2011 October : Packers Insider

Packers coach Mike McCarthy soon may join Brett Favre, Rocky Bleier, Chuck Noll and Ray Lewis

October 27, 2011 by  
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By Ben Jones, Post-Crescent Madison

~There was a time when streets were routinely named after presidents, trees and numbers.

But that was before the National Football League kept growing in popularity.

A growing number of cities, including Green Bay, Baltimore and Pittsburgh, are renaming streets after professional football players and coaches.

In 2007, Appleton joined the trend, renaming a block of Olde Oneida Street, not far from the downtown, Rocky Bleier Run. Bleier, now 65, grew up in Appleton and starred in football for Xavier High School, the University of Notre Dame and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“There are a lot of people who want to commemorate people who have contributed in a major way to society,” said Frank Nuessel, a modern languages and linguistics professor at the University of Louisville.

Nuessel edits NAMES: A Journal of Onomastics (the study of names), and he tracks new street names. He said naming streets after NFL figures is becoming more common.

The Green Bay metro area, which already has 11 streets named after former Packers players and coaches, may get a 12th.

Since the Packers won Super Bowl XLV this year, Mayor Jim Schmitt has pushed for the city to name a street after the team’s coach, Mike McCarthy. He said the naming would likely happen next year, as he wants to work with McCarthy on the naming, and McCarthy is currently focused on winning another Super Bowl.

It's a given that Mike McCarthy will have a street named after him. What about Ted Thompson?

“We are going to do something for him that he’s going to be happy with, and this community will be happy with,” Schmitt said. “There’s a lot more to Green Bay than the Packers, but boy, the Packers are a significant part of who we are.”

Rocky Bleier Run

In Appleton, the honor went to a man who made the Steelers’ starting lineup in 1974 after he was wounded in action while serving with the Army in Vietnam. Bleier received the Purple Heart, but recovered and went on to play in Pittsburgh’s first four Super Bowl victories. He retired from the NFL in 1980.

“It’s a huge story on how he came back from adversity,” said Bruce Roskom, Appleton’s planning supervisor.

Rocky Bleier, Pittsburgh Steelers Win Superbowl, January 29, 1979

Rocky Bleier Run goes northwest from the intersection of Olde Oneida Street and Water Street.

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Packers puttin’ on the blitz

October 27, 2011 by  
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By Bob McGinn, the Journal-Sentinel

~Green Bay – Dom Capers has blitzed a lot more this season, especially in the last two games, than he had to in his first two years as defensive coordinator of the Green Bay Packers.

It’s a response to the scarcity of pressure from the defensive line and the mediocre results of the straight four-man rush.

“You might say that, yes,” Capers said early in the week.

Green Bay ranks 17th in sack percentage, down from third last season and 12th in 2009. The Packers rank 31st in passing yards allowed and 27th in total yards, numbers that reflect not only disappointing coverage by defensive backs and linebackers but also the disappointing pass rush.

Sacks are down for the Packers, and passing yards up. If Zombo or Mike Neal can add some pass rush, Capers thinks his defense can get back on track.

After the Packers elected not to re-sign Cullen Jenkins, Capers hoped Mike Neal would develop into a suitable replacement as a No. 1 pass-rushing defensive lineman.

Neal, however, hasn’t played a snap because of a knee injury, and none of the others has elevated his game.

Still, coach Mike McCarthy isn’t overly displeased by the pass rush. McCarthy hired Capers to replace Bob Sanders in January 2009 because he trusted the fire-zone scheme, and Capers’ ability to manufacture pressure almost regardless of personnel.

“We’re a scheme defense,” McCarthy said. “We’re not a my-guy-is-better-than-your-guy deal. We’re trying to create matchups with different combinations.”

Tracking the blitz can be a subjective process. In most schemes, linebacker and secondary players must juggle coverage responsibilities against rushing. They’re counted as rushers depending on the perceived degree of their rush commitment.

Since 1998, the Journal Sentinel basically has used the same criteria to identify who is blitzing and who isn’t. By definition, a blitz occurs when five or more players rush. Running plays have never been part of the breakdown.

After rushing five or more 27% in his first season (playoff games included for all Packers’ statistics) in Green Bay and 33% in his second, Capers is at 39.6% through seven games this season. Until Capers’ arrival, Green Bay’s highest blitz ratio since 1998 had been 30.9% under coordinator Jim Bates in 2005.

The insertion of a fifth rusher in the nickel packages that Capers employs about 80% of the time isn’t considered overly risky by blitzing standards. Capers never calls so-called “zero” blitzes in which there’s man-to-man coverage without a safety standing guard in the middle of the field.

Capers really can’t countenance rushing more than six. This season, he has rushed six or more 5.7%, which is up from 4.5% in 2009 and 3.7% in ’10 but not even close to the risk-taking adventures of coordinators Emmitt Thomas (12.4% in 1999), Bob Slowik (10.6% in ’04) and Bates (12.5%).

Sanders, Capers’ predecessor, blitzed five or more 24.5%, 21.8% and 19.9% from 2006-’08. However, he rushed six or more slightly more than Capers all three years.

Ten days ago against St. Louis, Capers broke his record in Green Bay by rushing five or more 55.1%. Then he broke it with 56.8% in Minnesota. His previous high this year had been 40.7% against New Orleans.

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Life is good after win in Minnesota

October 27, 2011 by  
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By Vic Ketchman, Packers.com

~MINNEAPOLIS—The Packers have reached the bye week in their schedule as the NFL’s only undefeated team and holding a two-game lead over their closest pursuer in the NFC North title race. Life is certainly good for the Packers.

It didn’t happen, however, without some tense moments in the fourth quarter of their 33-27 win over the Minnesota Vikings in the Metrodome on Sunday. After going out to a 33-17 lead at the end of the third quarter, the Packers found themselves holding on against a furious rally by the Vikings.

“It’s never easy coming to the Metrodome. It’s never easy playing the Minnesota Vikings,” Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. “This is a tough place to play. They had a great surge of energy, starting with their opening play. I thought we responded. At the end of the day, our offense stepped up and finished the game.”

The Packers defense suffered another 400-yard-plus outing, but it made the key stop on third-and-10 with 2:42 to play. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier opted to punt, and his team never got the ball back.

“They jumped on us,” McCarthy said of the Vikings having taken a 7-0 lead on the strength of a 72-yard pass completion on the first play of the game.

Following a fumbled punt by rookie return man Randall Cobb, the Vikings drove 50 yards in seven plays to take a 14-7 lead, but the Packers offense moved the ball up and down the field in the first half, overcame a critical dropped pass by Cobb in the red zone, and cut the deficit to 17-13 by halftime.

“Big drive to end the half, to get points,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said of a drive that went 50 yards with only 55 seconds left on the clock.

The game’s decisive drive, however, was the one with which the Packers started the second half. Two plays after action resumed, Rodgers found wide receiver Greg Jennings all alone for a 79-yard touchdown pass. Jennings was so far behind the Vikings defense that he was able to trot the final 50 yards.

It was part of a 20-point, third-quarter outburst by the Packers, which featured two interceptions by Charles Woodson, that put the Vikings in hard chase mode.

“We’re 7-0. We’re not going to swing with the rope from one extreme to the other around here. We know we can play better,” McCarthy said.

“It means we get a week off to get healthy,” Rodgers said. “Then it gets even more difficult in San Diego.”

Rodgers took his game to an even higher level of efficiency on Sunday. He had a perfect passer rating at one point in the second half and finished the game at 146.5, having completed 24 of 30 passes for 335 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

It’s a win that marked the third time this season the Packers had rallied from an early deficit to win on the road. The Packers won the coin toss and elected to defer their choice, which gave the Vikings the ball and they struck right away with rookie quarterback Christian Ponder, who was making his first pro start.

Ponder did a lot of good things in the game, most notably to have converted on third down nine of 16 times. His two interceptions resulted, however, in a 59.2 passer rating. Nonetheless, he validated his selection in the first round and appears to give the Vikings a franchise quarterback around whom they can build for the future.

“I was very impressed with him,” McCarthy said.

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Rodgers leads Packers to win over Minnesota, and 7-0 record heading into bye

October 27, 2011 by  
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Associated Press

~MINNEAPOLIS — Despite the disparate records, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers found plenty of competition from Christian Ponder in the fearless rookie’s first start for the Vikings.

Rodgers was up for the challenge again, and the defending Super Bowl champions still didn’t flinch. Rodgers kept Green Bay unbeaten with three touchdowns and 335 yards passing, holding off Minnesota 33-27 on Sunday.

Aaron Rodgers missed on just six passes Sunday, but when you examine the incompletions more closely, you see he was nearly perfect. Two were dropped. Two were throw-away. One was spiked to stop the clock. The other miss was off-target.

“There’s not a lot of panic in this team. We’ve been down a couple times at halftime. Just a lot of focus,” said Rodgers, who completed his first 13 passes and finished 24 for 30 on another near-unstoppable afternoon against a depleted secondary.

“We expect nothing less,” said Greg Jennings, who had seven catches for 147 yards. He jogged in for a 79-yard score on the second play of the second half after an egregiously-blown coverage, giving the Packers their first lead at 20-17.

Ponder was picked off twice in the third quarter by Charles Woodson, who almost grabbed a couple more interceptions, but he kept the Vikings in it from start to finish after completing a 71-yard pass play on his first snap.

Adrian Peterson helped him out by rushing 24 times for 175 yards and a touchdown for the Vikings (1-6), but James Starks put the game away with two big gains for first downs before the 2-minute warning and another one right after. He had 75 yards on 13 carries for the Packers (7-0).
“It’s frustrating to come out against the defending champs and be that close and not to come up with the win,” Peterson said. “Give credit to those guys. They made plays when they needed to, and we ended up on the wrong side of it.

“Mason Crosby had four field goals for the Packers, including a franchise record 58-yarder, one of many delights among some anxious moments for the thousands of Packers fans in attendance who made the trip across the border.

“We’re not going to swing from a rope around here as far as extremes, one way or another,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “We’re very happy being 7-0, stating the obvious, but to a man we know we can play better. That’s what’s exciting.”

This rivalry is still fierce, as evidenced by a couple of early skirmishes.Vikings defensive end Brian Robison, frustrated by some unwelcome contact from Packers guard T.J. Lang during one second-quarter play, gave Lang a swift kick to the groin area, a caught-on-camera personal foul that drew a penalty and is likely to bring Robison a fine.

Ponder’s first foray against the Packers, despite the mistakes, showed flash and promise.”They could be 0-14, 0-15. It doesn’t matter,” Jennings said. “When they play in this building, you’re going to get their best shot.”Ponder went 13 for 32, but he never looked rattled and finished with 219 yards and two touchdowns. Ponder also ran four times for 31 yards. He found Michael Jenkins for a score with 7:49 left, after a rare three-and-out by the Packers, to cut the lead to six points.

He had the ball back with plenty of time to win it before a couple of errant heaves effectively ended the comeback.Green Bay has quite the grip on the NFL right now, with Rodgers and his rocket right arm leading the way.

“He’s putting together an unbelievable year, and he’s playing extremely well,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. “You have to give him a lot of credit. He’s really developed over the last few years into a topflight quarterback.”

The Vikings have struggled in the secondary at full strength, and they weren’t even close to that. Safety Jamarca Sanford was recovering from a concussion.

Antoine Winfield was still on the sideline with a stiff neck, and fellow cornerback Chris Cook — their best player in pass coverage — was not even at the stadium.

He was in the county jail, for an alleged domestic assault.The rest of the Vikings were in the building, but they’re just not in Green Bay’s league this year. This usually tight rivalry hasn’t been this one-sided in decades. The Packers won for the eighth time in 11 meetings, and the common denominator is Rodgers.

He’s connecting on roughly seven of every 10 passes, and many of those rare incompletions have been drops by his otherwise-stellar receivers. Rookie Randall Cobb was wide open on a drag route across the middle on third-and-16 at the 20, but the pass from Rodgers glanced off his hands and the Packers settled for three points.

Yes, Jared Allen tacked two sacks on his NFL-leading total to give him 11 1/2, but Rodgers spread the ball around to just about every receiver and made a perfect throw to just about every spot on the field. He went 6 for 6 on his first drive, firing passes to six players during a ho-hum 91-yard march for the tying score.

The only three incompletions he threw in the first half? Two drops and a spike to stop the clock.

To keep this game competitive, the Vikings needed a timely turnover or two, and the rookie Cobb gave them one at the end of the first quarter when he fumbled a fair catch with teammate M.D. Jennings getting in his way. The Vikings recovered at midfield and scored a few minutes later to make it 14-7.

“Coach said in the first quarter, ‘They’re going to shoot their wad, and we’ve just got to come out and play our type of ball,’ and we did,” said tight end Jermichael Finley, who caught a third-quarter touchdown pass. “We’re the only team in the league that’s got that goose egg behind us. We’ve just got to stay humble and don’t get complacent.”

Game notes
The Vikings added former DE Chris Doleman to their Ring of Honor during a halftime ceremony. … Packers RB Alex Green toce his ACL, ending his rookie season on a first-quarter kickoff return by Randall Cobb. … Allen set a franchise record with a sack in his ninth straight game. He has 11 1/2 sacks in his last six games against the Packers. … This was the first 100-yard game for Jenkins in eight NFL seasons. … Ryan Longwell had three touchbacks and two field goals, including a 52-yarder, for the Vikings against his former team.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Way too soon for “undefeated season” talk

October 20, 2011 by  
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By Brian E Murphy, Packers Insider Senior Editor

~Michael Irvin mentioned the possibility after the Packers first game, the 42-34 win over the New Orleans Saints, in early September.

Now this week we heard pundits, journalists and ex-players from all over the place chime in on the Packers chances for an undefeated season.

Please.

The team has played six games. There are still 10 left, then the playoffs.

Included in those next 10 games are trips to Minnesota this Sunday, where Rodgers is 1-2 in his starting career. It’s also a place where Jared Allen has wreaked havoc on Rodgers, and coach McCarthy’s gameplan.

Vikings DE Jared Allen has regained his sack-form that he lost in 2010, and he leads the NFL with 9.5 sacks. He's on a pace like Clay Matthews was last year.

It’s also a place where the past QB of the Packers had trouble in his first half of his career, including losing many times when the Packers were heavily favored.

Despite Christian Ponder making his first ever start, this game could go in the Purple’s favor once (if) Allen and opposite DE Brian Robison start beating the Packers OL and pressuring Rodgers. Pressure often leads to interceptions, and usually leads to timing being messed up with the receivers.

Jared Allen can disrupt the Packers whole offense by getting to Rodgers.

If the Packers do win this game and go to 7-0, they still will have trips to the (currently 4-1) San Diego Chargers. This is a team picked by many to contend for the AFC Championship. Usually they get off to slow starts and pick it up in November and December to make the playoffs. This year, despite QB Philip Rivers playing worse than ever, they are more balanced on offense, defense, and special teams, and are now in first place in the AFC West. This game will be a test as the Chargers feature a strong running game with Ryan Mathews.

Of course, there is the showdown on Thanksgiving in Motown as the Packers visit the Lions for turkey bragging rights. Last year, of course, the Packers left Detroit with a loss, with no touchdowns scored, and with Rodgers out with a concussion. This game is no gimme, and in fact, might be the smallest point spread the Packers have from the men in Las Vegas.

The week after that game, the Packers head east to face the New York Giants, who many think will win the NFC East. This is a team that features a well-balanced offense, and a defense that gets after quarterbacks.

The only other road game is a trip a week before Christmas to Kansas City. When the 1997 Broncos started the year 13-0, they then lost at Kansas City. It’s often a tough place to play. This Chief team, however, is missing its best player on offense (Jamaal Charles) and defense (Eric Berry, apologies to Tamba Hali).

The remaining home games for the Packers are the Vikings, Buccaneers, Raiders, Bears, and Lions. None of those five teams are cupcakes. Only the Vikings have a bad record, but again, sometimes they play the Packers like it’s for the NFL title and they have pulled off many upsets of the Packers, even in Green Bay.

If the Packers return from Detroit, or New York, still undefeated, then it’s realistic to start thinking about the first 19-0 season in NFL history.

For now, the Packers better keep a good-blocking TE (hello Tom Crabtree) in to help block #69 in purple.

Jared Allen is the biggest factor right now for the Packers if they want to remain undefeated.

Vikings to give rookie QB Ponder his first start vs Packers

October 18, 2011 by  
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By Jason La Canfora, NFL Network

~Christian Ponder now is the Minnesota Vikings’ starting quarterback, according to a league source, and will make his starting debut this Sunday at home against the Green Bay Packers.

Rookie Christian Ponder is set to make his first NFL start Sunday against the Packers.

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier made the decision this week and has notified veteran Donovan McNabb.

Ponder was selected with the No. 12 overall pick in April’s draft. With the Vikings’ offense struggling, it is Ponder’s opportunity to shake up the 1-5 team.

The rookie played in the fourth quarter of a blowout loss to the Chicago Bears on Sunday night, going 9-of-17 passing for 99 yards.

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No need for apology following 3-touchdown victory in today’s NFL

October 17, 2011 by  
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By Mike Vandermause, Green Bay Press-Gazette

~It was just another ho-hum victory for the unbeaten Green Bay Packers.

They produced fewer total yards and first downs than the winless St. Louis Rams, lost the time of possession battle and got shut out in the second half on Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field.

Yet for all those so-called struggles, the Packers never were threatened in their methodical 24-3 beatdown of the Rams.

Don’t call this an ugly victory, because the Packers showed flashes of brilliance and dominance.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers broke the Rams’ back with three second-quarter touchdown passes.

“I think you have to enjoy the wins because it’s tough to win in this league,” Rodgers said. “At the same time we have long-term goals and we really have a lot of confidence in the guys we’ve got and we need to play better. We’re 6-0 and we still have a lot of room for improvement,”

Then the defense, despite allowing more than 400 yards, held up its end of the bargain by keeping the Rams out of the end zone.

“It’s not going to be pretty and perfect all the time, but hopefully it’s effective,” cornerback Tramon Williams said. “And it’s been effective.”

While the Packers are still looking for a perfect performance, they will gladly settle for perfection in the standings.

At 6-0, they are the only unbeaten team still standing in the NFL and have matched their best start since 1965.

No, they weren’t perfect, but they were as efficient and effective as they needed to be.

The offense looked lethargic in the second half, with four consecutive punts followed by an interception.

“It’s a feeling of minor disappointment I think in that locker room,” Rodgers said. “In the second half, we just struggled offensively, and that’s frustrating.”

But the offense did all the damage that was necessary in the second quarter. The heads of helpless Rams defenders were spinning when James Jones, Jordy Nelson and Donald Driver caught touchdown passes in a frenetic 12-minute span.

Is it so bad that the Packers didn’t extend their commanding halftime lead and wind up winning by 40 points?

When it was suggested the Packers must do a better job of finishing games, coach Mike McCarthy simply pointed to the scoreboard.

“We won by three touchdowns,” McCarthy said. “You can spin this any way you want. I’m clearly in tune with the things we could have done better. The last time I checked, when you win by three touchdowns, that’s a pretty significant win. Our defense kept them out of the end zone all day.”

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Bob McGinn Insider: Packers take care of business with win over lowly Rams

October 17, 2011 by  
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By Bob McGinn, Journal-Sentinel Packer Insider

~Green Bay – Sunday marked the 31st time in the last 15 seasons that the Green Bay Packers entered a game favored by more than 10 points.

They’ve lost four times under those circumstances: 41-38 at winless Indianapolis in 1997, 31-24 to Denver in Super Bowl XXXII, 23-20 to Atlanta in 2001 and 38-28 at Tampa Bay in 2009.

Each of those games will be remembered for the utter futility of it all.

The Packers’ workmanlike 24-3 victory over the St. Louis Rams Sunday at Lambeau Field will hardly be remembered. That’s because these Packers exhibit such consistency in preparation and performance that it almost makes them immune to colossal upset.

“If you’re a young, immature team, yes,” tackle Marshall Newhouse said of the possible perils of getting ready for a winless opponent as a 14½-point favorite. “But we’re not and we don’t take people lightly.

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Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson eludes Rams defensive backs Darian Stewart (left) and Al Harris on a 93 yard touchdown reception during the second quarter, giving the Packers a 17-0 lead.

Defense keeps Rams out of the end zone, preserves comfortable win

October 17, 2011 by  
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By Tyler Dunne, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

~Green Bay - He hates to break the news. In a dream world, 40-point outbursts never cease. Aaron Rodgers cannot be stopped. And the Green Bay Packers never lose.

But leaning against his locker, Tramon Williams provides a sobering dose of reality. Sooner or later, the Green Bay Packers’ defense would need to bail out its offense. Sooner or later, the invincibility would end.

“There was going to come a point in time,” the cornerback said, “where we’d have to cover for those guys.”

Linebacker A.J. Hawk closes in on Rams QB Sam Bradford for a sack. Hawk would then solute the Rams bench with the #1 gesture.

That day finally came Sunday in the Packers’ 24-3 win over the St. Louis Rams. After three first-half touchdowns, the offense sputtered. Punter Tim Masthay was summoned four times in a row as Green Bay was shut out in a half for the first time in nine games. The defense needed to deliver more timely, back-against-the-wall plays that have defined Dom Capers’ defense this season – and they did.

Toward the end, Williams glanced up at the scoreboard with teammate Charles Woodson. The Rams had eclipsed 400 yards. It “didn’t feel that way,” Williams said. The Packers (6-0) suffocated the lowly Rams at opportune times.

“We don’t want teams to score a touchdown, obviously,” Williams said. “Teams get downfield and some are good in the red zone, some are not. We want it to be on us if they score or not. That’s the way it’s been all year.”

That’s been the blueprint. Throughout Green Bay’s undefeated start, players have traded the role of protagonist. In Carolina, Charles Woodson picked off Cam Newton twice. In Chicago, Morgan Burnett had a pair of picks. Against Denver, Desmond Bishop forced a fumble inside the Green Bay 5.

Sunday had the look of a laughable, send-in-the-JVs romp. With 1:56 left in the first half, Rodgers zipped a 7-yard touchdown to Donald Driver and Green Bay went ahead, 24-0. In the first half, Rodgers had 234 yards on 11-of-15 passing with three scores. For old friend Al Harris, no mercy.

Then, the offense went stale.

Five straight second-half drives stalled. Reliable Jordy Nelson dropped a third-down catch. Another deep post ricocheted off Greg Jennings’ hands for an interception.

A Rams team decimated by injury had a chance to put a scare in the NFL’s only undefeated team. But despite sparkling individual performances from quarterback Sam Bradford (321 yards) and running back Steven Jackson (96 yards), the Rams never threatened. Green Bay’s defense has given up just three points the last 18 times they’ve been on the field.

That bulging black club removed from his broken right hand, Burnett says it’s not complicated.

“Just guys finishing and hustling to the ball, guys doing their job and being accountable,” Burnett said. “We just need to keep playing from the start of the first whistle to the last whistle in the fourth quarter because throughout the course of the game, you can’t predict what could happen.”

On one third and 6 in the third quarter, Desmond Bishop made a difficult, open-field tackle on Jackson. The Rams punted. And the next drive – St. Louis’ best chance to make this a game – Bradford hooked up with an array of no-name receivers for completions of 19, 21 and 9.

And on first and goal from the 10, the second-year quarterback underthrew a fade to Danario Alexander. Cornerback Sam Shields snatched the ball away, refused to take a knee and was promptly tattooed in the end zone.

Williams saw the knockout coming – it was his wide receiver that smacked Shields. Joked the veteran, “You have to learn the hard way sometimes.” Still, this turnover proved to be a dagger. Shields didn’t return because of a head injury but supplied the defense’s biggest play.

“That’s typical Sam,” Williams said. “That’s what he does. I don’t know if teams really know it yet, but you can’t really throw deep on that guy. It was textbook by Sam. The defense, period, has been doing a great job in the red zone.”

The Rams failed to score a touchdown on three trips to the red zone. For the season, opponents are only 8 of 21 inside the 20. The pass defense has toiled, statistically, in the basement.

Just fine, says Williams.

“The yards get up there, but that’s the type of defense we’ve been playing all the time – bend but don’t break,” he said. “We’re going to continue that.”

Convenient because this type of game was inevitable. To date, nothing had stopped the offense. Man coverage, zone coverage, blitzing, doubling a receiver, it didn’t matter. Rodgers and the Packers were on pace for team and league records across the board.

But it’s a long season. Such dependency on the offense can be risky and unrealistic.

“This is the NFL,” defensive tackle B.J. Raji said. “You’re not going to score every time you have the ball.”

So Raji can see the beauty in a beast of a game. Finally, he believes, the defense is getting its swagger back.

“We’re kind of getting back to our shape,” he said. “It was funny. People remember us from last year when we had our run, but we’re nowhere near that. I think as we go along, we’ll start clicking and putting it together.”

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Aaron Rodgers tosses 3 TDs as Packers drop Rams to stay unbeaten

October 17, 2011 by  
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Associated Press

~GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Green Bay Packers’ record remains perfect. The fact that their play has been far from flawless remains a constant source of motivation for Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers threw three touchdowns, including a career-long 93-yarder to Jordy Nelson, and the Packers rolled to a 24-3 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday. With Sunday’s loss by NFC North rival Detroit, the Packers (6-0) are the last unbeaten team left in the NFL this season.

But Green Bay’s offense hit a lull and didn’t score in the second half.”It’s a feeling of minor disappointment, I think, in that locker room,” Rodgers said. “We just, in the second half, offensively just struggled. The second quarter was great, we put up a lot of points. I think it’s encouraging at the same time. It’s tough to win in this league, we’re 6-0, and have a lot of room for improvement.”

Rodgers threw for 310 yards, delivering touchdowns to Nelson, James Jones and Donald Driver.

Wide receiver James Jones hauls in a perfect pass from Aaron Rodgers in the 2nd quarter for a touchdown against the Rams.

Sam Bradford was 28 of 44 for 321 yards with an interception for the Rams (0-5), who were coming off their bye week.”We do not accept losing and our actions will reflect that,” Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “It is about winning football games, not moral victories.”Bradford’s ankle was sore after the game, but the Rams didn’t seem overly concerned about the injury.

Rams running back Steven Jackson had 18 carries for 96 yards.”For whatever reason, we get into the red zone, we keep shooting ourselves in the foot,” Jackson said.Packers coach Mike McCarthy had a mixed reaction to the victory. He bristled at questions about the offense being shut out in the second half, saying, “the last time I checked, when you win by three touchdowns, that’s a pretty significant win.”

But McCarthy also said the team isn’t anywhere near where it wants to be.”You have to be running on all cylinders, and we’re not there yet,” McCarthy said. “So fortunately, we’re 6-0. We’ll continue to work to get there.”The Packers were wearing blue-and-gold uniforms designed to replicate a 1929 design, but Rodgers’ ability to scramble out of trouble and make big plays was anything but a throwback to the days of leather helmets. Rodgers did offer a wholehearted endorsement of the third uniform earlier in the week, saying the pants were among the most comfortable football pants he’d ever worn.As Rodgers kept rolling, the Packers continued to brush off a fresh batch of injuries.

Green Bay got right tackle Bryan Bulaga back from a knee injury after the 2010 first-round pick missed the previous two games. But the Packers will have to live without veteran left tackle Chad Clifton indefinitely after he injured his hamstring in last Sunday’s victory at Atlanta.

Second-year player Marshall Newhouse took over for Clifton, but the Rams couldn’t get much pressure on Rodgers — and when they did, he simply spun away.The Packers also were banged up at safety. Already missing Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins — out for the season after sustaining a neck injury in Week 2 — fellow safety Morgan Burnett had to play Sunday’s game with a huge club on his broken right hand.

Safety Morgan Burnett played with a cast on his broken hand, and although he did make some good plays, he proved vulnerable on this play where he missed a tackle on Rams TE Lance Kendricks, which allowed an additional 35 yards on the play. That could prove fatal next week against two playmakers like Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin. Both of those guys are hard to bring down with two 'good' hands.

Green Bay’s secondary took another blow in the third quarter when cornerback Sam Shields sustained a head injury after he picked off a Bradford pass in the end zone and was hit hard. McCarthy said Shields was still being evaluated after the game.

Trailing 3-0 and facing a fourth-and-3 play near the end of the first quarter, the Rams went for it and Bradford threw incomplete. The Packers got the ball back and gambled on fourth down as well, going for it on fourth-and-1 at the 50. James Starks burst through the line for a 15-yard gain.Rodgers showed his mastery of play action on the next play, faking a handoff to Starks on the right side, rolling to his left and delivering a perfect pass to Jones in the end zone for a 35-yard touchdown and 10-0 lead.

After a Rams punt pinned the Packers at their own 7, Rodgers got the best of former teammate Al Harris on his big play to Nelson. Rodgers got the veteran cornerback to bite on a fake and then threw a rainbow to the wide-open Nelson for an easy score and a 17-0 lead. Harris was impressed by his former team, calling them the best in the league.

Charles Woodson and Al Harris embrace on the field after the game. The Packers, and Packer Nation, ALL still love the classy Al Harris, no matter who's uniform he wears. As long as it's not purple. Even Edgar Bennett as a Bear was no problem for Packer Nation.

“Personally, I think they are,” Harris said. “We would have loved to beat them, but they played well.”Rodgers put together another drive toward the end of the second quarter, capitalizing on the threat of his running ability to finish it off. On second-and-goal at the 7, Rodgers appeared to make a run for the end zone — then pulled up and flipped the ball to Driver for a touchdown with 1:51 left before halftime.

After a 36-yard field goal by Josh Brown, Green Bay led 24-3 at the half.”They drove the ball on us a little bit,” Charles Woodson said. “But you keep a team out of the end zone, you’ve done a great job.”

Game notes

The Packers are 6-0 for the 1st time since 1965. They also become the 1st defending Super Bowl champion to start at least 6-0 since the 2007 Colts, who started 7-0. Overall, they are the 7th defending Super Bowl champ to start at least 6-0.

Wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker and linebacker Ben Leber were inactive for St. Louis. Neither player was listed on the team’s injury report this week. “We weren’t trying to send any messages,” Spagnuolo said. “We just put out the guys out there that we thought would help us win the game.” … Rodgers threw his third interception of the season, a tipped ball in the fourth quarter. … It was the Packers’ last home game for nearly a month.

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