Role Reversal: Packers Defense leading the way for sputtering (missing Jordy) Offense
From Rob Demovsky, ESPN.com
~GREEN BAY, Wis. — There’s an exit just a few steps from Josh Sitton’s locker at Lambeau Field. The way the Green Bay Packers offense performed Sunday, you might think the All-Pro guard would have made a run for it.
His quarterback turned the ball over three times — two interceptions and a lost fumble — and no running back gained more than 27 yards against the St. Louis Rams.
Yet, Sitton, who at times revels in his gruffness, could not have been happier to talk about a 24-10 win that was anything but an offensive tour de force.
“Honestly, I think this is the best team and the most talented team that we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Sitton said as he stopped to chat by the exit door.
Yes, the offense is struggling, something Rodgers admitted after the game, but the Packers remain among the NFL’s unbeatens at 5-0 thanks in no small part to their improved defense.
Whether coach Mike McCarthy should be concerned that their once-unstoppable offense now can be stopped — or at least slowed by the Rams and San Francisco 49ers in consecutive games — or thrilled that their punching-bag defense no longer gets beat up, depends on your perspective.
If you’re like Rodgers, who still managed two touchdown passes to run his season total to 13 against just two interceptions, it’s the former.
“Yeah, we’ve been struggling the last couple of weeks,” Rodgers said and then rattled off the things needed to rectify it: better adjustments, better route running, better throws.
Sitton, however, looked at it like this: No longer does the offense have to be at its absolute best week in and week out for this team to win.
“Well, we’re different than in the past,” Sitton said. “We’ve got talent everywhere. I think you might be able to attribute a little of that to Coach Mike giving up play calling and moving over there [to help the defense]. He’s able to help everywhere. I think that could play a factor in it.”
On Sunday, that meant four interceptions — including two by rookie cornerback Quinten Rollins — and a continuation of a relentless pass rush that has resulted in 16 sacks combined in the past three games, including three of Rams quarterback Nick Foles, who completed just 11 of 30 passes for 141 yards.
The defense even put points on the board, when Rollins returned his first interception 45 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter.
“We can complain all we want on the sideline about [the offense not scoring enough], but would the defense want it any other way?” said linebacker Clay Matthews, who had 1.5 sacks on Sunday. “For so long now, this has been [an offensive team]. It still is an offensive team, but it’s nice when the defense can hold their own, especially in the last couple weeks of doing so, especially when the opposition is having a good defensive game and maybe our offense isn’t clicking.
“These are the types of games that we need sometimes and kind of show our identity. At the same time, we might have a day where the offense is going to have to score 30-plus points.”
At some point, Rodgers and the offense will need to get back to that. It would help if they had a deep-threat receiver.
Rodgers thinks they do (no, Jordy Nelson isn’t magically returning from his season-ending knee injury).
“I think we’ve got that guy, but he’s been hurt the last couple weeks,” Rodgers said, referring to Davante Adams, who missed his second straight game because of a sprained left ankle. “The bye week will be nice to get some of those guys back. Davante Adams I think is a Pro Bowl-caliber player, and without him and without Jordy, we need to find some other ways to attack the outside stuff and still be able to be effective inside.”
The bye will have to wait until after Sunday’s game against the San Diego Chargers. Until then, don’t expect Rodgers to be satisfied that the Packers have won despite the offense accounting for just 17 points in each of the past two games.
“That might make some of our guys sleep at night, but that won’t make me sleep at night,” Rodgers said. “I want to be efficient and as close to perfect as possible. This one will be studied pretty hard. We’ll come in [Monday] and go through it and move on to San Diego. But it is nice that our defense is playing so well.”
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