Ah, the first home field loss of the season. (wipes away man tears). The St. Louis Rams had a tough row to hoe against a revived Green Bay Packers offense. Let's face it, Aaron Rodgers is flat out incredible. I have to give credit the the offensive lines of both teams today. Brian Bulaga kept Chris Long quiet the entire game, and young Mr. Barksdale handled Clay Matthews rather well too.
The Rams are a young team, there's simply no denying this. But each week another piece of the puzzle seems to emerge, while very few appear to dip all that much... Let's have a look at the "Quick Five" for the Rams-Packers games...
Chris Givens is slowly turning quite a few heads in the NFL. This was his fourth straight week with a play of 50 yards or longer. This is a super start for a rookie, and bodes well for the offense as the season progresses. Teams will have to account for Givens each play, so other players should find openings in opposing defenses. When Amendola comes back, I think we'll see greater offensive production because of the rookie Wake Forrest product.
The Rams secondary had its first - and possibly biggest - test of the year against Aaron Rodgers and Co. They failed, and while some may find solace in the fact Janoris Jenkins is a rookie and therefore bound to make mistakes, I'm not so forgiving. Jenkins has been caught flat footed, or playing loose in coverage every game this year. Someone has to make him realize his college catch up speed means little at the NFL level. Jenkins seems to become transfixed on the quarterback each week at different times during the game. When playing against a future Hall of Fame quarterback like Rodgers, Janoris needs to know to his very soul he's going to get beat if he takes his eyes off of the receiver. This is week #7, so the rookie honeymoon is over Mr. Jenkins. It's time to spend time with your position coaches, and learn to play the NFL way.
For one quarter, the Rams defensive line looked like the best in the NFL. In the second quarter, they looked good, but not great. In the second half, their pass rush faded. In the past, fans have screamed the defense was tired from being on the field so much. The Rams won the time of possession battle in the first half, and lost it in the second. The defense should have been rested enough to see them into the fourth quarter, but they appeared winded, and tired. Aaron Rodgers adjusted to the pass rush with short shovel passes and great pocket movement. The defensive line seemed out-coached in this game by his Green Bay offensive line counter part. The worst showing by the single most talent laden part of the Rams isn't excusable.
Game ball once again to offensive line coach Paul Boudreau. He's used 17 different linemen thus far this season, and patched together a decent line that's kept Sam Bradford not only healthy, but giving him time to throw the ball too. With Wayne Hunter out this week with a back injury, Boudreau plopped Joseph Barksdale into the left tackle slot against one of the premier pass rushers in the NFL. Clay Matthews had only one sack today, and without Barksdale's great effort it could have been much worse. The team ran the ball well, and I can't see this offensive line getting anything but better as the season goes on.
Jeff Fisher is the best coach the Rams have had in over a decade. That said, he lost the coaching battle today to Green Bay's Mike McCarthy. The Packers showed versatility in all three phases of the game, while the Rams appeared to be stuck in the mud, instead of transitioning their game plan against the Green Bay receiving threat. Some will say Fisher isn't the defensive coordinator, but since the team doesn't have one, the buck stops with him. Yes, the Packers have a great passing game, but continuing to allow soft coverages, and ineffective blitz packages is why the Rams lost this game. Quintin Mikell spent far to much time up in the box instead of in coverage. Bad Fisher! Bad!
You may think I was a bit harsh, but at this point in the season we should be able to define how well this team can play, and where the problems lie. The Rams fought hard, there's no denying this. But at the end of the day, this season is about dialing in a team as best the Rams can as they look to the future. I have zero doubt that every team on the Rams remaining schedule has taken them out of the "easy game" category. This team will leave every opponents battered and bruised. How the win/loss record will look is an entirely different matter though...