The losing streak has come to an end! The Green Bay Packers defeated the Los Angeles Rams today with a score of 20-3, and have improved to 3-5 on the season. While there was still play which left much to be desired, there was a ton of good from this team today. Let’s dive into the winners and losers from today’s chapter of the LaFleur-McVay saga.
Winner: The Entire Defense (cue the doomsday trumpets)
Has anyone checked if there’s a full moon? I can’t believe I’m writing these words. Yes, before you say it in the comments, I’m aware that the Rams QB was Brett Rypien, who made just his fourth career start today. However, it’s performances like this that give the defense the confidence they need moving forward. Everyone stepped up today, and I feel like I need to recognize them all! Jonathan Owens forced a fumble which was recovered by De’Vondre Campbell, giving the offense great field position (and they did something with it this time!) Keisean Nixon has been a bit of a force on the field the last couple weeks, with a big tackle for a loss during the second quarter (as well as some great punt and kick returns today). Carrington Valentine, who has previously made some bad rookie mistakes this season, had a wonderful game with multiple key pass breakups, one of which forced a Rams punt. Valentine showed us today what we saw during preseason, and suddenly (for this week, at least) the Rasul Douglas trade doesn’t hurt so much. Rookie Karl Brooks (baby Mike Daniels) blocked a Rams lineman into his own RB, and caused a huge tackle for a loss which was credited to fellow rookie Lukas Van Ness. JJ Enagbare had a nice stop at the line of scrimmage, and Anthony Johnson Jr. had a huge hit which caused a pass breakup. Folks, this was just the first half!
In the second half, the defense kept it going. After back-to-back fumbles by Dontayvion Wicks and Aaron Jones, the defense stopped the Rams from doing anything with their gifted opportunities. Isaiah McDuffie had some nice plays with a tackle for a loss, as well as what looked like a forced fumble which was unfortunately reversed, after the replay showed the runner was down. Colby Wooden had a clutch stop on a Rams fourth-down to start the final quarter of the game. Anthony Johnson Jr. kept his great play going by snagging his first career interception after a tipped ball by Jaire Alexander. With a struggling offense, the defense has to step up. They did just that today, despite losing one of their best players, Kenny Clark, with a shoulder injury. This team has previously talked about the importance of having a “next man up” mentality, and today, it showed. I’m so proud.
Loser: Undisciplined Players
The Packers are the most penalized team in the NFL through 9 weeks of play, and it’s one of the most frustrating things about this young team. All sides of the ball drew flags today. On special teams, while the Packers were receiving their first punt of the game, a JJ Enagbare penalty pushed the Packers back. On defense, Rashan Gary was called for a facemask, and on the very next play, the team was flagged for a neutral zone infraction which negated a huge sack by Gary. On offense, just before halftime, Jayden Reed was called for a false start, which pushed the Packers to the edge of rookie K Anders Carlson’s FG range. Carlson ended up missing a 48-yarder to end the drive. The Packers are lucky they played a bad team today. These little mistakes add up, and can cost you a game if you’re not careful.
Loser: The refs, who apparently needed to work out their wrists today
I’m not one to complain about calls. I’m of the mind that a team has the opportunity to win the game with every single play. However, some of these calls were absolutely egregious. Jordan Love had what would’ve been a successful sneak for a first down, but Yosh Nijman was called for offsides. This completely destroyed the momentum of an offense that seemed to be chugging along, and the team punted. Later, on fourth down during the second quarter, the team attempted the “tush push”, and there was another call for offsides. The replay showed nothing of the sort, just like the first one. These calls were so bad the announcers couldn’t even convincingly explain why they were warranted. Again, the Packers are lucky they played a bad team today.
Winner: The Running Game
For weeks (years), we’ve heard HC Matt LaFleur say “We’ve got to find a way to get Aaron Jones the ball.” Guys...he found a way! Jones saw a season-high 20 carries today, a number he has not reached since Week 8 of the 2022 season. This team is better when Aaron Jones is utilized properly, and he is going to make it so difficult to decide if they should move on from his large salary after this season. Speaking of proper usage: AJ Dillon! The Packers were inches away from a first down, ran Dillon from under center, and he converted. He also broke a tackle in the second half, which is a win in and of itself. In total, the team amassed 184 rushing yards, by far their most of the season. Bravo, Aaron. Bravo, AJ. Bravo, LaFleur. Now do it again.
I’m not going to dwell on this too much, because the Packers won. They also played in extremely slick conditions on a rainy day. However, you’ve got to hold onto the ball. On back-to-back drives, the offense lost the ball due to fumbles by Dontayvion Wicks and Aaron Jones. Luckily, the defense played well enough to get the ball back without the Rams scoring on their immediate drives after the fumbles.
Winner: Zayne Anderson
We have confirmed he exists after his tackle during a kickoff.
(Soft) Loser: Jordan Love
Love looked to be playing a bit scared today. By scared, I mean that it seemed like he was worried about the possibility of an interception, so instead held onto the ball, leading to a sack. This happened multiple times today. Hopefully, he outgrows decisions like these and learns to trust himself and his receivers to make the play. The one time he decided to get rid of the ball to avoid a sack, it looked like he fumbled, but it was ultimately ruled an incomplete pass instead. Unfortunately, it was fourth down, so the Packers gave the ball back to the Rams anyways. While his deep ball definitely improved today, there were still some underthrown passes which, if thrown properly, would’ve led to big gains or scores. Malik Heath had the opportunity to make his first career catch, however the ball was a bit low (but still catchable). This was a situation where Heath could’ve helped Love by catching it, but Love could’ve definitely helped Heath by throwing it a bit higher. In fact, Love made a similar throw to Romeo Doubs, who did end up catching it for a huge first down, and the play looked beautiful. Love had some other beautiful throws today, including arguably his best deep ball of the season to Christian Watson (who fought for it!) for a gain of 37 yards. Love also had a great pass to Luke Musgrave who walked into the endzone to put the nail in the coffin for the Rams. So, it wasn’t all bad today.
I had winners to write about!! Actual winners!