Game Balls and Lame Calls: Packers 30, Rams 20
After a bit of a shaky start, the Green Bay Packers have won two in a row and have a winning record for the first time in 2012.
With a 30-20 victory over the St. Louis Rams, the Packers improved to 4-3 and have their first winning streak of the season. After the offense struggled to get going early in the first quarter, Aaron Rodgers and the passing game roared to life and the Packers never looked back. The offensive line got beat regularly by the Rams pass rush, but thanks to Rodgers’ uncanny ability to extend plays the Packers offense roared to life as the game went on.
After struggling against inferior teams most of the season, the Packers finally came in and dominated a game they were supposed to. The defense still had some hiccups but overall kept the Rams in check. There still were some problems with tackling and the Packers had a hard time stopping the run in the first half, but the defense did just enough that the Packers never were in great danger of losing the game
So who stood up and who sat down?
QB Aaron Rodgers
Just when you were beginning to think you could run out of ways to describe Rodgers, the quarterback does something that takes your breath away and make you shake your head in disbelief.
Such was the reaction late in the game when Rodgers rolled to his left and uncorked a laser to the outstretch arms of Randall Cobb for the touchdown that put the game out of reach. It was one of Rodgers’ best throws of the season and further dismantled the notion that there is something wrong with the play of the NFL’s reigning MVP.
Aside from that play, Rodgers was surgical in tearing apart the Rams’ secondary. With a quarterback rating of 134.0, Rodgers finished 30 of 37 for 342 yards and three touchdowns. Rodgers now has 19 touchdowns against four interceptions. Rodgers had 20 touchdown passes at this point last season when was named NFL MVP.
Still think something is wrong with Rodgers? Like the quarterback said last week, “Shhhhhh…….”
WR Randall Cobb
Packer fans have known for some time how versatile Cobb is and how big of a weapon he can be in an offense that is by no means short on weapons. Now the rest of the league is getting to see it firsthand.
Cobb had two touchdown catches including the dagger in the fourth quarter and made multiple plays lined up both in the backfield and as a regular wide receiver. That versatility has added one more dimension to an already explosive Packers offense and finally gives the Packers a weapon to counteract the Vikings’ Percy Harvin in the NFC North.
CB Casey Hayward
Not a bad performance for the rookie.
Hayward got his fourth interception of the year against the Rams and once again displayed his playmaking ability that has Packer fans excited over the new young Packers secondary. Hayward still has some work to do in the tackling department like a majority of the secondary, but he has shown a nose for finding the ball so far and if he can improve on his fundamentals of tackling, then the Packers should have a keeper in Hayward.
WR Jordy Nelson
Whenever the Packers needed one, Nelson made a play.
Nelson finished with eight catches for 122 yards and one touchdown. His lone touchdown proved that he belongs in the group of elite receivers in the NFL. Rodgers floated the ball to Nelson and he had to go up to make the catch. Not only did Nelson get the ball, but he found a way to get both feet in bounds.
It was just a great heads up play by Nelson.
Offensive line in the first half
The Rams may have one of the most improved defenses in the league, but that is not an excuse for the Packers to get beat snap after snap.
Marshall Newhouse and T.J. Lang in particular got beat way too often. Newhouse was getting beaten so much that some were beginning to wonder if Rodgers could survive the game if Newhouse didn’t get any help.
Down 10-6 at halftime, the Packers thankfully made some adjustments in the locker room and the pass protection problems were a non-issue in the second half as Rodgers and the Packers offense tore apart the Rams.
Rodgers’ internal clock in the first half
As has become a semi-bad habit this season, Rodgers once again started holding onto the ball too long. He obviously thought he could wait for a play to develop but with his protection collapsing, Rodgers needs to throw the ball away. Yes, the offensive line has had some problems keeping Rodgers upright but the quarterback has also played a part in that.
There were a couple plays where Rodgers had the ball for around five seconds and didn’t throw it. No one in the NFL is better at extending plays than the reigning MVP, but sometimes it is better to throw the ball away rather than just sit in the pocket and hope someone gets open.
This might seem like a little bit of a nitpick, but the Packers once again let an inferior opponent hang around longer than they should.
The Packers were ahead 20-6 and were one turnover away from silencing the Rams and instead Capers went with his patented “soft zone” defense. The result was predictable, with the Rams marching down for the field for a touchdown and narrowing the Packers’ lead to one score.
For whatever reason, the Packers are content going into neutral on defense when they have a two score lead instead of staying on the accelerator and burying a team once and for all. It’s clear the players have the killer instinct to put teams away, so it then falls on the coaching as to why the Packers suddenly become soft when they build any kind of solid lead.
It’s an approach that burned the Packers against the Indianapolis Colts two weeks ago and it’s going to burn them again, perhaps in a much more meaningful game, until the defensive coaches learn not to shut the blitz down with a lead late in the second half.
Thankfully the Rams were weak enough on offense that this wasn’t much of an issue in this game, but Capers won’t get away with it against better offenses (of which there are several).——————
Kris Burke is a freelance sports writer currently residing in Wisconsin. His work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke