It didn’t sound like a road game as Packers fans flooded St. Louis, but Green Bay put on a strong performance away from Lambeau Field and won a second consecutive game for the first time this season.
Handing out grades following the Packers’ 30-20 win over the Rams:
Passing Offense: A-
For the second week in a row, Aaron Rodgers was nearly unstoppable. It didn’t matter if Rodgers was under pressure or had time in the pocket, he was delivering his passes with accuracy and there was little that the Rams’ secondary was able to do to stop him. Rodgers connected on 30 of his 37 attempts for 342 yards with three touchdown passes and no interceptions. He completed only 2 of 6 passes that traveled 20 yards or more, but both of those were for big gains, one to Jordy Nelson for 52 yards and one to Randall Cobb for 39 yards.
With Greg Jennings out of the lineup for the fourth time this season, Nelson had one touchdown reception and finished with eight catches while leading the team with 122 yards. Cobb caught all eight of the passes thrown his way for 89 yards. It was also Cobb’s first career two-touchdown game as a receiver. James Jones had six catches for 53 yards, but did not score a touchdown for the first time since Week 3. Tight end Jermichael Finley, who’s still recovering from an AC joint injury in his shoulder, continued splitting snaps with Tom Crabtree. Finley had two catches for 31 yards and Crabtree was not targeted. Running back Alex Green caught four passes out of the backfield for 29 yards.
The biggest problem for Green Bay’s passing offense was left tackle Marshall Newhouse, who had by far his worst game of the season, allowing three quarterback hurries, two QB hits and one sack. Newhouse was assigned a pass-block rating of minus-3.6 by ProFootballFocus.com. Newhouse had his hands full trying to stop Rams defensive end Robert Quinn, but for only the second time in seven games this season, he looked completely overmatched. Rushing Offense: C-
This was not the follow-up performance that coach Mike McCarthy was looking for out of the Packers’ running game. Green, starting his second game of the season with Cedric Benson out, had only 35 yards on 20 carries (1.8 average). Had it not been for his one 15-yard run, Green would have barely averaged one yard per carry. That’s about as poor of a performance that any winning team can get from its featured running back.
But most of the issues were not Green’s fault. Though he did trip himself up on an attempt that could have netted big yards, the majority of his opportunities saw no daylight in front of him. Green Bay’s offensive line had an incredibly difficult time matching the strength and quickness of St. Louis upfront. Center Jeff Saturday had his worst run-blocking performance of the season, with ProFootballFocus.com rating him at a minus-3.5. Left guard T.J. Lang wasn’t much better at minus-2.4. Finley and Crabtree both really struggled in run blocking, as well.
The Packers did have success, however, with fullback John Kuhn and in one run out of the backfield with Cobb. Kuhn had three carries for 16 yards (5.3 average) with Cobb’s one dash totaling 19 yards.
Rushing Defense: C+
Steven Jackson is not the running back he once was, now splitting carries with emerging seventh-round pick, rookie Daryl Richardson. The two of them combined for 93 yards on 20 carries (4.7 average) with Jackson rushing for a touchdown.
This was the second consecutive game with nose tackle B.J. Raji out of the lineup due to an ankle injury, but veteran Ryan Pickett once again performed well in that spot. Pickett played only 29 snaps, but most of them were in run-type situations. Pickett had one tackle for loss and received the best ProFootballFocus.com rating (1.7) in run defense of any Green Bay player.
It was also the first time that Brad Jones started at inside linebacker, now that Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith are both on injured reserve. Jones had a decent game, but the Rams’ runs up the middle didn’t have the same stopper next to A.J. Hawk in the linebacker group that the Packers have become accustomed to. Passing Defense: B
This was another area in which Green Bay was simply passable in. Sam Bradford, though a first-overall pick in 2010, is not yet a top-12 quarterback in the NFL. He also has no significant threats at wide receiver to throw to, especially now that Danny Amendola is out for a while. Bradford didn’t exploit the Packers’ defense often, but he finished 21 of 34 for 255 yards with one touchdown pass and one interception.
That one interception came when Bradford was rushed and forced a pass deep into coverage that rookie cornerback Casey Hayward picked off. Hayward, making his first career start in place of the injured Sam Shields, was terrific once again. He turned in the highest PFF rating of any player on Green Bay’s defense and added to his team-leading interception total. By many accounts, Hayward has become the NFL’s best rookie cornerback.
The Rams give up the third-most sacks in the NFL and the Packers were able to bring down Bradford three times. However, only one of those (one by Clay Matthews) was the typical chase-down-the-quarterback-and-tackle-him sack. The other two, one by Erik Walden and one by rookie Dezman Moses, were simply being the nearest to a play in which Bradford went down behind the line of scrimmage. Moses didn’t even know he was credited with his first career sack until several hours after the game.
Special Teams: B+
McCarthy continued his special team trickery this season, perfectly executing (and recovering) an unexpected onside kick against the Rams. Mason Crosby deserves a lot of credit for his deception and his delivery on the kick, as does the special teams unit that sprinted 10 yards to make the play.
Crosby, however, missed another kick from 50-plus yards. He is now only 1 of 4 this season in field goal attempts from beyond 50 yards.
Cobb was contained in the return game, running back just one kick for 23 yards and one punt for 15 yards.
It’s the first time this season that the Packers have won back-to-back games. Alternating wins and losses over the first six weeks, Green Bay finally put together consecutive strong performances. Now with Jacksonville and Arizona traveling to Lambeau Field in the next two weeks, the Packers should really get on a winning streak and enter their bye week at 6-3.
There are still a few concerns on this Green Bay team, especially consistency from the offensive line and a lack of turnovers being generated by the defense. But with Rodgers playing this well, he and the receivers should be able to carry the load for a while.
As long as Rodgers stays healthy and the team makes the necessary weekly improvements, the past two games have legitimized the Packers as a Super Bowl contender in the NFC.