Packers defense ruling the day lately
GREEN BAY -- For a guy whose usually prolific offense hasn't put up the kind of numbers it's accustomed to the past few weeks, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy was in a good mood Monday.
Why? Because the offensive-minded McCarthy is thrilled that his defense played well enough again in Sunday's 24-10 victory over the St. Louis Rams to render the offense's struggles meaningless.
"To turn the football over three times and still win, have a decisive victory at home by 14 points, that tells you something about your team," said McCarthy, whose team is 5-0 for the second time in his 10 years as head coach.
"We want to be a football team that can beat you a number of different ways. That's been the goal since April. We're making steps toward that."
With quarterback Aaron Rodgers throwing a pair of interceptions -- breaking a lengthy streak of consecutive attempts at Lambeau Field without one -- and also losing a fumble, Green Bay's offense generated just 17 points for the second straight week.
But the defense more than picked up the slack.
Not only did the Packers intercept four Nick Foles passes (including one that rookie Quinten Rollins returned 45 yards for a touchdown), but they sacked Foles three times (and hit him on nine other drop-backs).
And they made sure that the Rams' two explosive plays in the fourth quarter -- Todd Gurley's 55-yard run and Stedman Bailey's 68-yard catch -- did not lead to points.
"I think back to 2010 when we won the Super Bowl, we won a lot of different ways that year. Our defense kind of got on a roll," said defensive coordinator Dom Capers, whose unit was No. 2 in scoring defense that year and No. 5 in total defense.
"I think with that comes a certain amount of confidence that no matter where you are or what point in the game (it is), any phase of your team can go out and make plays and win for you. You sense that, and guys know that. I think it just makes us a better team when we can do that."
Still, with a team that has the reigning NFL MVP and has long been known for its offensive prowess, the Packers certainly would like to return to form on that side of the ball.
Rodgers was off his game against the Rams, by his standards. He completed 19 of 30 passes for 241 yards with two touchdowns, two interceptions, two sacks and a passer rating of 82.8 -- but his receivers had a tough time getting open against the Rams secondary.
Without No. 1 wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who was lost for the season on Aug. 23 when he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in an exhibition game at Pittsburgh, and without Davante Adams, who was promoted to the No. 2 receiver spot after Nelson's injury but has been battling an ankle injury since the team's Sept. 20 victory over Seattle, the Packers appear to lack a deep-ball threat.
That's had an effect on the Packers' run game, as running backs Eddie Lacy (13 carries for 27 yards) and James Starks (five carries, 17 yards) saw the Rams bring an eighth defender down into the box on most downs, according to associate head coach/offense Tom Clements.
In fact, Rodgers led the team in rushing Sunday, scrambling for 39 yards.
In addition, the offensive line lost veteran right guard T.J. Lang to a right knee injury with 5:58 left in the first half, on the same day the unit got veteran right tackle Bryan Bulaga back after a three-game absence due to a left knee injury suffered during a Sept. 17 practice.
"(We are) happy to be 5-0, but we need to play a little bit better on offense," Rodgers said after Sunday's game. "We struggled. We've got to adjust a little bit better, we've got to run routes a little bit better and we have to be able to get open outside better. And obviously, I've got to throw it better than I did and clean some of those things up."
And yet, McCarthy believes that this is good for his team.
"To me, this was a very healthy day for our offense to go through," McCarthy said. "I think this is exciting. It's a team that wants to beat you as many different ways as possible. We do have a very good offense; we'll be very good on offense as we move forward, also. We're not making any judgments after five games. It's all about the season and more importantly it's about winning football games."