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Packers’ Matthews, Daniels hound Rams’ QB Foles in 24-10 victory
By CHRIS HAVEL
Is it possible the Green Bay Packers are more than a one-trick pony? Can it be that they have the horses on defense and special teams as well as offense to win the race? It is beginning to look like it.
The Packers’ 24-10 victory against St. Louis Sunday at Lambeau Field might be considered bittersweet. After all, Aaron Rodgers looked merely mortal while throwing two interceptions and settling for an 82.8 passer rating.
The MVP quarterback’s first interception by Rams’ linebacker James Laurinaitis stopped Rodgers’ streak at 587 consecutive pass attempts without an interception at Lambeau Field. The second pick came on a terrific play by Rams’ cornerback Trumaine Johnson, who leapt in front of James Jones to corral Rodgers’ pass. Rodgers also committed a third turnover when he was sacked and fumbled.
Still, the Packers prevailed in a game where the outcome was never truly in doubt. The reason was Green Bay’s suffocating defense and solid special teams play.
“Good team win today, start with the defense,” Packers head coach Mike McCarthy told reporters. “I thought they were clearly the key to our victory.”
The Packers (5-0) stayed unbeaten and extended their Lambeau Field winning streak to 12 straight games, including playoffs. The charge was led by Clay Matthews, Mike Daniels and a sack-happy defense that swarmed as if it was playing with 12 men.
Matthews had 1 ½ sacks while Daniels racked up eight tackles. Both seemed to spend as much time in the Rams’ backfield as quarterback Nick Foles, who struggled mightily. Foles was sacked three times and harassed into throwing four interceptions, including one that Packers rookie Quinten Rollins returned 45 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
Foles hit on just 11 of 30 attempts for a meager 141 yards and one touchdown. Two of his interceptions came inside the Packers’ 10-yard line in the fourth quarter. He had a 23.8 passer rating.
“I’ve got to make better decisions to give my teammates an opportunity to make a play,” Foles said.
The Packers’ pass rush overwhelmed an inexperienced Rams offensive line that lost its most veteran member, right guard Roger Saffold, to an injury in the first half.
The Rams did get some production from rookie running back Todd Gurley, who finished with 159 yards on 30 carries. Gurley got 55 yards on a sweet second-half gallop, but otherwise was fairly well contained.
St. Louis had numerous chances to make it a one-score game in the second half, but each time Green Bay’s defense rose up.
“It’s huge,” Packers safety Micah Hyde said. “It just goes to show we can make plays when we need to. As long as the guys up front are getting pressure on the quarterback and forcing him to throw the ball into small pockets, we can make those plays.”
The Packers’ defense made up for the absence of safety Morgan Burnett, who missed a third straight game with a leg injury, with strong play from Hyde and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Hyde and Clinton-Dix combined for 12 tackles, 3 passes defended and two interceptions.
Also, Letroy Guion returned from a three-game suspension just in time to pick up the slack for B.J. Raji, who was terrific before leaving in the second half with a groin injury. Datone Jones also was quite active along with Mike Neal and Nick Perry, although Perry had to leave with a shoulder injury.
Primarily, though, the Packers’ defense got its energy from Matthews, Daniels and Julius Peppers. The Packers’ defense isn’t about to stop and give itself a pat on the back, though. There’s still too much improvement to be made, too much work to be done and too much season to play.
“We’re not going to get caught up in rankings and statistics and things of that sort,” Peppers said. “We’re just going to keep preparing and keep grinding, and hopefully at the end of the year we’ll be where we want to be.”
Where they want to be is Santa Clara, CA., site of Super Bowl 50. They appear to have the horses on offense, defense and special teams to run the race – and to win it.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games.