Aaron Rodgers, Packers receivers have trouble connecting
From Michael Cohen, JSonline
~Green Bay — On the sixth play from scrimmage against the St. Louis Rams, quarterback Aaron Rodgers lined up in the shotgun with two receivers to either side.
He took the snap and peeked left, where Randall Cobb and James Jones were smothered. He turned his shoulders and glanced right, where Ty Montgomery and Richard Rodgers triggered a blown coverage in the middle of the field.
Rodgers threw, Montgomery caught and what followed was the simplest of 31-yard touchdowns impeded by wind resistance and nothing more. Montgomery jogged into the end zone to put the Packers on the scoreboard less than 120 seconds after the offense took the field.
“I was a little shocked with how much space I did have,” Montgomery said.
But the ease with which Rodgers and Montgomery undressed the defense belied an inauspicious afternoon for an offense that proceeded to teeter. The Packers cobbled together just three drives of 40 yards or more in a 24-10 win over the Rams as receivers lumbered against a physical secondary. Rodgers, who threw two interceptions and lost a fumble, compiled his lowest quarterback rating (82.8) since a loss to the Buffalo Bills in 2014 and spent more than a few words criticizing the wideouts during his post-game news conference.
“We’ve got to run routes a little bit better,” Rodgers said. “We’ve got to be able to get open outside better. Obviously, I’ve got to throw it better than I did today and clean some of those things up.”
The touchdown pass to Montgomery, enabled by a miscommunication between cornerback Trumaine Johnson and safety T.J. McDonald, salvaged an opening drive that felt disjointed until the scoring play.
Not unlike last week’s game against the San Francisco 49ers, Rodgers targeted Montgomery with a deep throw on his first attempt of the afternoon. But where Montgomery made an error against the 49ers, dropping a beautifully thrown pass that may have resulted in a touchdown, Rodgers launched an unusually inaccurate ball Sunday that was both overthrown and several yards out of bounds.
Three plays later, on his second attempt of the game, Rodgers threw a back-shoulder pass to Cobb along the sideline. Cobb never stopped his route and the ball fell incomplete.
“I don’t know exactly,” Montgomery said when asked how the Rams constricted the Packers’ offense and held them to a meager 23.6 yards per possession.
“It’s football,” he said. “Sometimes it happens.”
Among the contributing factors in a game that saw backup tailback James Starks contribute more as a pass catcher than Cobb — 29 yards to 23 yards — was the stringent press coverage employed by the Rams. By shading two defenders toward Cobb, who turned in his least productive outing since he finished with minus-1 yard against the Seattle Seahawks in September 2012, the Rams challenged the rest of the Packers’ receivers to win one-on-one opportunities, which they could not on more than a few occasions.
Montgomery, whose 59 receiving yards more than doubled Cobb’s output, said the Rams pressed more than any team the Packers have faced this season. Cobb said the Rams adapted better to a certain leniency by the referees and controlled the areas at or near the line of scrimmage.
“I wouldn’t say more physical,” Cobb said of the Rams’ secondary. “I would say we didn’t do a good job of getting off. We weren’t getting many calls, and you learn that early on in a game how the game flow is going to go, how the refs are going to call it. You just have to be able to overcome it.”
That the Rams were undone by just two lengthy touchdown passes — the first one to Montgomery on the first series and a 65-yard catch-and-run to Jones at the start of the third quarter — lands somewhere between unfortunate and unforgivable on a defensive coordinator’s rubric, especially when the opposing quarterback is named Rodgers.
It meant that after four quarters, three turnovers by Rodgers and zero touchdowns by Cobb, the Rams were left to wonder what might have been. They flustered the reigning MVP and outmuscled his impressionable receivers — and lost.
They did their jobs to near perfection with the exception of two plays, one per half.
“If we could have eliminated those two explosive plays,” Johnson said, “there is no telling what the outcome might have been.”
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