Ugly 21-Point Win? More Like Thing of Beauty

The St. Louis Rams are a terrible team, a fact the Lambeau Field crowd noticed early and coach Mike McCarthy's team played to in the second half. But in this league, the Packers have nothing to be shamed about after winning by 21 points.

The bar has gotten very high.

Maybe impossibly high.

The Green Bay Packers did what everyone expected. They breezed past the St. Louis Rams to the tune of 24-3 to run their record to 6-0 and extend their winning streak to 12 games.

But Lambeau Field hardly was a raucous enviornment. The locker room wasn't a joyous place. The press conferences and interviews weren't fawning question-and-answer sessions, like they were in a riveting opening win against New Orleans or the thrashing of Denver here two weeks earlier.

The Packers' high-octane offense failed to score in the second half against a defense with so many cornerbacks on injured reserve that it was forced to start 36-year-old Al Harris. The Packers' defense gave up 400 yards to an offense that entered the game ranked last in the NFL and a quarterback that ranked next-to-last in passer rating. Their special teams gave up a long punt return to a receiver who ran his 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine in a plodding 4.56 seconds.

Coach Mike McCarthy didn't want to hear any of it.

Asked about the Packers' lack of a knockout punch – as if touchdowns on three consecutive drives in the first half wasn't enough of a knockout punch – McCarthy said: "We won by three touchdowns. You can spin this any way you want. I'm clearly in tune with the things we could have done better. The last time I checked, when you win by three touchdowns, that's a pretty significant win. We'll correct everything tomorrow and we'll learn from it, but we're seven days from being 7-0, and that's our message."

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who was serenaded with MVP chants after throwing for 234 yards and three touchdowns in the first half, was limited to 76 yards in the second half. His receivers did him no favors, though Rodgers let them off the hook by blaming the wind. Jordy Nelson, who said the offense played "terrible" in the second half, trumped his 93-yard catch-and-run touchdown by dropping a pass on third down. Greg Jennings turned a big gain on third down into an interception.

"It's a feeling of minor disappointment I think in that locker room," Rodgers said. "In the second half, we just struggled offensively and that's frustrating. The second quarter was great, put up a lot of points. But I think it's encouraging at the same time. It's tough to win in this league, we're 6-0 and we still have a lot of room for improvement."

No, the Packers didn't play well in the second half. Some of that is human nature considering the opponent. The Packers had beaten three of last year's playoff teams in the first five games and they've got rival Minnesota coming up next. So, while the second-half performance was disappointing, the important thing is they came out of the gate and knocked out the Rams after an early exchange of body blows. Their 21-point margin of victory was their second-biggest of the year; the margin of defeat was the Rams' second-largest of the year.

As we wrote on Saturday, the Packers lost to the mediocre Dolphins after Miami's bye last year and the winless Buccaneers after Tampa Bay's bye in 2009. Given that ugly history, the Packers have nothing to feel bad about by winning by "only" 21 points.

That's especially true on defense. The Rams were averaging a league-worst 11.5 points per game and hadn't scored more than 16 all season. But, getting back stud running back Steven Jackson and pairing him with impressive second-year quarterback Sam Bradford meant the Rams fielded something approximating an NFL-caliber offense – their lack of NFL-caliber wide receivers notwithstanding.

"No, I'm not disappointed at all," Charles Woodson said after the defense allowed 424 yards but just three points. "Every game is going to pose a different challenge to you. Today was a different challenge for us. We played a good back who was able to run the ball a little bit on us. They drove the ball on us a little bit. But you keep a team out of the end zone, you've done a great job. To hold a team to three points, when they're kind of moving the ball up and down the field on you, says a lot about you. You give some things, but you buckle down in the times when you're supposed to and get yourself off the field. We had a couple of fourth downs today where we got off the field. Those are the type of things that we're going to have to do during the season. When games are tougher than they are today, you're going to have to make plays and get off the field in crucial situations. And today we did."

They did, and at 6-0, this is the first Packers team since 1965 to be the last undefeated team standing.

"7-0," Rodgers said about what's next. "Didn't Mike (McCarthy) say we have seven days to 7-0. Beware that's his code, his theme for this week."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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