The Green Bay Packers’ latest loss stings. Continued questionable coaching prevented the Packers from building a lead, and an inexcusable Ty Montgomery fumble sealed Green Bay’s fate and deprived Aaron Rodgers from having a chance at another premier moment.
At the end of the day, the team missed a prime opportunity to hand the league’s last unbeaten team a loss and kick off a brutal stretch of games on a high note. Yet even in defeat, there were some aspects of the game plan and overall performance that will prove valuable in the coming weeks.
Make no mistake, the Packers still have major issues to work out. Mike McCarthy’s questionable coaching reared its ugly head once again, particularly in the middle two quarters on Sunday. First, a yearlong inability to commit to Aaron Jones in the ground game looked like it might have (finally) been remedied. Jones racked up seven carries in essentially the first quarter, with the first four all going for at least seven yards.
But his number was called just five more times the rest of the game. One of those touches resulted in a momentum-altering safety when McCarthy chose to run up the middle against one of the league’s top interior defensive lines. Jones got the Packers back in the game late with a 33-yard touchdown, again proving his worth, but wasn’t trusted on two earlier third-and-shorts that could have extended Green Bay scoring chances. Using Jones opens up play action, and will be essential to balancing the offense moving forward.
The Packers also have issues to work out on special teams, some coachable and some performance-based. JK Scott, who remains as promising as punters get, had a rough day at the office against the Rams. Perhaps most costly was a paltry 25-yarder on the Packers’ penultimate drive with Green Bay nursing a one-point lead. Scott should get back to his normal self, but the play that prevented any game-winning drive, Montgomery’s fumble, needs to be addressed by coaches. Montgomery should have been told before taking the field that any kick to the endzone should have been taken for a touchback. Instead, he ran the ball out (failing to even make the 25-yard line) and coughed it up, sealing Green Bay’s fate.
But in spite of the costly miscues, it would be a mistake to call the entirety of Sunday’s game a failure. The Packers proved they can hang with the best team in the league, a feat few have been able to boast through the first half of the season. Offensively, Green Bay at least found out that Jones should be getting the bulk of the carries out of the backfield. The star running back averaged more than seven yards per carry, totaling 86 yards and a touchdown. He should continue to outsnap Montgomery and Jamaal Williams moving forward.
Davante Adams continued his ascension to superstardom with his third straight game tallying more than 130 receiving yards. He routinely burned Marcus Peters (or anyone else lined up on him) and remains the focal point of a passing attack that is finding its footing in recent weeks. Time management and a better run/pass balance are still needed, but there were things to like from Rodgers & Co.
Even though the Rams picked things up late, Green Bay should be very pleased with the overall performance of some key defensive players. The Packers shut down arguably the league’s most explosive offense through almost the entire first half. Green Bay failed to build a big lead, but that was in no way the fault of Mike Pettine’s unit’s performance to open the game.
The pass rush got home early and often, something that has been highly criticized through the first half of 2018. The Packers got to Jared Goff five times, including a pair of sacks by stud defensive lineman Kenny Clark, and disrupted a number of other throws. In pass coverage, rookie Jaire Alexander looked every bit a first round draft pick, shutting down the speedy Brandin Cooks and racking up an astounding five passes defended. With tough receivers like Julian Edelman, Stefon Diggs, and Adam Thielen on the upcoming slate, similar performances from Green Bay’s corner will go a long way on defense.
Obviously, the loss to the Rams is not the result the Packers wanted, especially given the game situation with 2:05 left on the clock. But Green Bay was largely written off, coming in as 8-point underdogs and deemed incapable of keeping up with Los Angeles. But they put on a fight for the majority of the game, and had a chance to win on the road against the NFL’s only undefeated team. The standings won’t reflect it, but the Packers have reasons to be optimistic with another tough road contest against New England up next.——————
Sean Blashe is a Packers fan who grew up in Bears territory and is currently a journalism and history major at Marquette University. Sean is a writer with PackersTalk.com and you can follow him on twitter at @SeanBlashe .