Packers Shape Up, But It’s Only the Rams
The Green Bay Packers got a much needed win on Sunday, and the team looked better than it did the previous week against the Cincinnati Bengals. However, it should be pointed out that the St. Louis Rams are one of the worst teams in football.
Still, a win is a win, and although the game was perhaps closer than the final score of 36-17, we’ll take it.
For perhaps the first time all season, quarterback Aaron Rodgers looked comfortable in the pocket. Although he was pressured early and often, Rodgers moved around well and wasn’t dancing all over the place like he was against Cincinnati. Rodgers was a solid 13-for-23, for 269 yards and 2 touchdowns. He ran for another 38 yards and score.
Rodgers was sacked twice, a good sign after the Packers gave up 10 sacks in their first two games. However, the Rams still managed to pressure Rodgers despite dropping seven men into coverage on a consistent basis.
“They played a lot more coverage today and kind of relied on their front four, and our guys, after a couple early sacks, I thought protected very well,” said Rodgers. “We were moving the pocket a little bit because they were dropping seven guys into coverage.
“Any time I can stretch the pocket a little bit, I feel it gives me more time for those receivers to work, and it opens holes for me as well so I can get down and get out of bounds.”
It seems pretty clear after the Rams game that any opponent that wants to beat the Packers should mix in a series of blitzes and rush the quarterback with more than four men on a regular basis. While yesterday’s game was a step in the right direction for the Packers’ offensive line, the unit is by no means a polished well-functioning group. Five offensive lineman should be able to stop four defensive linemen every time.
With Rodgers having time to throw the football, the Packers managed to put together drives of 80, 84 and 89 yards. Still, the offense was a bit Jeykll and Hyde.
Despite two first quarter Rams turnovers – one on the Rams 16 and one on the 12 – the Packers only mustered six points. It’s almost as if the team was too close to the end zone to score a touchdown.
Despite several dropped passes by the Packers’ receivers, the offense did most of it’s damage via long pass plays. Greg Jennings had only two receptions on the day – something the Packers must address after he had zero last weekend – but both receptions went for over 50 yards. Donald Driver contributed the most spectacular catch of the day, with a one-handed grab that went for 46 yards.
The last thing I’ll mention about the Packers’ offense, are the two consistent negatives. First, Ryan Grant.
Grant finished with 99 yards on 26 carries. That’s an unimpressive 3.8 yards per carry. Most of those yards came in the second half when the Rams’ defense was clearly tiring. Although coach Mike McCarthy’s play calling on rushing plays was suspect as usual, Grant hasn’t looked like anything other than an average running back since the 2007 season.
Second, Mason Crosby.
Crosby connected on all of his field goals on Sunday, but he somehow managed to miss an extra point. How many NFL kickers miss extra points? Crosby’s inconsistency will cost the Packers this year, and the team may be better served looking elsewhere for a kicker next season.
On to the defense, where the unit continued to create turnovers, upping the Packers’ margin to plus-8 this season. The Packers’ defense is starting to look like it will be jackpot or bust and not much in between.
Charles Woodson, along with the Packers’ defensive line, continue to be the catalysts when the defense is playing well. Woodson had six tackles and an interception, while the defensive line was opportunistic with Johnny Jolly recovering a fumble and Cullen Jenkins forcing one.
There was even an Aaron Kampman sighting on Sunday. The Packers’ outside linebacker notched his first sack of the season, forcing the fumble that Jolly recovered.
Overall, however, the linebackers were the weak unit of the defense.
A.J. Hawk actually led the Packers in tackles with 10, but as is usually the case with Hawk, the stats don’t tell the story. On several occasions Hawk was run by and around – he looked slow and took bad angles on tackles.
Nick Barnett looked slightly better than he did last week, when we questioned whether he deserves a starting job, finishing with six tackles and showing up in the Rams’ backfield a couple times. Barnett actually finished the game on the bench, as the Packers modified their linebacker rotation to limit Barnett to 40 snaps and bring Desmond Bishop in thereafter.
“Rotating by series, that made it hard to get into a groove,” said Barnett. “We have a plan, and it’s not going to be like this forever.”
Barnett may have been able to get into a groove, but the linebacking corp didn’t do much to stop the run – it’s primary function. Rams running back Steven Jackson rushed for 117 yards and added 5 catches for 46 yards. Those numbers are cause for concern after Cedric Benson gouged the unit for 141 yards rushing the week prior.
Another underachiever was our man Brandon Chillar, who got beat on two touchdowns by Rams’ tight end Daniel Fells. They were the Rams only touchdowns of the day.
Hopefully, Chillar’s sub-par day can be chalked up to the fact that he was essentially playing safety for much of the game. With Atari Bigby out, defensive coordinator Dom Capers used Chillar as a fifth linebacker, leaving Nick Collins deep. The idea was that Chillar would help support the run.
The reality is the plan didn’t work. The Rams were still able to run the ball effectively, and as we noted, Chillar got beat for two touchdowns.
Next week, the Packers’ defense will face the best running back in football in the form of the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson. It could be a long day.
The Packers beat a team they should have beat on Sunday. Their shortcomings are still apparent, but at 2-1 the Packers keep pace with the Bears in the NFL North and remain one game behind the Vikings, even though, as Mike Vandermause says, this one was a gimme.
The Packers turned in an uneven performance and displayed some of the same old nagging ailments that plagued them in their first two games this season. But thanks to both a weak and generous opponent, the Packers prevailed, 36-17, at the Edward Jones Dome.
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Monty McMahon is one of the founders of Total Packers. He is probably the most famous graduate of UW-Oshkosh next to Jim Gantner.