Game Balls and Lame Calls: Packers 30, Rams 20

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Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson
Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson were locked in during the Green Bay Packers’ 30-20 victory over the St. Louis Rams

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?

Game Balls

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.

Lame Calls

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.

Dom Capers

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).

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Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com.

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  • http://allpackers.com Nick Perry

    Gotta agree with everything said. Especially the point made about Capers defense. One more time he let a team get back in the game while on the road. With that said I was proud of the way our defense played. Neal who was finally at least is on the field and playing better went down. I thought House played decent and made a few good plays. All in all the defense played well considering how many players the Packers are missing on defense. M.M. stuck with the run game BUT I really believe he needs to talk to some other teams, (maybe Carolina for example) about a running back. I’m worried about the cold weather and the running game again. Alex Green just doesn’t seem like a very good running back. I keep telling myself he hasn’t played much and will get better but I don’t know. Other than that they played a good game. GO PACK GO!!!!

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      As someone who watches the offensive line a lot, I can tell you they were manhandled by St. Louis. Not a lot of holes there for Green.

    • buckeyefanindaphils

      MM better talk to some teams about trading O-lines.

  • James david Marsh

    TT will not trade for a running back unless a quality RB is given away. Let us hope that either Green or Starks respond to the call. Green Bay does not really need a quality ground game, but rather one that makes around 18 to 22 carries which is enought to get the attention of the defence. Should Starks or Green step up, Rogers would truely be unstopable.

    • http://grizzlymitch@bresnan.net montanacheezhead

      Remember that the Pack kept Starks shelved until late in the 2010 season. That may be the plan this year as he is maybe too fragile to put out there this early. The turf toe may not be 100%. No excuse for the fact that we need a productive running back

  • alex parkhurst

    That 15 yard penalty on Dezman Moses was a lousy call. They re-ran that a few times on TV and it looked like a terrific hit. He didn’t lead with his head so no helmet to helmet and it appeared his left foot was still touching the ground so he didn’t “leave his feet”.

    If I hear once more that Casey Hayward has average speed or is slow I am going to puke. Every route saw him match receivers stride for stride. He was never beaten on the plays on TV that I saw by shear speed. “Shhhhhhh…….” as A. Rodgers would say.

    • FireMMNow

      i think it was the forearm action that resulted in the penalty. i agree that it should not be a penalty, but that will get called every time. it is sad that every big hit in the NFL will get penalized. throw the penalty when an offensive player gets smashed and worry about if it was a penalty later. the way the rule is written just about every big hit will be able to be penalized. sad, but just the way the NFL is. I was annoyed but not surprised at all by the flag.

      • Mojo

        I have to disagree with one of your points Dan, and that is; what Moses did will get flagged every time. I’m guessing if that play were called by ten different officials, you might get half of them to throw their flags, the others recognizing it was a good hit. In fact, the next game you watch a game, you’ll see similar hard hits go unpenalized. It’s so arbitrary. And worse yet, often these calls decide the outcomes of games. I do agree, however, that there is a greater emphasis by the league to make the game “safer”.

        Maybe there’s more rules now than ever, faster action with refs having to make snap judgements but this year, even with the regular refs, and regardless of the game I’m watching, I see tremendous inconsistency in calls. And don’t get me started on PI.

        • buckeyefanindaphils

          D-Moz went for the big hit and got flagged for the forearm. That was 3rd. down and well short, all he had to do was wrap up.

      • LilHank

        I you look at the play, the referee that threw the flag was behind the receiver, with the receiver blocking the referee’s view. from the ref’s view, it looked like a lead with the helmut when the receveier’s head snapped back when hit. So the ref threw the flag believing the DB led wiht the head.

  • FireMMNow

    Rodgers was unreal. The throws that he was barely missing early in the season. and you know what else makes a big difference? the people catching passes actually caught passes. everything was clean and crisp in the passing game from the skill postion perspective.

    the OL was garbage. they cleaned up the pass blocking late in the game, but they were still not creating a clean pocket. the run game was so bad it was ridiculous. every OL was getting manhandled. did not see too many people winning one on one battles.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      the OL were continually getting pushed backwards…

  • FireMMNow

    Dom called a good game. the D allowed 6 points through 3 quarters. then 14 points in the fourth quarter. the rams final drive was just garbage and you get that in the nfl. the defense did its job. they made the rams use about 5 minuts of clock. they were not perfect, but give the guy a break when the D does its job.

    • Elle

      This.

      I don’t know about you, but I saw a decimated front seven that wasn’t getting home, even while blitzing. We were getting burned on the blitz pretty badly; I can see why Capers backed off.

      The injuries have definitely caught up with us; the defensive line looked really gassed.

  • Ron LC

    Good calls Kris!

    The Oline has regressed to 2009 and 2010 levels. The GB offense is designed to stretch the field, therefore, you better have Olinemen that can keep their man in control a little longer than normal. The choices, accept the fact AR gets hit more than any other QB or upgrade the Oline. The later is a long-term project and requires better talent identification than they have been making in recent drafts. There is another possibility. Change the blocking scheme. Learn to come off the ball and push the defenders back instead of standing in place and waiting to be hit.

    The D is playing very well when they maintain their aggressive approach. As soon as they drop into the soft zone bing bang TD. I understand the theory. Keep the ball in front of you, keep the ball in bounds, run the clock down. Yesterday, ahead 20-6 with the dagger poised, soft zone is back. 6 plays, less than 2 minutes and the Rams were within 7 points with almost a full quarter left. Thank you AR for answering that screwup. Back to soft again at the end of the game. Another TD. Meaningless as it was it still showed just how impotent that D is. There has got to be a better slternative out there somewhere. I know you can figure one out Capers.

  • bleedsgreen

    Minor quibble: <>
    should be–> <>
    please go ahead and delete this comment if you want Al

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      huh?

      • bleedsgreen

        bah! Sorry. The formatting caused by the arrow brackets erased my comment!: “Down 10-6 at halftime, the Packers thankfully”
        Should be,
        “Ahead only 10 – 6 at halftime, the Packers …”

  • JRG

    Completely agree with you on Capers Al. How many times have we seen this soft approach ultimately put our defense into a position to defend a pass in the endzone to seal a victory? Can someone please ask MM or DC about this? It must not be all Dom Capers; MM has to be ok with this because we have seen it so often throughout his tenure. I would characterize it as playing not to lose. If you’re going to play soft coverage and allow a team to easily move the ball down the field when we have a two TD lead, allowing them to make it a one possession game, why not play all out and go for the dagger. IF they do score, same result. Let’s play to win and start burying teams! Go Pack Go!

    • Mike

      As nauseating it can be to watch them go into prevent, it does serve a purpose. DC goes into that soft scheme because of the two score lead. The last thing you want is the opponent to score on one big play because you’re still selling out.

      I do agree an extra blitz here and there would be appreciated by both fans and the players, and also could confuse the QB into throwing an interception.

  • Nostradomus

    Another game ball for the local and traveling GBP fans. @ sweeks in a row. KUUUHHHNN and GO PACK GO!!! all day!

  • Lucas

    The Packers line is what they practice. Without much emphasis on the run game, little is produced. That said, then the pass protection should be better.

    I disagree with the comments of Rodger’s internal clock. Taking a sack for a minimal loss is not a big deal. What is the real difference between 3rd and 10 and 3rd and 14 to this offense? Not a whole lot. On first down, a sack means so little with two more downs. On second down, just make sure it’s not a huge loss of yards. On third down, what’s the harm? It’s a calculated risk on A-Rod’s and MM’s part to always extend plays and make something happen. Aaron has proven his ability to make something happen after 2.6 seconds (or whatever the preseason horn was set for). Throwing the ball away is a guaranteed no gain, potentially an intentional grounding. Give me Aaron scrambling and passing at nearly 70%.

    • FireMMNow

      hits add up in a 16 game season. that is the only reason i want him to get rid of the ball quicker at times. it is not the lost yardage that often bugs me.

    • Art Rosen

      Lucas, it’s not just a sack, it’s a potential injury to AR on the sack, perhaps a concussion or a knee, ankle or arm injury and losing our QB for a game, afew games, the rest of the season. It’s the risk of having Harrell in the game instead of Rodgers. Throw it away!

      • Lucas

        I can see the logic to throwing it away to avoid injury. However, he is normally moving after 2.6 just to escape harms way to even have his feet set to throw it away. Might as well make a play then.
        The only time I want him throwing it away is to avoid injury, like you said, when no lanes open up in the pocket for him to run or escape; the complete pocket collapse.

  • Lucas

    MM may add only one more wrinkle needed to make teams shudder if they weren’t already…Cobb passing. I know it takes the ball out of A-Rod’s hands, but Cobb is that kind of play maker.

    • buckeyefanindaphils

      I’m pretty sure they have a couple plays where Cobb throws the ball. Saving ‘em for the SB.

  • ELo

    Lang got pushed around all day – is he nursing an injury?

    Passing game looked sharp. Still would like us to able to run on 3rd and 1 though.

    Totally agree on the issue with DC’s soft zone – let’s keep the petal to the floor.

    Liked the way House was playing, other than the TD burn. I believe he will be a key man down the stretch.

    • FireMMNow

      just watching him you can tell the shoulder is really weak. hopefully shields is back next week and house has a little more time to get healthy. but he did look pretty good for the most part. when you cannot use your hands in that goal line situation you are done. and he was. but played pretty well for his first action in a long time.

  • toolkien

    Do people realize that the Packers SHOULD BE 5-2 against the hardest slate of teams for anyone so far, having had only three home games so far and two of those crunched together into a short week? The Packers have played the second toughest slate of defensive teams so far this year. Add on top this scenario the handing of a game over to Seattle so that the Packers are only 4-3.

    The Packers are actually playing very well compared to the last three years given the strength they have played. People need to take into account the difficulty of who the team is going against. People are so spoiled by the easy schedule the Packers had last year that it distorts their ability to know what they are looking at. The Packers are the 4th strongest team out there through 7 weeks and they are 2-1 against the three teams that are ahead of them. Things aren’t as terrible as people want to believe.

    The biggest problem the Packers have, and they’ve had it going back to 2008, is consistency. And that is on McCarthy. The potency cannot be argued, it’s the consistency that can be an issue. But so far in 2012 the Packers are a tough team that has had no help from the schedulers or the refs.

    Sorry if this a little too much of a rant, but people just don’t seem to have the ability to make their observations within the proper frame of reference.

    • FireMMNow

      This team is better than last years team. All of the issues that have occured so far this year are correctable, or so it seems. The same thing could not be said last year.

  • NYPACKER

    Regarding Oline….Zone Blocking Scheme just doesn’t seem efective when individuals such as jeff Saturday are physically inferior to the players they are asked to block. This is when trpas, wham blocks, etc. would be useful, to give our olineman angles to block defenders who they can’t move in a straight-up one-on-one situation. I just love watching the 49ers blocking schemes. We did run a trap (only one I’ve seen this year), on the first play vs. Texans….perhaps we’ll see more of this?

    • Kris Burke

      The Packers never seemed to have the right personnel to run a ZBS. Not sure why they’re even still clinging to it. Probably my biggest knock on McCarthy’s offense.

      • Lucas

        Do they currently have the personnel to go to a power scheme? Lang looks like he can pull, not sure about Sitton’s ability.

  • Big T

    O-line got their azzes handed to them… See what this offense can do when fumble fingers Finley is not involved…

  • Bearmeat

    LAME CALL: CHARLES WOODSON BROKEN COLLARBONE OUT 6 WEEKS.

    According to Jay Glazer just now..

    • Mojo

      Didn’t he break the collarbone during the SB? If so, it may not have ever healed properly. Sounds like a chronic problem.

      Wonder if the Pack put in a call to Peprah for someone with experience.

  • frozentundra91

    Some things I liked:
    The whole defense. This unit is keeping it together and getting the ball back in Rodger’s golden arm. When Raji and Perry come back the d will only be stronger.
    Packers fans: Watching the game on t.v. I couldn’t believe how loud it was getting. Wish I could have been there.
    Return of Davon House: Apart from the garbage touchdown at the end of the game he looked pretty good.
    Go Pack!

  • Since’61

    Overall a good game against the Rams. However O-line and the running game are still big concerns. Loss of Woodsen is a big hurt. Defense is improving but cannot keep losing key people and remain effective. Having young players gain experience is great but not at the cost of wins. Next 2 home games are necessary to stay in playoff race. Thanks ’61