Well, it wasn’t pretty, but Green Bay moves to 5-0 following a 24-10 victory over the St. Louis Rams. Todd Gurley provided plenty of issues for Dom Capers and company, but the front seven was in Nick Foles’ face all day and forced four crucial interceptions – including a pick-6 by rookie Quinten Rollins on one of his two interceptions. This performance couldn’t have come on a better day as Rodgers uncharacteristically turned the ball over three times – something he has never done at Lambeau Field.
Green Bay put up the first points of the game on their first drive. Rodgers connected on a 31-yard touchdown to Ty Montgomery over the middle, who got wide open due to an inexplicable double coverage by the Rams on Richard Rodgers. Aaron Rodgers, the Packers’ leading rusher on the day, kept the drive alive on a 3rd and 7 picking up 18 of his 39 rush yards on the play.
Turnovers, however, were the theme of the day here. The 12th straight home win for Green Bay came with the end of Aaron Rodgers’ incredible interception-less streak at 587 consecutive attempts on the Packers next drive. A tipped ball at the line allowed James Lauranitis to make a great diving catch, effectively ending the illustrious streak.
This was the start of a series of give-and-take possessions between the two teams. The very next drive for the Rams, Micah Hyde intercepted Foles thanks to pressure by Julius Peppers forcing an errant throw. The Packers were unable to convert on 4th down on the ensuing drive, handing the ball right back over.
Fortunately, the defense came to play today. Datone Jones bull rushed through the line and hit Foles as he regrettably threw it right to Quinten Rollins who strolled into the end zone for his first interception and touchdown of his career. At this point: Packers 14, Rams 0.
St. Louis finally got a drive together by realizing Nick Foles is not the saving grace of this offense. Todd Gurley started to get going and a defensive pass interference penalty by Ha Ha Clinton-Dix gave the Rams a red-zone opportunity, and they were able to take advantage. A little flip to Tavon Austin on a jet sweep put the Rams down just 14-7 at Lambeau. Another Rodgers interception – crazy, right? – to Trumaine Johnson, who made a great play on the ball, led to a Rams field goal. The Packers went into halftime with a 14-10 lead, but lost Nick Perry (shoulder) and TJ Lang (knee) for the game.
Green Bay stretched their lead to 21-10 following a 65-yard catch-and-run touchdown by James Jones, including a great effort by Jones to cross the goal line. As the Rams offense continued to stall later in the quarter, the special teams pulled out a fake punt to gain some momentum. Punter Johnny Hekker completed a 20-yard pass after CB Demetri Goodson fell down in coverage, giving St. Louis a fresh set of downs in Packers territory.
The conversion, however, would go to waste as Datone Jones (who had himself a day) blocked Zuerlein’s field goal to preserve the lead. The rest of the game followed suit as the Rams threw two red zone interceptions and missed two more field goals, letting down their defense who played as well as any have against the potent offense of the Packers. 24-10, Green Bay.
The New Age Packers
Riddle me this: The Packers get outgained (334-322), convert 4/13 on 3rd down, turn the ball over three times, possess the ball seven minutes less than their opponent, and still win the game. Any other year, and that’s a loss. Yet, Capers has this defense playing to its full potential as they got a sack (three for the game) for their franchise-record 41st consecutive game and forced four interceptions – they even scored as many touchdowns as they gave up. The playmakers in the secondary and the athletes up front have culminated into one of the league’s top defenses through the first five games.
Can we expect this type of play all year? Absolutely. Capers has refined the defense to simpler means by reducing his playbook size, allowing for less mental errors and assignment issues. The effect has been nothing but great. Sure, the run defense could use some work. But Gurley, who had 159 yards rushing, didn’t get going until the Packers were already up two touchdowns.
The defensive front did a solid job at the line of scrimmage getting push and containing Gurley in the first half. Plus, Gurley and Tavon Austin will cause defenses all kinds of problems with that Wisconsin-infused jet sweep action as it freezes the defenders, allowing running lanes to open up.
Capers’ defenses have always been predicated on aggressive play-calling and forcing turnovers. That’s the recipe for their success and it has been working beautifully so far this year. In recent years, we’ve seen this defense falter at the hands of this aggression. This year, they’ve thrived on it. There is an attitude to the defense that has not been seen since the Woodson days, something they desperately needed. With this kind of personality and execution on the defensive side of the ball, Green Bay becomes that much tougher to beat.
What’s Next for the Offense?
This is two weeks in a row where the offense has not looked as fluid and in-sync as fans (and the team) are use to seeing. As it turns out – Rodgers is human. But injuries on offense appear to be catching up with the production that’s expected. Bryan Bulaga returned to right tackle today and held his own against a solid front, but guard TJ Lang was lost for the rest of the game following a shoulder injury.
Eddie Lacy has been battling an ankle injury all year and Davante Adams has not caught a ball since week 2 as he deals with a sprained ankle. These are big pieces of the offense, along with Jordy Nelson, who have not been able to stay on the field and put up the numbers most expected.
Yet, the one consistent has been Aaron Rodgers. The offense goes as he goes and, besides today, he has been stellar as usual. Still, he masks so many flaws due to his exceptional play and those flaws come to surface when he has a rough game like today (Rodgers on his streak ending: “Time to start a new one.”). You can start to feel the loss of Jordy and the downfield passing threat, specifically on third down when Rodgers loved to target him.
Let’s not forget the defenses faced in three of the last four weeks. Seattle, Kansas City, and St. Louis have three of the best defensive fronts you will find in the entire NFL and the offensive line, even while hurt, has stood strong allowing only 8 sacks up to this point. I expect next week to be a big bounce back week at home against San Diego for this offense and give them some confidence heading into the bye week. For now, Green Bay sits at 5-0 and is still the favorite in the NFC.
First Downs: GB 14 / STL 17
3rd Down Conversions: GB 4-13 / STL 5-18
Total Yards: GB 322 / STL 334
Turnovers: GB 3 / STL 4
Time of Possession: GB 26:17 / STL 33:43