While the Packers fell just short of a shutout, the team looked better at every level than a week ago. Just as importantly, several players who were inactive a week ago received their first game experience of the season. Of course, some players struggled; there's no such thing as a perfect game in the NFL. Here are the individual winners and losers from Saturday night.
There was perhaps no more anticipated rookie debut in all the NFL this week than that of Eddie Lacy, and the Packers' running back did not disappoint. From the very first play his signature spin move and tackle breaking ability was on display. That first drive saw several powerful runs, including a 3rd and 1 conversion that would have counted had it not been for an unnecessary hold by Jermichael Finley. His best moment came in the second quarter when Lacy turned a check down reception into a first down via spinning away from a would-be Rams' tackler. In total, Lacy finished with 40 yards on eight carries.
Aaron Rodgers targeted Jermichael Finley early and often Saturday night. In less than a half, Finley produced four catches for 78 yards including an impressive 33-yard breakaway in the second quarter. Had it not been for a holding penalty on a 3rd and 1 run play, he would have been flawless. Unquestionably, Finley will need to do more to assuage his critics. However, it's hard to complain about his mouth/contract/maturity when Finley produces like this.
In the three weeks since the start of training camp, Andy Mulumba has continued to iron out the wrinkles in his play. In the first half, Mulumba consistently brought pressure, nearly recording a safety right before halftime. He showcased his bull rush on his sack of Kellen Clemens. It's hard to say what else if anything Mulumba must do to secure a roster spot. With Dezman Moses fighting injuries and Nate Palmer inconsistent, the Packers may not have a choice but to keep Mulumba around.
It's beginning to look like the Packers' receiving corps goes four deep. Jarrett Boykin had only two receptions for 33 yards, but it was his second catch and run that demonstrated why he made the squad last year. Boykin separated from the cornerback just beyond the first down marker and broke a tackle to extend the play an additional ten yards. So long as Randall Cobb returns healthy for the regular season, which he should, the Packers might survive a short absence from Jordy Nelson.
Robert Francois lived in the Rams' backfield last night. Not only did Francois finish with more tackles for loss than any other player on either team, but no one had more hits on the quarterback either. The depth at inside linebacker made Francois an afterthought early in camp, but this is the second strong performance he's had this preseason. Given his experience, he's likely the coaches' first choice to replace A.J. Hawk or Brad Jones should one of them suffer an injury.
After missing his first field goal attempt, Giorgio Tavecchio failed to reach the goal line on a kickoff. Each is a red mark next to his name. Given that any tie in the kicker competition favors Crosby, Tavecchio may have irreparably hurt his chances with this performance. Even assuming the best, he's lost whatever lead he had following the Family Night scrimmage.
After making a great tackle in the backfield a drive earlier in the game, Micah Hyde was burned on a play action strike to Chris Givens late in the first quarter. Later, Hyde was a non-overthrown Sam Bradford pass away from giving up a touchdown to Tavon Austin. While he had some decent moments later in the game, Hyde did enough damage to himself in the first half to warrant inclusion on the losers' list.
While it's not what Packers fans want to hear, David Bakhtiari had some poor snaps Saturday night. Admittedly, he played acceptably most of the game, but the standards are higher for left tackle. Robert Quinn barely had to escape Bakhtiari on his sack of Rodgers in the first quarter, and Bakhtiari committed a false start later on. From a macro point of view, there's no reason to sour on Bakhtiari. That said, he didn't step up in his biggest test to date.
Throughout the night, Davon House was soft in coverage. He would have given up even more had the refs not missed a holding call on a third down player in the first half. House's lowest moment came when second-year running back Isaiah Pead trampled over him for a first down midway through the second quarter. After being victimized often in the first preseason game, House once again moved closer to the fringe of the Packers' roster.
Lane Taylor earned two glaring red marks in the Rams game. He cut block a St. Louis defender (thankfully, no one was injured), and committed a holding penalty later on. Taylor was singled out for praise this past week by Mike McCarthy, but much of that momentum was lost after those two costly plays.
Jason Hirschhorn covers the Green Bay Packers for Acme Packing Co. He has previously written for Lombardi Ave, College Hoops Net, LiveBall Sports, and the List Universe. He is also currently a senior writer for Beats Per Minute, an indie-music webzine. Follow him on Twitter: @JBHirschhorn