Randall Cobb vs. Rams

For the first time this season, the Green Bay Packers played decent games in consecutive weeks, getting a win they had to have and setting themselves up for a run into their bye.

12:24, 1st quarter — The St. Louis Rams become the second team this season to get a 1st down on their initial possession. However, like Indianapolis, they fail to get a second and punt.

The Rams decide to test Erik Walden with an end-around on the second play of the game. Walden has learned and successfully forces the play inside. Unfortunately, A.J. Hawk is inside, and though he does a good job of eluding the tackle meant to block him, he overplays to the outside and allows Chris Givens to cut inside of him for 14 yards.

On 3rd-and-3, a couple plays later, the Packers are in their normal rush nickel with Jerel Worthy and Mike Neal inside. Clay Matthews gets enough pressure around the outside to at least be on Sam Bradford’s radar. Bradford tries the corner route to Lance Kendricks, but Kendricks runs the out instead of the corner, making the pass appear overthrown. Punt.

10:45, 1st quarter — The Packers go three and out from the Rams’ 10. Alex Green loses a yard on a shotgun draw on 1st down. Marshall Newhouse is slow off the snap and gets flat-out beat by Robert Quinn for a 4-yard sack on 2nd down. On 3rd-and-15, Aaron Rodgers takes the quick screen to Jordy Nelson, who at least gives the Packers more room to punt.

7:38, 1st quarter — The Rams take advantage of starting at their own 45 to go 23 yards and kick a 50-yard field goal.

The Packers are in their base after starting the game in nickel. It initially works, as the Rams are forced to a 3rd-and-10. However, against the Packers’ dime package, Brad Jones vacates the middle of the field and Bradford finds Brandon Gibson there for 15 yards.

Once again, the Rams would fail to pick up another first down. Facing 3rd-and-7, a screen to Daryl Richardson gets 6, thanks to Charles Woodson and Brad Jones. The Rams then trot out their best player, kicker Greg Zuerlein, who kicks the 50-yard field goal, I believe, while talking on his cell phone.

5:28, 1st quarter — The Packers go 80 yards in five plays to go up 7-3.

The Jordy Nelson schooling of Janoris Jenkins starts with a 15-yard slant on 1st down. Soon after, it is the 2011 Packers redux as Rodgers takes advantage of Chris Long jumping offsides by throwing it deep to Nelson for 52 yards. After an illegal contact penalty puts the ball at the Rams’ 3, Rodgers finds Nelson for the quick back shoulder fade for the TD.

5:18, 1st quarter — Mike McCarthy is up to tricks again, as he goes with the onside kick following the go-ahead score. The Rams Trumaine Johnson valiantly tries to high point the ball only to be undercut and dumped on his head by Jarrett Bush. The ball rolls free, bouncing between another Rams’ legs and even alluding a couple Packers before Jamari Lattimore corrals it. Packers ball.

2:15, 1st quarter — The Packers only get 20 yards and settle for a 47-yard field goal to go up 10-0.

Randall Cobb picked up 19 of those yards on a draw from the shotgun. On the play, Cobb looks stymied, but he fools the linebackers into thinking he is going right before exploding left, getting to the left sideline before being run out of bounds.

Rodgers would take two sacks in the next three plays to force the field goal. The first sack would actually be a scramble where Rodgers slid 2 yards short of the line of scrimmage rather than throwing the ball away. The second sack would come when T.J. Lang gets owned by Michael Brockers, and Rodgers stepped up and right into him.

10:30, 2nd quarter — The Rams have one of their best drives of the game, going from their own 20 to the Green Bay 14 before a foolish attempt on 4th down leaves them with nothing.

The Packers get a heavy dose of Richardson this drive, with most of his runs going to the outside. Walden is doing a good job setting the edge, but Hawk and Jones either miss tackles or get caught up in traffic, allowing Richardson some success. The Rams also get a flea-flicker for 19 yards to Givens where Woodson was in single coverage and turned his hips too early to run deep. Givens ran the out instead and was wide open. A poor pass by Bradford kept it from being a bigger play.

After a false start penalty stuck the Rams with 3rd-and-16 from the Green Bay 28, Bradford finds Austin Pettis, who does his team no favors by shaking off the high tackle of Morgan Burnett and coming within 2 yards of the 1st down. That emboldened Jeff Fisher into going for it on 4th.

On the 4th-down play, the Packers are again in the dime, all but asking the Rams to run. In their dime, the Packers play Casey Hayward on the slot and Davon House on the outside receiver. Bradford tries the quick slant to Brandon Gibson, but House knocks the ball loose and incomplete. Packers ball.

6:10, 2nd quarter — The Packers put together a short drive only to have it die at midfield.

The drive is a nice balance of short runs and quick passes to James Jones, then Nelson, then Cobb. The drive ends on the frustrating 3rd-and-1 when Rodgers tries the pump and go to Jones and overthrows it by half a step.

0:40, 2nd quarter — The Rams put together another long drive. This time going 65 yards in 12 plays.

The drive is a heavy dose of Steven Jackson and some easy passes against mostly zone defense, or defense by Tramon Williams that resembles zone.

The Rams get stopped at the Green Bay 25 after the Rams’ center snaps the ball over Bradford’s head because that’s what the Rams do.

Zuerlein, who frankly should be outlawed before we end up watching 60-yard field goals all day long, comes in and kicks a 42-yarder to make the halftime score 10-6.

The Packers surprisingly try to get points out of the last 40 seconds of the half. Rodgers makes a couple nice throws to Jermichael Finley to quickly advance to the Rams’ 45. Unfortunately, Rodgers then throws a meaningless 5-yard pass to Jones, which forces a 58-yard field goal attempt on the last play of the half. Mason Crosby steps up and kicks one that resembles my tee shot on the first hole after a long night of drinking.

8:10, 3rd quarter — The Packers start the second half the same way they did against Houston, going 80 yards in 12 plays for a TD, taking nearly seven minutes off the clock.

There is a great mix of passes and runs on this drive and Rodgers is razor sharp in converting three 3rd down plays. He first finds Nelson for 18 yards on 3rd-and-8. He then finds Jones for 17 on 3rd-and-1, and then Nelson again for 9 yards on 3rd-and-6.

The TD comes on 2nd down from the Rams’ 5. Cobb runs a quick out and up from the bunch formation and springs wide open in the middle of the end zone. Great play.

1:25, 3rd quarter — After the teams trade a couple punts, Bradford tries a deep ball up the right sideline for Givens. Matthews and Walden both get good pressure around the ends, forcing Bradford to step up before releasing the ball. The ball is underthrown and Casey Hayward does a better job reacting to the short ball than Givens does. Hayward gets his fourth INT of the season and it is Packers ball at the Rams’ 42.

11:55, 4th quarter — The Packers get a field goal out of the interception and take 4:25 off the clock, going up 20-6.

After slowly moving the ball to the Rams’ 6, the Packers run the ball twice for 1 yard. On 3rd-and-goal, Rodgers rolls to his right unnecessarily, finds no one open and throws it incomplete. Jones was being absolutely mugged on the play, but to the credit of these refs, there hasn’t been a pass interference call all game.

8:55, 4th quarter — The Packers somewhat conservative approach on the last drive blows up in their face when the Rams not only get a touchdown, but a quick one, to get back into the game at 20-13.

The Packers defense didn’t do anything well on this drive, making the mostly impudent 2012 Rams look like the Greatest Show on Turf for a moment.

On the very first play of the drive, Matthews tips a quick screen that still makes it to Givens. Even though that slightly slowed the play down, the Packers defense is slower. Givens gets two blocks and burns up field untouched, crosses the field and goes up the right sideline for 56 yards before Walden, of all people, pushes him out of bounds.

The Packers are clearly in bend-but-don’t-break mode here, and that is probably the single biggest factor on this play. Because the Packers defenders stood back and waited for Givens to come to them, they allowed blockers to get in front and screen them off.

The Rams would work short passes and Jackson against the defense until Jackson burst up the middle for the 6-yard TD.

3:20, 4th quarter — No matter, because the offense and Aaron Rodgers would end the game with an 80-yard drive in 10 plays following the Rams’ TD.

After a Green run got zero, Rodgers hits Cobb with a shovel pass out of the backfield and the maligned offensive line blocks it perfectly as Cobb picks up 11.

Then, on 3rd-and-7, the Packers line up with Cobb alongside Rodgers in the shotgun again. Cobb runs a circle route, Rodgers throws it to him, and Cobb eludes Rams linebacker Joe Dunbar to get the 1st down. I find this play extremely fitting in the dome where Marshall Faulk used to do the same on 3rd down for the Rams.

Two plays later, Rodgers dumps to Kuhn and he rumbles for 16 yards, dump-trucking Dunbar in the process.

Finally, on 3rd-and-9 from the Rams’ 39, Rodgers again induces the Rams offsides. Figuring he likely has a free play, Rodgers scrambles to his left, sees Cobb streaking for the end zone on a straight seam route and delivers a pass to Cobb for the TD that commentator Brian Billick calls “a Hall of Fame throw.”

That makes it 27-13 Packers with 3:25 left.

1:50, 4th quarter — Crosby kicks a short field goal to make it 30-13. This followed the only series in the game where the Rams didn’t get a single 1st down, not counting the interception. The Rams went four and out when their 4th-and-5 attempt was a 4-yard pass to Steve Smith who was instantly tackled by Morgan Burnett.

The Packers just ran the ball once they had it, moving the clock past the two minute warning. On 3rd down, Rodgers took a slightly surprising shot at the end zone. James Jones made a great catch, but failed to get his second foot down.

The Rams would drive for a TD to end the game at 30-20.

Much like they did last week, the Packers won this game the same way they won most of their games last season — they controlled the game with their offense.

Aaron Rodgers remained on top of his game and as we saw last season, as long as he does, the Packers are a very tough team to beat.

The one interception they got was about all the Packers really needed from their defense.

The Packers defense took a step back from their performance against Houston. They have to again find a way to consistently bottle up the run. When they can’t, their blitz packages are rendered nearly useless, and the Packers still have issues on the back end that can be exposed, especially when in zone.

The Packers offensive line struggled again in the first half on a fast track, in a loud environment. Marshall Newhouse continues to have problems with the speed rush, and though he only allowed one sack, he was bailed out a couple times by Rodgers. T.J. Lang had his worst game this season. He was manhandled several times by Rams rookie Michael Brockers, and this and Jeff Saturday’s inability to block the Rams linebackers were two big reasons why the Packers were unable to run the ball. On the plus side, Bryan Bulaga owned Chris Long and Josh Sitton continues to be strong.

Randall Cobb’s emergence has not only made Donald Driver irrelevant, but it has made Jermichael Finley nearly irrelevant as well. Cobb has become a key 3rd down option, which used to be Finley. Finley was only targeted on his two catches, which came in the hurry-up at the end of the first half. On Cobb’s 5-yard TD catch, the Rams were doubling Finley. Ironically, if teams begin to shift their focus away from him, that could actually help him become a viable weapon again.

With their latest injuries, the Packers will need to continue to develop on defense. Fortunately for them, they have two games at Lambeau against offensively challenged teams to do exactly that. As long as the Packers offense stays in gear, they should be able to get to the bye on a roll.