End of the Road (Trip) - Packers: 30 Rams: 20
Well, are they back? That might depend on what back means, but it sure seems like the Packers are far more on top of things now than they were three or four weeks ago. It may not be 2011 caliber and the run game is far from established, but the offense is clicking and collecting points in bunches.
But it's not just the volume that's important. It's when and how the offense is scoring that's impressive. One fourth quarter drive may have made a believer out of me. After a Packer field goal, the Rams moved the ball down the field for a quick touchdown, covering 80 yards on just six plays and narrowing the Packers' lead to 20-13.
The Packers, though, responded with a ten play, 80 yard drive that drained nearly six minutes off the clock and ended with an absolutely masterful 39 yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Randall Cobb. That's exactly the kind of drive a good team pulls off against a team they're supposed to beat. Rodgers and Company imposed their will on the Rams, scored a touchdown, and put the game out of reach for good. Done and done. Bring on Jacksonville.
Aaron Rodgers - 30/37, 342 yards, 3 TD - Remember how Aaron Rodgers was underachieving on a listless offense? Me neither. The reigning MVP is showing why he earned the trophy last year, putting up absolutely insane numbers his last two outings (54/74, 680 yards, 9 touchdowns total). And just for the sake of numerical oddity, Rodgers has passed for 1234 yards in his last four games.
Jordy Nelson - 8 catches, 122 yards, 1 TD - Randall Cobb may have grabbed the headlines with his two touchdowns, but Nelson was the one moving the chains Sunday. It may be imaginary, but it seems like Nelson is being used slightly differently this year than last. He was more of a downfield threat last season, but this year he's a power pass catcher, out-muscling defensive backs for tough catches.
Casey Hayward/Davon House - Between the two young defensive backs, the future of the Packers' secondary looks pretty bright. Hayward collected his fourth interception in three weeks and House had a key pass break-up on a fourth down play in the first half in his first extended regular season action this year. I've been impressed with what I've seen from both of the young defensive backs so far this season. Hayward has that unique quality of always seeming to be in the right place at the right time, and House would remind me of Al Harris even if he didn't have dreads and wear number 31. He's got long arms, plays up in the face of receivers, and never appears to give ground. I'm intrigued to see where his career goes.
8 - Catches for Randall Cobb, his second highest total of the season. This is the fourth time Cobb has snagged seven or more catches this year as he continues his emergence as a go-to target for Aaron Rodgers. It'll be interesting to see what happens to Cobb's catches when Greg Jennings eventually returns.
26 - Total rushing plays for the Packers. Although the yardage didn't necessarily come, the Packers did show a commitment to the run game. Obviously you'd like to have a few more yards coming with those 26 attempts, but at least they didn't give up.
.571 - The Packers' winning percentage after Sunday's win. For the first time this season, the Packers are above .500, which is an odd thing to celebrate, but that's how things have been so far. It's the first time the Packers have won back to back games since the last two weeks of the season last year.
Aerial Supremacy - Aaron Rodgers is really good. Like, really, really good. At one point Sunday, Rodgers had completed 20 of 22 passes, and one of those two incompletions was a spike to stop the clock. It's nice to see Rodgers looking more like his MVP-self from last year rather than the pedestrian passer he was earlier this season.
Takin' Care of Business - Good teams beat teams they're supposed to beat, and the Packers handled the Rams yesterday. There was no Indianapolis collapse, no Seattle shenanigans, just a good football team putting a team away down the stretch. Although the final margin was just ten points, the game never felt that close, even when the Rams closed the gap to seven points in the fourth quarter.
Traveling Road Show - The Packers finally get to head back to Lambeau next week after three tough weeks on the road. What's more, Green Bay has only 5 more road games the rest of the way, two of which are back to back after their bye week. I don't know if homefield advantage will have much of an effect for the Packers, but being at Lambeau certainly can't hurt.
Short Runs - The Packers did end up with 26 run plays Sunday, but other than a 19 yard scamper by Randall Cobb, none of them were particularly exciting. In fact, Alex Green managed just 35 yards on 20 carries. If you remove his longest run (15 yards) from that number, suddenly it looks even more mediocre. Although the commitment to the run game is nice to see, commiting to something that isn't working is tough to justify.
Mason Missin' - It's a tad nit-picky, but Mason Crosby has been less than spectacular of late. Under 50 yards, he's been just fine, but he's been spotty from long distance. It doesn't matter to me as much that he's missing kicks, but he hasn't even come close on his long range attempts. Hopefully he can straighten things out.
Marshall Newhouse - It may be a stretch to include this in the "bad" category, but I don't know what to make of Newhouse. One day he's great, the next he's a turnstile. Sometimes it varies from play to play. On one play Sunday, Newhouse was called for holding, but still gave up a sack anyway. How bad of a play is that? You're so bad that you get called for a penalty, but you can't even get penalized badly enough to stop the other guy. But on the other hand, Newhouse has been good enough to get Aaron Rodgers just enough time to be effective the last few weeks. It's too bad that Derek Sherrod has been injured, otherwise he might be able to give Newhouse the competition he needs to take his game to the next level.
Up Next - A home date with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who may be without Maurice Jones-Drew and Blaine Gabbert. How high will the oddsmakers put the line on this one?