17

October

Packers vs. Rams: 5 Observations from Green Bay’s 24-3 Win over St. Louis

Photo: Mark Hoffman, Journal Sentinel

Aaron Rodgers threw three first half touchdowns, including strikes of 93 and 35 yards, and the Packers (6-0) defense made enough plays to keep the Rams out of the end zone as Green Bay rolled to a 24-3 win over the still winless Rams (0-5).

Here are five observations from the game:

1. Quick start

For the third time this season, the Packers scored 24 points in the first half of a game. For a team that has occasionally gotten off to slow starts in the past, that’s an encouraging sign. The Packers got a field goal from Mason Crosby—his franchise record-tying 17th straight made kick—on their first possession in the first quarter. After a punt on the next series, the Packers scored touchdowns on three straight possessions to essentially put the deflated Rams away. The first score came following James Starks’ 15-yard run on a fourth-and-1 play. Aaron Rodgers’ run-action fake gave him all day as he rolled to his left, and James Jones worked his way back from the righthand of the formation to haul in Rodgers’ perfectly thrown pass in the end zone. In a wind that gave both special teams units problems, Rodgers’ throw couldn’t have been placed any better.

Rams punter Donnie Jones pinned the Packers at the 7-yard-line to begin their next drive, but Jordy Nelson’s perfectly ran sluggo route on former Packers Al Harris allowed him to get behind the Rams defense for a 93-yard score. Harris bit hard on Rodgers’ pump, but there’s no doubting that Nelson has proven to be a home run hitter through six games in 2011. He has 20 catches for 409 yards and four scores, with three of the touchdowns coming from 50 yards or further out.

Rodgers’ final touchdown pass, this time to Donald Driver, capped an 11-play, 77 yard drive that gave the Packers a 24-point lead with under two minutes left in the first half. Facing a second-and-goal, Rodgers again rolled to his left, and Driver made a veteran move to get space in the end zone for a sidearm throw from Rodgers. At that point, Rodgers had 234 yards passing and three scores for a perfect 158.3 rating. Any scoreline from the Packers seemed attainable with the way the offense was clicking to start the game. It probably goes without saying, but the Packers will be a tough out if they continue to play that well to begin games.

2. Ugly second

For as well as the Packers played in the first half, they played just as uninspired and lackadaisical in the second. Green Bay had just 126 yards of offense and went 3-for-9 on third downs in the final 30 minutes. Drops became an issue, too. Nelson starting running upfield before securing a third-and-2 pass that would have netted an easy first down in the third quarter, and then Greg Jennings one upped Nelson by having a perfect throw from Rodgers clank off his hands and into the waiting arms of Craig Dahl for an interception in the fourth. Both were indications of the focus level of the Packers offense in the second half. People will blame Mike McCarthy for letting his foot off the gas and sticking more to the ground, but the Packers simply didn’t execute. The talent level was so wide for the Packers offense and Rams defense that it shouldn’t have really mattered what McCarthy called. The Packers offense mentally checked out of this game at halftime, and it resulted in a goose egg on the scoreboard in both the third and fourth quarters.

3. Bend but don’t break

The Packers gave up 424 total yards, but I’d argue that the defense played well on Sunday. Anytime you can keep an NFL team—even one as poor as the Rams—out of the end zone, you’ve done something right. The Rams were just 1-for-3 in the red zone, with the lone score coming on a field goal before the half. Sam Shields’ interception in the end zone, which saw him play perfect coverage and then make a nice play on the thrown pass, ended one scoring opportunity for the Rams. Clay Matthews second sack of the season ended the other. The stops might have seemed inconsequential in the scheme of a 24-3 win, but a better team would have made this a nail-biter on Sunday. The Packers put a lot of internal pressure on their defense in the second half and they responded when they had to.

4. Introducing Clay Matthews, but he’s been here the whole time

Most have been highly critical of Matthews this season for the simple fact that he’s registered just a single sack in five games before Sunday. Anyone who’s watched the Packers with any consistency would tell you he’s playing just as well as he has in his previous two Pro Bowl seasons. Sacks are a stat that can be very misleading if used on its own. You have to look at the whole picture. According to Pro Football Focus, Matthews had tallied a combined 25 sacks, quarterback hits and hurries in the Packers first five games—a number that tied him with the Cowboys’ DeMarcus Ware for No. 1 among outside linebackers. By my unofficial count, Matthews added six more to that total (one sack, three quarterback hits and two hurries) on Sunday against the Rams. The sexy stats aren’t there in huge quantities this season—Matthews had 8.5 sacks at this same time in 2010—but he’s still making impact plays.

5. Perfect, but with imperfections

The Packers are 6-0 for the first time since 1965, and Sunday’s win marked the seventh time a defending champion started the next season with that record. With the Lions’ 25-19 loss to the 49ers, the Packers remain the NFL’s only undefeated team. But like they’ve done all season, the Packers were unable to put together 60 minutes of football that’s up to their standard. The drops in the second half were inexcusable. Third down execution was far below what we’ve seen (55.4 percent before Sunday). The run defense gave up 125 yards and a 5.0 yard average. Austin Pettis nearly broke a punt return for a touchdown. But still, the Packers found a way to win a game by three touchdowns. As McCarthy said after the game, “The last time I checked, when you win by three touchdowns, that’s a pretty significant win.” It’s hard to argue with McCarthy there. It’s going to be easy for fans to focus on some of the negatives of the Packers win, but don’t lose focus on the task at hand. The goal every week is to win the game in front of you. The Packers are 6-for-6 in that category in 2011.

Quick observations

MLB A.J. Hawk gave the one-finger salute after a sack in the second quarter, which he promptly apologized for post-game. It was directed towards the Packers sidelines and was meant as an “inside joke.” Regardless, Hawk should expect a fine sometime this week from the NFL…With a 119.1 passer rating Sunday, Rodgers became the first quarterback in NFL history to go over 110 in every game through six weeks…The Packers don’t play again at Lambeau Field until Nov. 14. Green Bay goes to Minnesota before their bye week, then travels to San Diego in Week 9…Rodgers 93-yard touchdown to Nelson was the Packers longest completion since Brett Favre hit Robert Brooks for a 99-yard touchdown in 1995…James Jones has caught a touchdown pass in three straight weeks, which marks the first time he’s done that in his NFL career…The Packers are alone in first place in the NFC North for the first time since 2007.

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Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.

You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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21 Responses to “Packers vs. Rams: 5 Observations from Green Bay’s 24-3 Win over St. Louis”

  1. Wagszilla says:

    Still disagree on Matthews.
    He’s been better every game and I’m excited about that.

    But I don’t think it’s “the same old Clay”. I still see issues with his power when rushing the passer which I attribute to his leg injury (if I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt). And I’m not talking about the instances where he’s getting doubled or tripled; he’s been getting beat in his 1-on-1s.

    He’s been great in stopping the run, in pursuit, and even impressing me sometimes in coverage, but putting consistent pressure on the QB like years past he is not. (Now you can argue that’s because of the D-Line; Pickett aging, Jenkins gone, and Wynn in for Neal, but like I said, those 1-on-1s especially against scrub tackles pose questions).

    I may come off as contrarian or looking for something to complain about but I still think that the criticism is valid. It wouldn’t shock me if he were to come off the bye on fire with a healthy Mike Neal helping on the other end.

    But regardless, 6-0 feels good and Clay’s a really smart player with a crazy motor and glad to have him on the Pack.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

    • CSS says:

      I agree that Matthews is missing his ‘closing step’ as a byproduct of injury. That being said, he’s leading all NFL pass rushers with 17 combined hits, pressures and sacks.

      Leading the league….

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

      • Zach Kruse Zach Kruse says:

        The FOX graphic did show 17 sacks/hits/hurries, but I talked with a guy at Pro Football Focus, which charts every play of every game, and Matthews had 25 going into Sunday. I’d trust that stat more than FOX’s. And by my count on film, he added six more. Matthews was getting beat in one-on-ones early in the season, but not anymore. He’s winning those now. Watch the last three games and see how many of those matchups he’s winning. You’ll be surprised.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  2. Ron LC says:

    Hate “Bend don’t Break!” Sooner or later they’re going to succumb to the constant pressure in the “Red Zone.” On the other hand, since the 2nd quarter in the Atlanta game the Packers had 18 defensive stands. The result – 3 points. For as bad as the coverage and tackling has been, you can’t argue with the end result.

    For the sake of my aging heart I’d sure like to see the D stuff an opponent or two.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • Zach Kruse Zach Kruse says:

      You get the feeling that there is going to be a little bend but don’t break all season without Nick Collins. He’s still a guy everyone forgets about. But I definitely get what you’re saying, Ron.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  3. After last seasons incredible drama I am finding it hard to get excited for this unbeaten streak. What is wrong with me? I literally fell asleep in the second half. The NFL is really boring this season. Does anyone agree, or am I still feeling the effects of the superbowl hangover?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

    • Zach Kruse Zach Kruse says:

      I haven’t lost excitement for the simple fact that I’m enjoying the dominance so far. The second half was tough though…the Packers offense fell asleep right along with you.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  4. Mojo says:

    One big problem with the bend-don’t-break philosophy is the opposing team tends to run a lot of the clock moving the ball from red-zone to red-zone. This then takes time away from the Packs greatest asset – A-Rod.

    If the Pack’s defense doesn’t get off the field sooner this is going to bite them in the arse during the playoffs.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

    • Chad Toporski Chad Toporski says:

      Great comment. And not just for the offense, they need to give themselves some rest too.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • Zach Kruse Zach Kruse says:

      I definitely understand the premise of your argument, but the Packers are still 5th in the NFL in average time of possession this season at over 33 minutes per game. They lost the TOP battle yesterday, but only by about a minute. Nothing significant. So really, despite the bend but don’t break, it hasn’t been much of a factor so far.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

      • Steve Cheez says:

        You don’t get much TOP when you score on a 93-yard bomb…

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

        • Ed Schoenfeld says:

          You don’ need a lot of TOP when you score on a 93 yard play. :-)

          Seriously, the Packers play ‘bend don’t break’ because their secondary hasn’t been 100% healthy all season, because the have been ahead by multiple scores in almost every game, and because by the second half the way to win has been to make the other guys take a lot of time to do whatever it is they will do. The ‘red zone’ stands are a lot more representative of this defense than giving up meaningless yards between the 20′s.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  5. Tarynfor12 Tarynfor 12 says:

    A poster mentioned CM3 losing his one on one’s.Is it due to inability…no.I venture a guess that it’s more about him not expending energy in the wrong direction.I think CM3 is playing”smarter” football than some will accept as they only want sacks.
    If he is singled it’s because the play is totally away from him and he knows it and wants the ability to pull off and when he trys,aren’t we seeing the holding to keep him from getting over to the play.
    I don’t think he’s losing the one on one but rather his opponent by drawing the hold flag and the holds that aren’t flagged.
    I can probably be better in my wording but perhaps the thought gets across.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • Chad Toporski Chad Toporski says:

      I agree. I think that definitely plays a part. Just look at Burnett for how too much aggressiveness can be a double edged sword.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  6. Ron LC says:

    Zambo hyper-extended knee know more Wednesday. Shields symptoms of a concussion know more Wednesday.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  7. Lucas says:

    For those not liking the bend but don’t break: Quarterbacks against GB are a combined passer rating of 81.8. I simply had to calculate it myself, knowing GB gives up yards like crazy. So there it is, 81.8. How do you feel about the defense feel now?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  8. Pete Kliman says:

    The Vikings would never trade to us ,but Allen could take the elasticity out of this defense . A second rounder might do the trick.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  9. Tmaxx says:

    Matthews was good, but Hawk and Bishop were monsters!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0