Big Plays Propel Pack's 36-17 Win vs. Rams

Aaron Rodgers connected on five long passing plays and the defense allowed three second-half points and slammed the door on third down to help Green Bay improve to 2-1.

The story

There was nothing dominating about the Green Bay Packers' 36-17 victory at St. Louis on Sunday.

— The running game sputtered, just like it had for the first two games of the season.

— The run defense allowed 117 yards to Steven Jackson.

— The defense forced two turnovers to set up the offense inside the Rams' 15-yard line twice in the first half, but the Packers managed only a pair of field goals.

— The offense converted only one third down for the first 58 minutes.

But Aaron Rodgers hit on five long pass plays in the final three quarters. The first was a 44-yarder to Donald Driver that set up John Kuhn's easy 1-yard touchdown run, making it 16-0 in the second quarter. In the final minutes of the half, Rodgers hit Greg Jennings for 50 yards, and after the two-minute warning, Driver hauled in a 21-yard touchdown pass.

After a pair of three-and-outs allowed the Rams to pull within 23-17 midway through the third quarter, the Packers' offense got in gear. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Rodgers hit Jennings for 50 yards, and a few plays later, Rodgers scored from 4 yards on a quarterback draw. With a missed extra point, the Packers led 29-17.

Kyle Boller, who started hot after replacing an injured Marc Bulger in the first half, couldn't rally the Rams. He was intercepted by Charles Woodson midway through the fourth quarter, setting up a 26-yard touchdown drive that was capped with a 10-yard toss to Kuhn to account for the final scoring.

After a slow start, the Packers yielded only 142 yards in the second half, and the Rams failed to convert a third down after going 4-of-7 in the first half.

The moment

Trailing 23-17, the Rams had the momentum and the field position advantage. The Packers were backed up at their 16 yard line with 1:12 remaining in the third quarter. Ryan Grant ran for consecutive 7-yard runs to end the quarter, and on the first play of the fourth, Rodgers took advantage of a running game that was finding its legs. With 10 defenders within 10 yards of the ball Rodgers went play-action, with the fake to Grant drawing in the secondary. That got Jennings one-on-one against cornerback Ron Bartell, and Rodgers connected for 53 yards. Moments later, Rodgers waltzed into the end zone, and the Packers were up by 12.

The players

Driver and Jennings made the Rams pay for taking away the short passing game. They combined for 198 receiving yards, including receptions of 53 and 50 for Jennings and 46 for Driver.

The number

194: Rodgers completed 13 passes for 269 yards — 194 coming on two completions to Greg Jennings, two to Donald Driver and one to Jordy Nelson. The other 56 plays from scrimmage gained 208 yards (3.71 average). Throw in a 22-yard run by Grant, and the other 55 plays gained (3.38 average).

The word

Coach Mike McCarthy: "I'll leave this game saying we're 2-1 and we'll feel good about a lot of things tomorrow when we watch the tape and there's some things we're going to correct. It's a long year, there are a lot of moving parts to a season, it looks like we're relatively healthy coming out of the game. Greg Jennings and James Jones both returned from their injuries. So we just have to get healthy, put together a good plan and stay after our fundamentals."

The other things you need to know

— The Packers played much of the game with five linebackers, with Brandon Chillar essentially serving as the safety opposite Nick Collins. That's why he was matched man-on-man with a tight end on two touchdowns. The idea was to have another big body to gang up on Jackson.

Desmond Bishop got a lot of playing time in place of Nick Barnett at inside linebacker in the second half. Bishop finished with two tackles, including one for a loss. Barnett was in on six stops.

Aaron Kampman had his first sack as a 3-4 outside linebacker, with his strip of Bulger setting up a field goal and a 6-0 lead.

— After giving up 10 sacks in the first two games, Rodgers was sacked twice by Leonard Little.

— Receivers Jennings and James Jones both exited for brief periods, holding their wrist/hand, but both re-entered the game.

B.J. Raji made his NFL debut. He was not in on any tackles.

— For Green Bay, the inactives were Atari Bigby (knee), Chad Clifton (ankle), Brandon Jackson (ankle) and Jeremy Thompson (knee), as well as rookies Brandon Underwood and Quinn Johnson, backup tackle Breno Giacomini and veteran defensive end Michael Montgomery. Neither Anthony Smith nor Ruvell Martin were on the Rams' gameday roster.

The division

— The Packers were seconds away from being tied for the NFC North lead, but Brett Favre threw a laser to Greg Lewis in the back of the end zone for a game-winning 32-yard touchdown to lift the Vikings to a 27-24 victory over San Francisco in a battle of 2-0 games at the Metrodome. Favre's 80-yard drive in the final 87 seconds changed the boos to cheers for Minnesota (3-0).

— The Lions snapped a 19-game losing streak dating to Dec. 23, 2007, by holding off Washington 19-14 at Ford Field in Detroit. Detroit's losing streak was the second-longest in NFL history, and the victory reduced several Lions players to tears. Unfortunately, the people in Detroit couldn't see the game on TV because it was blacked out.

— Jay Cutler's third touchdown pass of the game, a 36-yard pass to Devin Hester with 1:51 to go, lifted Chicago to a 25-19 win at Seattle. The Bears (2-1) held the Seahawks on fourth-and-2 from the Chicago 29 in the final moments.


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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 and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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