On a day when Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was more Clark Kent than Superman, his counterpart for the Rams looked like Bizarro.
Rodgers and Rams’ quarterback Nick Foles entered Sunday’s game ranked No. 1 and 2, respectively, in interception percentage for quarterbacks with more than 1,000 career attempts, according to ProFootballReference.com.
They finished with six interceptions between them – four of them belonging to Foles -- as Green Bay beat St. Louis 24-10 to remain undefeated at 5-0. Foles had never thrown more than two interceptions in a game. Both quarterbacks fumbled once, with Rodgers losing his on a third-quarter strip-sack by defensive end Robert Quinn. And the last time Rodgers had three turnovers in a game was in 2009 during a loss at Tampa Bay.
But on a sun-drenched October afternoon, when the Packers’ defense provided plenty of heroics, a couple super plays by Rodgers were all the offense needed.
Rodgers put the Packers up 7-0 early in the game with a 31-yard strike to wide-open rookie Ty Montgomery, who took a crossing route up the middle of the field for a score. While Rodgers beat the Rams’ blitz on that play, the blitz would come back to bite him later in the quarter. On a third-and-2 play from the St. Louis 42 with 4:13 left in the first, Rams safety Mark Barron came on a blitz off the edge and tipped Rodgers’ pass, which was pulled in by diving linebacker James Laurinaitis.
That interception snapped a streak of 197 passes without a pick – the fourth-longest mark in team history. It was the first interception at Lambeau Field since Vikings safety Harrison Smith picked off Rodgers on a flea-flicker pass in December 2012 – an NFL-reocrd span of 586 passes, including playoffs.
“Well, Aaron is human,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “Just like any time that you have a takeaway on defense or a giveaway on offense, you break it down, you evaluate it, you go through it and you learn from it.
“He is still a remarkable player. What happened today doesn’t change that. But, yes, I think as you look back, I think history will be very kind and respectful and will acknowledge that streak. I don’t know if we’ve ever heard of anything like that.”
In a game highlighted by the strength of both defenses, Foles was picked off by Packers safety Micah Hyde three plays into their next possession. Packers linebacker Julius Peppers pushed Rams left tackle Greg Robinson back like he was on wheels, hitting Foles as he released it.
After Green Bay got stacked up on fourth-and-1 on the ensuing possession, Foles and the Rams took over on downs. But just three plays into that drive, Foles was hit as he was releasing the ball by Packers defensive end Datone Jones. The pass floated toward a trio of Packers defensive backs, and rookie Quinten Rollins cashed in with a 45-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Rodgers’ next interception-free streak would last 191 fewer pass plays. Leading 14-7 on Green Bay’s second drive of the second quarter, Rodgers looked for James Jones in the right flat but was picked off by a diving Trumaine Johnson, who jumped up and returned it for 29 yards. St. Louis pulled within 14-10 on a 42-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein.
“I was just reading the quarterback the whole time,” Johnson said. “I was standing there the whole time. I just jumped the route and got the pick.”
But Rodgers was quick to go back to Jones at the start of the second half, and the first of just two catches on the afternoon would turn into a 65-yard score following a challenge to the officials’ ruling that had him down at the 1. Rodgers hit Jones on a cross from his left, as Jones pulled it in ahead of a diving Lamarcus Joyner and came all the way across the field before turning it up the sideline.
“I’m just making plays, man,” Jones said. “When my name is called, my number is called and I get that opportunity, I’m just trying to make plays. When I came here, I didn’t know what my role was going to be. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but like I told myself since I was a rookie and every time you guys have interviewed me, when I get a chance to make a play, make a play. And that’s my same motto when I’m here now.”
While it was Jones’ team-leading fifth score of the season, it’s easy to forget that Rodgers is operating an offense missing star receiver Jordy Nelson, second-year up-and-comer Davante Adams – who Rodgers called a “Pro Bowl-caliber player,” and tight end Andrew Quarless. And while Sunday’s game saw right tackle Bryan Bulaga return to the starting lineup this week after a three-game absence, right guard T.J. Lang left in the second quarter with a knee injury.
“We’ve been struggling the last couple weeks,” said Rodgers of his offense, which scored just 17 points in a road win over San Francisco the week before. “We’ve played NFC West opponents now, and the division is really known for its defense and they bring it. That’s three really good defenses that we’ve faced – really five difficult opponents for us to start the season. So we’re happy to be 5-0, but obviously we need to play a little better on offense. We’ve had a lot of success at home over the years moving the ball efficiently, scoring points.
“The defense set us up with some short fields with some three and outs and off some turnovers. We’re used to putting those things in the end zone and we struggled. We’ve got to adjust a little bit better. We’ve got to run routes a little bit better. We’ve got to be able to get open outside better. Obviously, I’ve got to throw it better than I did today and clean some of those things up.”
Foles and the Rams would continue to struggle through the final quarter and a half, missing two field goals, having another blocked and throwing two interceptions. With 9:09 remaining, Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix snagged a pass in the end zone that was tipped by teammate Joe Thomas. Clinton-Dix made an even more impressive play in the final minute when he chased down Rams receiver Stedman Bailey after a 68-yard catch-and-run to prevent a touchdown. Three plays later, Rollins made his second theft of the day when he dove in front of the Rams’ Tavon Austin at the 7, effectively ending the game.
With a final kneeldown, Rodgers finished the day a respectable 19-of-30 for 241 yards and a quarterback rating of 82.8, far ahead of Foles, who had 141 yards on 11-of-30 passing and a rating of 23.8.
If NFC West defenses are Rodgers’ kryptonite, he won’t see one again until Green Bay travels to Arizona on Dec. 27. But if he plans to keep the Packers’ offense flying high, he’s going to have to don that cape again very soon.