The picture is far from complete, but the image of the 2009 Packers is coming into a little better focus after their Week 3 win over the St. Louis Rams.  The problem is the view isn’t always what Packers fans want to see. 

We should probably get used to the idea that this is not a push button operation for head coach Mike McCarthy.  Given the quality of the competition, this wasn’t the convincing win that the 36-17 final score would seem to indicate.  The Rams, talent challenged  to start with, lost their starting quarterback, wide receiver and safety in the first half.  On the other hand, no team in the NFL can be overlooked (see Lions vs. Redskins).  It may not have been a work of art, but the Packers did what they had to do this week to secure a much needed win.

It certainly didn’t look good for Green Bay early on as they had to settle for field goals on their first three possessions deep into St. Louis territory.  Against a better team, those failures could have come back to haunt them.  As it was, the offensive line continued a pattern of allowing pressure on QB Aaron Rodgers with right tackle Allen Barbre being victimized by two Leonard Little sacks in the first quarter despite the fact that they usually had the tight end or back shaded toward his side.

McCarthy at least tried to help mitigate the pass rush by making more of a commitment to the running game.  After getting only 14 carries the previous week against Cincinnati, tailback Ryan Grant rushed 26 times for 99 yards.  After the game, a battered Grant described the going as “tough sledding” but it is imperative that the Packers remain dedicated to the ground game.  McCarthy also kept the Rams defense off balance by calling fullback John Kuhn’s number on a couple of scoring plays.

For his part, Rodgers seems to have figured out that he’s going to have to make plays with his feet as well as his arm.  He consistently kept plays alive with his running, pulling the ball down for 38 yards, including a nifty quarterback draw for a touchdown.  The plausible threat of a running attack also allowed the Packers to run some play action with Rodgers finding Donald Driver downfield for a magnificent one handed catch despite defensive pass interference on the play.  That gain seemed to infuse the Packers with some momentum as they were able to finish off the drive with Kuhn’s one yard TD carry.  Rodgers also managed to reintroduce wideout Greg Jennings to the long ball, connecting twice with him for over 50 yards, leading to two other scores.

Coincidentally, the Packers defensive performance could best be described as uneven.  For the second week in a row, they gave up a 100 yard game to an opposing running back, Steven Jackson, even though the Rams passing game didn’t offer much of a diversion.  Linebacker Brandon Chillar in particular seemed to struggle in coverage.   Linebacker A.J. Hawk was strong at the point of attack, but seemed slow to react laterally.

Conversely, the defense did create 3 more turnovers.  Erstwhile outside linebacker Aaron Kampman finally appears to be settling into his new role.  He applied regular pressure and forced a fumble by Rams QB Marc Bulger that was recovered by Johnny “On the Spot” Jolly.  Jolly also made his presence felt on special teams by blocking the Rams first field goal attempt.  Defensive coordinator Dom Capers even unveiled a 5 linebacker alignment that permitted him to get playmaking linebacker Desmond Bishop on the field; something that hasn’t occurred nearly enough so far in the season.

Another positive was the kicking game with Mason Crosby hitting all 3 of his field goal attempts, though he did miss their final extra point.  Punter Jeremy Kapinos averaged 50 yards on his four kicks.

And of course, Pocket Doppler “favorite” Jarrett Bush chipped in with another special teams penalty.

No, this one wasn’t pretty.  But this may be what Packers fans can reasonably expect the rest of the season.  It appears nothing is going to come easily to this team as they are likely to continue to battle their shortcomings on the offensive line and their growing pains in adjusting to their new defensive scheme.  Obviously, a bigger test looms next week but at least Green Bay has some positive momentum heading into their showdown in the Metrodome.

 

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