1 cornerback, Bradley Roby, to an injury earlier in the game. Adams might have had a big day, anyway, but Houston’s other defensive backs didn’t stand a chance against the Packers’ polished star receiver. On third-and-goal from the 3, cornerback Phillip Gaines could only grasp at Adams’ legs on the touchdown.
Rodgers entered the day with 38 players catching his 377 touchdown passes. Add tight end Jace Sternberger and receiver Malik Taylor to that list. Sternberger caught a 3-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter and Taylor added a 1-yard touchdown reception with 14 seconds to go in the half to give Green Bay a commanding 21-0 lead.
Rodgers was sharp but not flawless. Not that it mattered. After Houston drew within 21-7 coming out of halftime, Rodgers threw behind a wide-open Adams, who was streaking over the middle on a second-and-4 from the Texans’ 45. On third down, Adams blew past safety Eric Murray at the line and caught Rodgers’ deep ball for a 45-yard touchdown.
The Packers missed Jones. Houston’s defense entered the game ranked last in rushing yards per game and per carry but limited Green Bay to just 96 yards and 3.6 yards per pop. But Rodgers rounded back into form, Adams devoured all comers and the Packers went 4-for-4 in the red zone.
Defensively, the Packers were without King and Savage and lost linebacker Krys Barnes and safety Raven Greene. But they pitched a first-half shutout and limited the Texans to field goals on a pair of fourth-quarter drives that reached the 8. The score was 35-13 until a late, garbage-time touchdown.
The only black mark was the play of the special teams, which allowed a blocked punt and an onside kick recovery in the fourth quarter. However, the defense gave up only a field goal after the blocked punt and produced a turnover when undrafted rookie safety Henry Black jarred loose the ball after the onside kick.
“Our guys were dialed in all week long,” coach Matt LaFleur said. “It’s a credit to our players.”
And with that, the Packers walked off an enemy field with a familiar feeling and to a familiar sound.
“Hearing the ‘Go Pack Go!’ chants, it was like normal game almost, where you’re up a few scores on a team late in the game and a lot of the home fans have left and it’s just our Packers fans yelling out ‘Go Pack Go!’” Rodgers said. “It’s a thing I don’t take for granted, and I enjoy and have enjoyed for over a decade. I just love hearing it, love walking off the field in a road game with our fans in the stands. It’s just something that I’ll never forget.”