With last week’s horrible performance against the Bengals behind them, the Green Bay Packers showed some modest improvements and came up with three big plays Sunday and thus were able to steamroll the Saint Louis Rams by a score of 36 -17. The Rams have now lost thirteen games in a row and are obviously one of the bottom dwellers in the league. Nonetheless, the Packers needed a win in Saint Louis badly and they got it.
Once again the offense sputtered early in this game as the linemen couldn’t get their job done up front. Allen Barbre, in particular, seems to be playing in slow motion. Coach McCarthy apparently anticipated such as his game plan had lots of roll-outs for Aaron Rodgers and he also used a lot of two tight-end formations giving the line six and seven linemen-blocking protection. By halftime the Packers had taken a 23 -14 lead. One of those scores came following a spectacular one-handed 46-yard catch by Donald Driver and another came off a 50-plus-yard bomb from Rodgers to Greg Jennings. A third 50-yard pass to Jennings sealed the victory later in the game. The Packers have plenty of firepower, but the line needs to do their part.
Those three explosive plays somewhat camouflaged the Packers’ inability to get much of a rushing game going. Ryan Grant did manage 99 yards but the Packers just don’t have the horses up front to open holes utilizing power blocking, and the zone blocking isn’t working right now either. It was hoped that tight end Jermichael Finlay was going to have a breakout season because of his pass-catching ability and his speed to get down field. But with all the blocking problems the game plan changed and not a single ball was thrown his way.
The defense picked it up a bit Sunday. Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers rolled out a new look called “Big Okie” in which linebacker Brian Chillar basically played a safety position, putting five linebackers on the field. Big Okie was not a rousing success, but Cheeseheads have to admire Capers’ creativity. B. J. Raji also saw his first game as a professional, although his ankle is still hurting and he didn’t show much. Desmond Bishop also got some well-deserved snaps at linebacker for the first time this year. I get the feeling that the defense is a “work in progress” which should improve as the season transpires.
The win improves the Packs’ record to 2 – 1 and sets up the big rendezvous with the 3 – 0 Minnesota Vikings next Monday night. This game is likely to be hyped as one of the biggest games in Monday Night Football history because it will be the first time that Benedict Favre will suit up against the Green and Gold. B. Favre will hereafter be referred to in this column as Benedict Favre for his unfortunate decision to play in a purple uniform after all the years in Titletown. No doubt emotions will be running high for this one.
Ironically, I doubt it will be quarterbacking skills that will determine the winner of this affair. More likely the key matchups will be the line play. The matchups there favor the Vikings on paper but football is played on the gridiron; not paper.