With yesterday's 24-10 win over the Rams in the books, we at APC take our weekly look back at Sunday's game, the second straight contest that the Green Bay Packers won on the backs of their defense rather than Aaron Rodgers' arm. Thus, it should come as no surprise that it is the defense's success and the offense's struggles that feature prominently in the minds of our writers today.
Let's go around the horn and see what everyone thinks of the week 5 win that kept the Packers undefeated on the young 2015 season.
This was a classic Dom Capers-defense game. Pressure the quarterback all day long, give up big chunks of yardage in the running game, but force the opponents to cough the ball up at just the wrong time. Combined with two big plays from Aaron Rodgers, that's all that this Packers team needed at home to shut the door on a team with a miserable passing game.
Make no mistake, however, this offense does have issues that need to be addressed. Take, for example, Eddie Lacy only picking up 27 yards on 13 carries, or Aaron Rodgers' unusual inaccuracy on Sunday. Those issues are solvable, however, and they'll need to get straightened out in the next two weeks before the Packers' trip to Denver, where the Broncos have a defense that has been as impressive as the Packers', if not more so, so far this year.
5-0 is great. Don't get me wrong. And I'm ecstatic to see the defense flying to the quarterback again and forcing turnovers in bunches. Still, with two other unbeaten teams out there in the NFC, this Packers squad will need to have both sides of the ball operating at peak efficiency if they are to earn home-field advantage in the playoffs.
For the second consecutive week, the absence of deep threat wide receiver Jordy Nelson was particularly noticeable on offense. While the offense did generate a few big plays, they came on short throws that developed into longer gains such as James Jones' 65-yard catch-and-run. Ty Montgomery has the speed to become a viable downfield weapon, but he's still too green to do it consistently. Jeff Janis still lacks the trust of his quarterback (and perhaps the necessary grip on the offense). The rest of the receiving corps is better used in the short and intermediate passing game, at least in its current state. When the Packers' defense plays as well as it did, that may not matter. Still, the offense clearly lacks a vertical dimension for the first time in years, and it may be a while before that changes.
On defense, it's time to begin discussing whether this is Clay Matthews' best season. He has consistently generated pressure from the middle and along the edge, and he has solidified the inside linebacker position, long the team's worst position group defensively. Matthews is on pace for 67 total pressures -- his highest total since registering 71 in 2011 -- despite playing primarily off the ball. He could also set a career high in sacks. If this strong play continues, Matthews could garner consideration for Defensive Player of the Year.
This feels weird, doesn't it? For the second straight week it was the Packers defense that carried the load in a win. That certainly has something to do with the fact that their opponents - the Rams and Niners - both have excellent defenses of their own, but, I think I may have been wrong last week in saying that, "for the first time since 2010, the defense might be just as good as the offense."
They might be better.
Again, that's partially a function of their lacking manpower on offense and to that end, you have to wonder just how many minor injuries this team is capable of withstanding. If you'll indulge this horribly outdated reference for a moment, the Packers have basically had an army of Agent Smiths rotating in. One guy might go down, but then three more show up. (Editor's note: let's all laugh at Brendan for failing to make a perfect Hydra/S.H.I.E.L.D reference.)
It's been a remarkable testament to the Packers incredible depth and Ted Thompson as a talent evaluator. But I have to wonder if the Packers offense doesn't get healthy soon, if Thompson would consider blowing the dust off his trade machine. I know, it seems inconceivable. But yesterday showed just how limited the Packers offense can be without their top guys at full speed. Sure, Ty Montgomery's out there pulling E-Honda moves and generally looking a lot more seasoned than his five games of experience would suggest. But beyond him, Cobb and James Jones, it's pretty clear Rodgers has about as much trust in his other receivers as the NFLPA does in Roger Goodell. Would a veteran receiver waning on a bad team make a difference? Is there one even available? I don't know. But the Packers signed a guy like that in 1996. And that worked out okay.
The best thing about the last two games is the dominant defense. To win the Super Bowl you usually need a top defense and offense, and this team appears to have both in spite of their struggles. While they were horrible offensively, one of the benefits of relying on a bunch of young players is that they tend to get better. Davante Adams will be back eventually, Ty Montgomery will continue to learn the offense and earn Rodgers' trust, and Richard Rodgers won't always play this terribly.
A lot of what went wrong isn't so much about a lack of a deep threat as it is about Rodgers trust in timing routes. The Rams did a great job of blanketing Cobb and Jones early in any given play, stretch it out, and rely on their pass rush to force a hurried throw or a sack. It worked well, but outside of Denver and maybe Carolina, they Packers won't run into another defense with the horses to accomplish this again, and if they get a little healthier it won't be this simple anyway. This was in many ways a bad game, but the defense continues to show that this is a Super Bowl caliber team. Nothing else really matters.
Minus the turnovers, St. Louis did what needed to win this game. Rodgers never really found his rhythm, and they established a run game and won the time of possession. The difference was the turnovers and missed opportunities to put points on the board. It is refreshing to watch the defense win games for this team, now in back-to-back weeks. The offense has stalled a little bit, but we are only five weeks in. I am not overly concerned about their production at this point.
If the defense continues to step up, the offense will not be under as much pressure to win games. The overall balance on this team is the best it has been in years and is a great recipe for sustained success. The Rams are a legitimate team with scary upside. A victory in any manner is impressive. Hats off to the defense once again.