Aaron Rodgers may end up being the best quarterback in the history of the NFL. I asked a question in the preview whether a defense can actually stop Rodgers or whether Rodgers beats himself. Watching this game answered that question for me. I am not suggesting that the Rams defense is the Steel Curtain reincarnated or the 85 Bears. I accept that his dissection of our defense does not automatically upgrade his status. At the same time, I watched that game from above. I saw plays develop. It is amazing to me how well Rodgers sees the game.
Whatever the Rams did, he found a way around it. In the second half, he clearly saw a hole in the Rams defense and attacked it consistently. The short pass was the foundation of their offense in the 2nd half and worked to perfection. When the Rams got pressure, he scrambled out of it and hit the safety valve with a perfect pass. When the Rams jumped off side, he found the open guy deep and threw a perfect pass. When Rodgers is on, I do not think he can be stopped. On most plays in the NFL, someone is always open (except for the Rams in the red zone). Rodgers has amazing vision. He almost always finds that open person and his accuracy on those throws is astounding.
The first touchdown to Randall Cobb was a masterpiece. It appeared that Green Bay was setting up a pick play. Rodgers looked in the direction of a pick being set up. Cobb was heading in the direction to set a pick. Jenkins fell for it and as soon as Cobb made his break towards the goal post, Rodgers threw a perfect strike. Any delay in that throw would have allowed Jenkins to catch up. Also, Cobb only had so much room in the end zone so the timing had to be perfect. It was. The second touchdown to Cobb was another fabulous example of how good Rodgers is. The Rams jumped offside. Quinn, who did not jump, still got pressure causing Rodgers to roll to his left. While being chased, he found a way to throw a pass across his body, 41 yards in the air, over double coverage to an open Cobb.
Of course, Rodgers is not doing this entirely on his own. His receivers, tight ends and running backs get open. I am not talking about Brandon Gibson style of open (a wee bit of daylight). I am talking about two to three yards of open. At the same time, there are many quarterbacks in the NFL who consistently miss open receivers. Rodgers rarely misses when he is on. The guy is fascinating to watch.
Now, let’s take a look at the preview to see how we did:
1. WELCOME TO THE TERROR DOME
In the words of Chuck D.
I got so much trouble on my mind
Refuse to lose
Here’s your ticket
Hear the (crowd) get wicked
If we want to increase our chances of a down game from Aaron Rodgers, it starts with the crowd. There is no doubt that a noisy environment can affect an offense. Communication is vital. The offensive line has to communicate about blocking responsibility. The QB has to communicate about audibles. The Rams’ fans have a role in this game. If we can make the Edward Jones dome, the Terror Dome for Green Bay they will help the Rams tremendously. I will be there doing my part.
On a side note, the Terror Dome is a wonderful nickname for the Ed because it also creates fear that the Rams will move. It is the sole reason for a potential move.
Unfortunately, there were many Green Bay fans at the game. The Rams’ fans were louder, but Green Bay had a sufficient enough presence to make their attendance known. The Ed was not a Terror Dome for Green Bay. Instead, it was an almost comfortable road visit for them.
2. BE UNPREDICTABLE ON DEFENSE
I would love to say we should blitz Rodgers on every obvious passing situation. It makes me feel good to say it. However, we saw what a blitz heavy defense can do for an offense in the Washington game. The Rams had one of their best offensive performances of the year because a blitz creates holes. If you can predict a blitz is coming, you can attack it. Therefore, I want to see a nice mix of 6-man blitzes, zone blitzes, corner blitzes and no blitz. In all honesty, it would be great if we could create pressure consistently with our front four. However, I believe that is unrealistic. Therefore, I want the Rams to switch up often. If Rodgers cannot predict our method of attack, we have a chance.
I liked the Rams defensive game plan. They showed some variety. However, the Rams have a habit on 2nd and long and 3rd and long to rush four and drop the linebackers. If the linebacker stays close, he is generally blitzing. This strategy has worked for the Rams to date because their linebackers and safeties have generally reacted quickly to short passes and stopped the offensive man before he got a first down. The Rams gave up yards, but were able to get off the field on long downs. However, this strategy did not work against Green Bay. Rodgers figured it out and exploited it. The dump offs and quick throws were perfectly thrown so the person catching the ball could continue moving forward and get the required distance. The 2nd half was an amazing mix of short left, short right and dump off over the middle.
3. STOP THE RUN
The Rams run defense has continued to improve. Green Bay is the 23rd ranked rushing offense. The Rams are now the 14th best rush defense. Cedric Benson will miss the game for Green Bay. Wherefore, the Rams have no choice; they have to stop the run. Stopping the run will make Green Bay more predictable and we saw what happened when Green Bay becomes predictable in the 1st half of the Seattle game.
The Rams stopped the run. Green Bay had 26 rushes for 70 yards. This was a 2.7 yard average. I will take a less than three yard average in every game, period. However, after the run failed, Green Bay quickly made up for it with a pass on the next play. The fact that Green Bay rushed 26 times, but still had almost no success shows the Rams dedication to stopping the run. This factor helped keep the Rams in the game.
4. RUN, RUN AND RUN SOME MORE
The Rams’ running game is vital, because it has so many advantages. A run eats up the clock, which means less time for the Green Bay offense. With two running backs now, we need to run more to ensure each gets sufficient carries. Steven Jackson has historically improved with more touches. He wears a team down. If Steven Jackson is going to lose carries to Richardson, we need to ensure there are more carries overall to increase @SJ39’s total carries. Richardson has to get sufficient carries because he adds a dimension that Steven Jackson no longer offers. In the end, we can’t run on every first down or run 75% of the time. In the NFL, predictability on offense makes defense easy. Thus, I am asking for a 54% to 60% runs. In the passing game, I want to take some risks. I realize that Green Bay can rush the passer, but to have success in the running game, we can’t allow the safety to sneak up. Four to five deep throws should keep the safeties at home.
I was very impressed with the dedication to the run. I heard some post game callers suggest that the Rams abandoned the run in the 2nd half. I disagree. The Rams simply had less success with the run in the 2nd half, which limited their total offensive plays. In the third quarter the Rams had six offensive plays. Two of the six plays were runs, which led to a loss of three yards. In the fourth quarter, the Rams had 21 offensive plays. However, 14 of those came with three minutes left in the game and the Rams were down 27 -13. On the other 7 plays, the Rams rushed four times. Please don’t tell me the Rams abandoned the run.
5. GIVENS GIVETH?
We know that Givens can beat anyone deep. Obviously, I want to continue to throw deep balls to him. At the same time, let’s see what he can do with some shorter passes also. The West Coast offense made its reputation with 10 yard passes that led to 60 yard touchdowns. I would like to see some bunch up screens to Givens where he gets a pick or two. I would also like to see a slant or two, where the tight end is ready to throw a block to spring him. I asked for some deep throws in the paragraph above. They do not all need to be to Givens. In fact, after one to Givens, he might be an excellent decoy to draw the safety away from the intended target. Gibson can get deep and is showing an ability to both drop a ball and make a tremendous catch. I do not mind a drop on deep throw. Also, while we are waiting for Quick to develop, a 9 route (Go or Fly) makes a ton of sense to me.
This paragraph was almost Carnac like (Carnac the Magnificent for those of you too young to know the reference). The Rams threw a beautifully designed screen to Givens and it led to a 56-yard-gain. They need to try this more. Additionally, the comment about Gibson above was also dead on. He dropped a crucial fourth down ball, but made other good plays. I think we know who Brandon Gibson is now. I will write about this later in the week.
6. BEWARE THE WEAPONS
This will be the first game since Detroit, where the team we are playing has multiple weapons in the passing game. While our pass defense has been excellent this season, it will be tested. We have three above-average corner backs. Unfortunately, Green Bay has more than three above-average targets in their passing game. Our linebackers and safeties are going to be tested in this game. Trumaine Johnson is going to be tested in this game. It will be interesting to see how this works out for us.
I will keep this short and simple. The warning statement was deadly accurate. How did it work out for us? Not well.