Aaron Rodgers made the Rams' defense pay with both his strong arm and nimble feet. Rodgers had only 13 completions (out of 23 attempts), but he racked up 269 yards through the air, thanks in no small measure to three successful deep balls. Greg Jennings, held without a catch the previous week for the first time in his career, was on the receiving end of two of the big plays. Rodgers took advantage of one-on-one, press coverage, and Jennings blew past cornerback Ron Bartell first on the right side for 50 yards late in the second quarter and then down the middle for 53 yards on the first play of the fourth quarter. Both deep into Rams territory set up touchdowns. Not to be outdone was Donald Driver, whose productive day of four receptions for 95 yards and a touchdown included one of the top feats in the league so far this season — a one-handed grab with his left hand of a 46-yard throw from Rodgers early in the second quarter while in stride along the left sideline and cornerback Bradley Fletcher tugging at Driver's right side. That, too, led to a touchdown. Rodgers didn't have an interception for the third straight game. He was victimized by two more drops, by Jordy Nelson and James Jones on back-to-back plays in the third quarter. Along with his two TD passes, he was effective pulling the ball down, scrambling for 38 yards in eight carries with a touchdown. A reconfigured offensive line continued its poor play at the start — Rodgers was sacked twice in the first quarter by defensive end Leonard Little, the first when right tackle Allen Barbre whiffed and the second when Rodgers held onto the ball too long in the face of tight coverage — but the unit's protection improved as the game wore on. The tight ends surprisingly weren't involved much in the passing attack, as Donald Lee had the only two catches among the group.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C-plus
Ryan Grant rewarded head coach/play caller Mike McCarthy's commitment to running the ball late in the game after the run game was on the verge of being another failure this season. The Packers had little push up front and Grant struggled to hit what holes were created on his cutbacks for more than a half. His first 13 carries amounted to just 35 yards, and the output included runs of 10 and nine yards. Nine of the other 11 attempts went for less than three yards. Grant acquitted himself from late in the third quarter on as McCarthy resorted to pounding the football to chew up clock with the Packers trying to protect a 23-17 lead. Grant had back-to-back runs of seven yards to kickstart a final surge of 13 carries for 64 yards, leaving him only a yard short of his first 100-yard game in 2009. Grant's biggest tote was a 17-yarder, as the line sealed off the right side to allow him to cut it back into a vacant middle. Grant had 10 yards taken away on a holding penalty by center Scott Wells. Green Bay's season-high 152 rushing yards included Rodgers' runs out of passing sets and a 13-yard dash by Driver on a late end-around.
PASS DEFENSE: B-minus
The Rams' passing dimension wasn't a concern for the Packers coming into the game, and things seemingly were falling in Green Bay's favor even more when an early sack and forced fumble by linebacker Aaron Kampman resulted in a shoulder injury that eventually knocked quarterback Marc Bulger out of the game. On came Kyle Boller, and once he got into the flow of things after a few off-target throws, the Packers defense occasionally offered little resistance, enabling the Rams to get back into the game after an early 16-point deficit. Brandon Chillar, who played a lot as a fifth linebacker in a new scheme and also in the usual nickel situations, gave up a pair of touchdowns to tight end Daniel Fells. On the first one, Chillar was caught out of position as Fells got behind him for a 16-yard score. Chillar had good coverage on Fells the second time around, but Boller threaded a 19-yard TD throw. Constant pressure by Kampman was a sight for sore eyes after he didn't show much his first two times out at his new position. Cornerback Charles Woodson sealed the late runaway victory with an interception — his third in two games - of a telegraphed throw from Boller over the middle.
Steven Jackson ran for 117 vs. Green Bay. Dilip Vishwanat/Getty
RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus
Steven Jackson was the focal point of the Packers' defensive game plan. Although Green Bay had some initial success in keeping Jackson in check, as the likes of linemen Ryan Pickett and Cullen Jenkins and linebacker Nick Barnett were assertive at the point of attack, St. Louis' powerful ultraweapon chipped away for 117 yards in 27 carries. Tack on 46 receiving yards Jackson had with five catches in an extension of the running game, the Packers wound up losing the battle with him. They caught a break when a whistle never sounded to stop the play as Jackson was stood up on a gang tackle and had the ball come out on a strip credited to Jenkins, resulting in the second Rams fumble deep in Packers territory in the opening quarter. Jackson didn't rip off many big runs — his longest was 20 yards — but Green Bay was susceptible up the middle, and Woodson often was dragged or plowed over in trying to bring down Jackson.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C
The Packers did more good than bad after a disastrous performance on special teams in the previous game. Johnny Jolly used his left hand to swat away a 48-yard field-goal attempt by Josh Brown in the game-opening series. Jeremy Kapinos made a marked improvement in not outkicking his coverage unit with four punts that averaged 50 yards gross and 44.3 net, with three placed inside the 20. Mason Crosby was 3-for-3 on his field-goal tries, including a 48-yarder. On the flip side, however, was an inexcusable miss by Crosby on an extra-point kick — the first of his career — as he hooked it left. The front end of the kick-coverage unit was lackadaisical to start the game, as Danny Amendola zipped past for a 42-yard return before being tackled by Crosby. Amendola also had a 14-yard punt return. Will Blackmon was blah running back kicks for the Packers, with pedestrian averages of 24.5 yards on kickoffs and 5.5 on punts.
McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dom Capers had good intentions on their respective sides of the ball with their game plans in this one. The recognition was correctly made that deep shots could be had against the Rams' man-up pass coverage, particularly on the perimeter away from standout safety Oshiomogho Atogwe. McCarthy also changed course from the Week 2 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals by putting the ball in Grant's hands after things weren't working right away with the run. On defense, Capers unveiled a new wrinkle to his 3-4 scheme, starting the game with a 3-5 look and just one safety to combat the Packers' early-season attrition at the position. Capers leaned on "Big Okie" heavily, and the results were mixed, especially when Chillar, as the extra linebacker, had alignment issues as the pseudo safety positioned in the box. The bounce-back victory was nice, considering the enormity of the next game against Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings, but Sunday's performance wasn't clean by any means in all three phases.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.