Jarrett Boykin waited and, begrudgingly, waited a few moments longer.
Finally, the second-year wide receiver of the Green Bay Packers, upon stretching across the goal line for the first time in his career late in the fourth quarter of the green and gold’s contest against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday afternoon, saw the touchdown signal from the back judge validating the score, subsequently resulting in the former Virginia Tech Hokie’s maiden leap into the arms of the Lambeau Field faithful.
One week removed from dropping two passes and netting one reception in six targets against Baltimore, such was a moment relished by Boykins, who snared a game-high eight receptions for 103 yards, and the short-handed Packers (4-2), who, despite an up and down second half, trumped Cleveland, 31-13, to win their tenth straight home affair.
Green Bay, which had been held out of the end zone in the first half in each of their past two outings and was without the services of both Randall Cobb and James Jones, scored a pair of touchdowns in the opening quarter and never looked back.
While Boykins, who entered the weekend with six career receptions to his name, did his share of heavy lifting in the absence of two of Green Bay’s most potent offensive weapons, rookie running back Eddie Lacy continued his ascent.
Rushing for 50 yards on the ground (headlined by a one-yard scamper with 3:48 to play in the first quarter) in the first half, Lacy, the league’s leading rusher among first-year players, accounted for 108 yards of total offense—exactly half of what the Browns churned out as a team on the afternoon—while grinding out crucial yards late in the second half.
For the Browns (3-4), who have dropped two in a row following a surprising 3-2 start, their first trip to Titletown in more than six years was equal parts encouraging and maddening.
As the Packers, behind Aaron Rodgers' 111 yards through the air, turning three of their four drives in the first half into points, Cleveland, which entered the contest averaging 4.8 yards per play on offensive (ahead of only St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Jacksonville), lacked any pop or zing in their passing or running game.
Second-year signal caller Brandon Weeden, one of 19 different quarterbacks who have started under center for Cleveland since the club’s reincarnation in 1999, misfired on 10 of his first 12 throws while veteran running back Willis McGahee rushed for 23 yards on eight carries as the Browns trailed 17-3 at intermission.
The makings of a Green Bay rout, however, were stalled as the Browns, who boasted the seventh-best defensive unit in the league entering Sunday, limited Rodgers and the Packers—despite a trio of drives encompassing a total of 20 plays—to a missed field goal and a pair of punts in the third quarter, while pulling to within 17-9 on a Billy Cundiff 44-yard field goal with 5:07 left in the third quarter.
Although the offense for Green Bay, victors in 23 of their past 24 regular season home games, sputtered at the outset of the second half, the defense helped preserve the lead.
Complimenting the team-high 12 tackles amassed by both AJ Hawk and Jamari Lattimore was third-year defensive back Davon House, who intercepted Weeden, the former Oklahoma St. Cowboy completed a mere 40 percent (17-of-42) of his throws, on Cleveland’s opening drive while also creating havoc in the secondary with three pass deflections, including a 4th-and-15 pass intended for Josh Gordon late in the third quarter.
Green Bay, who upped Cleveland in time of possession (33:20 to 26:40) and first downs (26 to 17), put their first points on the board since the opening quarter when Rodgers, who passed for three touchdowns for the first time since Sept. 15, found Jordy Nelson for a one-yard score with 8:33 remaining to make it a 24-6 affair.
Euphoria morphed into silence, however, for the sellout at Lambeau Field as Travis Benjamin took the ensuing kickoff 86 yards, setting up a seven-play drive ending with Cleveland tight end Jordan Cameron snagging his sixth touchdown reception of the season (tops among tight ends) to pull the Browns within 24-13 with a shade over six minutes left.
Upon Green Bay securing the Browns’ subsequent onset kick, Rodgers, who threw for 260 yards on 25-of-36 passing on the game, guided the Packers on a four-play, 54-yard drive, capped off by the 11-yard touchdown pass to Boykins and putting an end to the upset bid by Rob Chudzinski’s club.
Coupled with losses by both Chicago and Detroit earlier in the day, Green Bay, who has outscored its opposition 72-39 in the three games since their bye week, moved into first place by one-half game—a position they have not been in all season.
The Packers, winners of three straight following their defeat at Cincinnati on Sept. 22, return to action on Sunday, Oct. 27 when they travel to Minnesota to take on the division rival Vikings at 7:30 p.m. CT.