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GREEN BAY, Wis. – So many injuries, so many unfamiliar names playing for the Packers.
However, Green Bay always has a chance with Aaron Rodgers calling the shots.
Rodgers threw for 260 yards and three touchdowns, Eddie Lacy ran for another score, and the defense came up clutch in a 31-13 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
"Hang with us fans, it might not be the prettiest game," Rodgers said. "But we've got to kind of win with defense, not turn the ball over and make the plays that are there."
Rodgers finished 25 for 36 despite being without two of his top targets in injured receivers James Jones and Randall Cobb.
Then, tight end Jermichael Finley left on a stretcher with about 10 minutes to go with a neck injury after a late hit by Browns safety Tashaun Gipson on a 10-yard gain. The team later said Finley had movement and feeling in his extremities.
The Packers (4-2) pressed on during a rainy night and also overcame 10 penalties. The defense held Willis McGahee to 39 yards on 11 carries and recorded three sacks despite playing without injured outside linebackers Clay Matthews and Nick Perry.
Rodgers was among the Packers' veterans who helped young players get through a tough week. Cleveland's Brandon Weeden could have used his advice. He struggled again and finished 17 for 42 for 149 yards with an interception and a 2-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Cameron with 6:09 left.
Five things learned in the win that vaulted the Packers atop the NFC North:
SCARY SIGHT: Finley was taken to a hospital for further tests after the hit from Gipson. He was still on his side for a few minutes while being attended to on the field before being wheeled off into the tunnel.
Gipson, called for an unnecessary roughness penalty, said he went over to pray while Finley was being treated.
"I'm pretty sure I can get in contact with him and when I do I'm definitely going to shoot my condolences to him," he said. "There wasn't any ill intent."
Finley had five catches for 72 yards and a first-quarter touchdown that opened the scoring for the Packers, pinballing off defenders on a 10-yard reception.
WEEDEN WOES: The Browns' quarterback didn't help his case in remaining the starter.
The rain didn't help. Neither did dropped passes, especially early in the game.
Coach Rob Chudzinski said switching to backup Jason Campbell on Sunday wasn't an option. He also didn't give Weeden a resounding endorsement.
"I'll look at the film and we'll evaluate his play and everybody's play after the game," Chudzinski said.
Weeden vowed to keep fighting on.
"You can cuss me all you want, but I'm going to leave everything out on that field," Weeden said. "I'm going to fight until that clock says zero."
FRESH FACES: Packers receiver Jarrett Boykin made the most out of his opportunity with Cobb and Jones out, finishing with career-highs of eight catches for 103 yards and a 20-yard touchdown reception.
Jamari Lattimore also had a good day with 12 tackles in place of injured inside linebacker Brad Jones. Rookie Nate Palmer had his moments on the outside, helping to fill in for Matthews and Perry.
"The will to compete is there — from everybody, from a rookie to a 15-year veteran," Palmer said.
THIRD DOWNERS: If only the Browns could force punts after two downs.
The defense was bad again on third down, especially in the first half, when Green Bay converted 6 of 8 opportunities. Three came on the Packers' second series, which ended with Lacy's 1-yard touchdown run for a 14-0 lead late in the first quarter.
Cleveland was better in the second half, holding the Packers to 1 of 5 on third downs. But the damage was done.
"We got off to a poor start and fought back trying to get back all night," Chudzinski said.
LOOKING AHEAD: No rest for the weary Packers — the Vikings are next in Minnesota.
Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy reminded his players in the victorious locker room. It's the start of an especially critical two-game stretch for Green Bay against divisional rivals, with the Bears visiting Lambeau for a prime-time showdown Nov. 4.
"The last thing I left the team with," McCarthy said. "I'm sure they wanted a day off and all that stuff, but it's Minnesota week and that's important."
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