Rams Come Up Short Against Packers

Posted Oct 21, 2012

Their comeback hopes hanging in the balance about halfway through the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game against Green Bay, the Rams defense found itself in a spot that had become quite familiar during the first 52 minutes of the game.

After a quick drive for a touchdown that trimmed the Packers lead to 20-13 with 8:50 to go, the Rams defense desperately needed a stop to get the ball back in the hands of an offense that had just posted one of its quickest scoring drives of the season.

Five plays into the drive, the Rams had Green Bay right where they wanted: a third and 7 and a prime opportunity to get off the field. But, as happened most of the day, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers calmly converted with an 8-yard pass to receiver Randall Cobb, who shook loose from a Jo-Lonn Dunbar tackle to move the chains.

The drive culminated in yet another third down conversion, this time on third-and-9 when Rodgers found Cobb for a 39-yard touchdown that killed the Rams’ comeback hopes. A stop, a takeaway, anything would have sufficed but it was a theme that haunted the Rams all day.

What followed was a 30-20 Green Bay win that handed the Rams their first loss at the Edward Jones Dome this season and lowered their record to 3-4.

“When you play a team as good as they are offensively, in order to have a chance to win you need to get turnovers,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “You need to get the ball back or you need to get off the field on third down. That’s obviously what we did not do today defensively and that’s really the different in the game.”

An early-season avalanche of turnovers has gone dry as the Rams defense was unable to come away with a turnover for the second consecutive week. They have just one in the past three weeks.

Perhaps more maddening, though, was the inability to get off the field on third down when the opportunities presented themselves.

Rodgers’ ability to scramble and keep plays alive gives Green Bay an inherent advantage in converting on the money downs and it was overwhelmingly apparent on Sunday. The Packers finished nine-of-15, a 60 percent conversion rate, on third down and seemingly found a way to keep the chains moving even in the toughest situations.

“I think part of it had to do with tackling,” linebacker James Laurinaitis said. “Aaron Rodgers is really good maneuvering within the pocket, I think that’s one of the best things he does. He buys enough time with his feet to make throws down field. We have to watch the film in the morning and fix it fast. We don’t have enough time to sulk on this. We have just got to fix it fast and move on.”

The Packers were seven-of-10 on third down in the deciding second half after holding a 10-6 lead at halftime.

In the third quarter, it was apparent the Packers made some halftime adjustments to take what the Rams were giving to them as Rodgers and his crew worked the short area of the field to keep the chains moving.

“It’s always tough,” cornerback Cortland Finnegan said. “You want to try to limit their first down yardage and get them in second and long. We just weren’t able to do that there at certain times but we had chances, we had a few to make it close. We were fired up and as a defense we just let them off the hook.”

But Rodgers also made the Rams pay for some costly free play opportunities that came from flags flying. Twice the Rams were flagged for offsides penalties on third downs and Rodgers made them pay dearly both times.

In the first quarter, Rodgers took advantage as end Chris Long jumped offsides and fired a strike for a gain of 52 yards to receiver Jordy Nelson to set up Green Bay’s first touchdown.

The final touchdown, the aforementioned 39-yard connection to Cobb came on a third-and-9 when Long again jumped offsides.

“We jumped offsides and they pushed the ball down the field and we just didn’t execute as a secondary and as a defense,” Finnegan said. “They’re a good football team. They’ve got Aaron Rodgers, who is hot right now. They made the plays when they needed to. We had a chance there when it was 20-13 to get them off the field on third down and we just couldn’t do it.”

Of course, when Rodgers is rolling like he is right now, it’s tough for anyone to stop him. He finished with 342 yards on 30-of-37 passing with three scores and no interceptions for a rating of 132.2 against the Rams’ fifth-ranked pass defense.

Despite a strong early start in terms of getting pressure on Rodgers, that disappeared in the second half when Green Bay began looking for more receivers underneath.

“We got some pressure on them,” Fisher said. “They made some adjustments. They started banging the ends; they started chipping ends because that’s where we were getting our pressure in. We nearly had him down three or four more times. We just couldn’t because his mobility’s extraordinary.”

Meanwhile, a recurring them on offense again came back to haunt the Rams as they struggled again to finish drives with touchdowns instead of field goals.

Rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein gave the Rams an early 3-0 lead, their only lead of the day when he booted a 50-yard field goal. But the Rams missed an opportunity to tie it at 10 when Fisher opted to go for it on fourth down and receiver Brandon Gibson couldn’t come up with it.

“You’ve got to make that catch and then we get three or four more shots at it,” Fisher said.

After being almost completely shut down in the third quarter, the Rams got some traction and scored a touchdown as receiver Chris Givens sparked a drive with a 56-yard catch and run. Running back Steven Jackson scored on a 6-yard run five plays later to make it 20-13.

The late offensive outburst – including a cosmetic 3-yard touchdown catch by wideout Austin Pettis – was too little too late, especially against the high-octane Packers.

“They’re red hot right now,” Jackson said. “They have one of the best quarterbacks in football. We knew it was going to be a challenge. We have to continue to get better at that.

“We’ve still got work to do. We’re slowly coming together as an offense, a unit. But we’ve still got to continue to get better, continue to help our defense out by putting points on the board.