Re-Focused: Rams @ Packers, Week 6
Re-Focused: Rams @ Packers, Week 6
Taking care of business. That was the theme of this game for the Green Bay Packers, and while this game won’t be remembered next to some of their other victories already this season, the Packers got what they needed from it: a sixth straight victory.
The St Louis Rams showed that in spite of their record they are no walk over, but simply lack that ability to turn their solid play into truly competitive performances. As has been the case for much of the season, the Rams simply struggled to stop, counter and recover from the big plays that they gave up.
So while St. Louis played well enough to be in this game with the defending champions, their failure to convert solid possessions into points meant it was nearly impossible for them to keep pace with the Green Bay offense. Let’s look at some of the performances that played a crucial role in that.
St Louis – Three Performances of Note
1. Strong showing against Packers’ interior offensive line
The Green Bay interior offensive line has been arguably the best unit in the league this season, but this week Justin Bannan (+2.0) had his way with them, with the defensive lineman playing a leading role in shutting down the Green Bay running game. The Rams ability to limit the balance in the Green Bay offense (or at least the effectiveness of it) was a telling factor in preventing this game from getting away from them. This year, Bannan has flashed the Baltimore form that had eluded him when he returned to the state of Colorado to play for Denver last season. Plays such as his tackle at 7:14 in the Q3, and more impressively controlling two linemen on the stop of John Kuhn on 3rd-and-2 to open the second quarter, highlight his ability to control even the best offensive linemen in the league. Rams fans will hope to see this form from Bannan more frequently as the season rolls on.
2. False starts mar good showing
Rodger Saffold (+0.7) performed well enough after the ball was snapped to be in consideration to be one of the best players on the field in this game. He was perfect in pass protection and put up a solid display as a run blocker to go with it. Unfortunately for him, a pair of false starts – one of them on a crucial fourth down play late in the fourth quarter – marred his otherwise strong showing. Saffold certainly benefited from playing on the opposite side to Clay Matthews, as neither Eric Walden or Frank Zombo are the same caliber of player as Matthews. But Saffold did an excellent job of protecting Sam Bradford’s blindside and, but for those two false starts and a holding penalty on the second play of the game, he would have recorded his best grade of the season. Even with those penalties, this was a welcome return to some decent form after a simply shocking display in Week 4. Let’s just hope that now he’s found his feet this year, the injury that took him off the field on the last Rams play of the game is not too serious.
3. Comedy of errors blow game open
The Packers’ touchdown reception from Jordy Nelson was symptomatic of the Rams season thus far; not quite there and then something even worse happens taking them completely out of the play. Al Harris (-1.0) bit on a double move and then when Darian Stewart (-0.4) missed a tackle after a cut from Nelson, he tripped Harris over which saw them both taken out of the play. From there Nelson had essentially a walk in touchdown from his own side of the 50 yard line. This is an extreme example but it shows how close the Rams are to being a decent football team, but at the same time just how far they are away. They seemingly have no answer to stop the bleeding and no repost themselves to counteract the deep wounds that such plays inflict.
Green Bay – Three Performances of Note
1. Getting the job done early
Many of the Rams’ issues this season have been in the defensive backfield, and though the Packers failed to expose those holes in quite the brutal fashion that might have been expected, when the second quarter rolled around Aaron Rodgers (+7.1) and his receivers were clinical in putting the Rams away. Once the three score lead was established it was clear that the game was almost certainly over and it was the big play again that led the way for the Packers and proved the undoing of the Rams. Two of the three scores came from outside of the red zone and on each of these big plays two Packers showed off common themes from this season. Jordy Nelson (-0.1) demonstrated his nose for the big play, and Rodgers showed why he is one of, if not, the best at throwing on the move in the NFL.
2. Run defense off form
The Packers run defense had a rare subpar outing, and it’s perhaps fortunate that the Rams didn’t commit to the run, otherwise things may have been a lot worse. The right side, in particular, had some struggles with Erik Walden (-1.6 run defense) the pick of the poor performers. St Louis averaged 5.75 yards per carry on 16 rushes off left guard, left tackle and left end as Steven Jackson (+1.1 rushing) was able to build up a head of steam with some fine help from the blocking of Michael Hoomanawanui (+3.2). The lack of a big play on the ground (the Rams’ longest run all game was 13 yards) perhaps explains the lack of commitment to the running game, but they were picking up 4 or more yards at will. Looking back, it remains a surprise that Josh McDaniels didn’t hand Jackson the ball more.
3. Seamless transition to Newhouse
After struggling so badly filling in for Bryan Bulaga (+1.9) at right tackle Marshall Newhouse (-0.6) has made a seamless transition back over to his more familiar left side, proving a more than capable replacement for Chad Clifton the last two weeks. Along with the rest of the Green Bay offensive line he struggled to open running lanes for Ryan Grant and James Starks, though to his credit he did make a good block on James Starks’ 15 yard run to convert a 4th-and-1 at the start of the second quarter. Newhouse’s good work has been predominantly in the passing game, where he gave up only two pressures this week after giving up only one hit and one pressure last week in Atlanta. If anything, Newhouse is outperforming Clifton at the present time and his two performances should eliminate Green Bay fears if Clifton’s absence from the starting lineup is an extended one.
– Al Harris, returning to his old stomping ground of Lambeau Field, played every single defensive snap (63) for the Rams.
– The Rams showed a clear intent to run left on the Packers, 18 of their runs went to the left side of the center.
– Mason Crosby has recorded four times as many touchbacks (20) in the first six games of 2011, as he recorded in 20 games last season (five).
PFF Game Ball
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
Taking care of business was the theme for the Packers and so was it for Rodgers; you have to begin to wonder when anyone is going to slow him down. His last poor performance is getting further and further in the rear view mirror.
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Ben Stockwell | Director of Analysis
Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.