Rodgers nearly flawless as Packers climb over .500 for first time this season with win over Rams
ST. LOUIS — The Green Bay Packers were on their way to the team hotel the day before the game when the cheesehead factor popped up again.
Coach Mike McCarthy joked it felt like walking down a street close to Lambeau Field. During warmups on Sunday, fans began roaring “Go, Pack, Go!” And Green Bay’s traveling wall of sound never let up during a 30-20 victory over St. Louis that was the Rams’ first home loss of the year.
“This is one of the shorter trips for some of our fans, which is still a jaunt,” said Aaron Rodgers, who passed for three touchdowns. “I think it’s probably eight hours if you’re busting the speed limit a little bit.
“The chants are incredible and the boos that we had on one of those calls from our fans was incredible. It was louder than the cheers for the Rams.”
The Rams definitely noticed. They’ve had this type of atmosphere several times the last several years with the franchise near the bottom of the NFL.
“I kind of expected that they’d be well-represented here,” defensive end Chris Long said. “We just never got a chance to quiet them down.”
Rodgers threw for 342 yards in Green Bay’s second consecutive turnover-free game, and the Packers’ depleted defense clamped down on Sam Bradford and the Rams. Rodgers was sacked three times in the first half, but got the ball out a lot quicker the rest of the way.
Rodgers has 150 career TD passes and 42 interceptions, breaking Dan Marino’s NFL record for fewest interceptions at that milestone. Marino had 69 interceptions when he threw his 150th TD pass.
“I think their plan was to dink and dunk and catch us off guard,” Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan said. “They made the plays when they needed to.”
Randall Cobb caught two touchdown passes and Jordy Nelson had eight receptions for a season-best 122 yards and a TD for the Packers (4-3). Rookie Casey Hayward made his first start in place of injured Sam Shields and intercepted his fourth pass in three games.
Green Bay ended the Texans’ unbeaten start at Houston last week, but had alternated losses and wins the first six weeks. Rodgers was 30 for 37 in his fourth 300-yard game this season and trotted off the field to a huge ovation.
The Packers, a 15-1 team last season, are finally above .500 for the first time.
“Winning is fun,” Nelson said. “That’s why we play games. It’s great to win back-to-back games, it sounds great to say that for the first time this year, but we’ve got to stack success.”
Steven Jackson ran for his first touchdown of the year, and just the Rams’ 10th overall, to trim the deficit to a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. But Rodgers made a terrific throw to Cobb for a 39-yard pass that put the Packers up by two scores with 3:06 remaining.
The Rams (3-4) will surrender home-field advantage next week when they travel to London to play the Patriots. The team flies out Monday night.
Chris Givens had a 56-yard reception for St. Louis on a screen pass in the fourth quarter, his fourth straight game with a 50-yard plus reception. Fellow rookie Greg Zuerlein kicked a 50-yard field goal.
Rodgers’ numbers were not nearly as flashy as last week, when he tied the franchise record with six touchdowns and no interceptions. But he was very efficient while leading an offense heavily tilted to the pass game that went 9 for 15 on third down.
The Rams were undefeated in the Edward Jones Dome. They opened the home schedule with victories against the Redskins, Seahawks and Cardinals, limiting opponents to 14.7 points per game.
Green Bay played without four defensive starters. Shields (shin, ankle), linebacker Nick Perry (knee) and tackle B.J. Raji (ankle) were inactive. Linebacker D.J. Smith was recently placed on injured reserve.
Bradford was 21 for 34 for 255 yards and an interception, and was sacked three times behind a patchwork line with just two starters left from the opener. Bradford threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Austin Pettis with 3 seconds to go.
After dominating in time of possession in the first half, holding the ball for more than 18 minutes, the Rams ran just seven plays in the third quarter and were held to minus-7 yards while the Packers had 129 yards and 11:39 in time of possession.
Nelson wrapped up his second straight 100-yard game early in the third quarter, often picking on rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Cobb threw a nice fake on Jenkins in the end zone on a 5-yard catch that put the Packers up 17-6 midway through the third, capping a 12-play, 80-yard drive to open the half that lasted nearly seven minutes.
“We had one of our best drives of the season, for sure,” Rodgers said. “It wasn’t the prettiest drive, but we converted a lot of third downs.
“That was a very key drive for us and a good one to look back on as we watch the film tomorrow.”
Rodgers completed his first nine passes for 115 yards, including a 52-yarder to Nelson that set up a 3-yarder for Nelson’s fourth score in two games. The first incompletion came with just more than six minutes left in the half when Rodgers slightly overthrew James Jones on a sideline pattern, with Jones able to get just his fingertips on the ball.
Nelson’s long catch came on a free play, with Long whistled for an offsides penalty.
“It’s an explosive gain and it really gets the energy heating up and going,” Nelson said. “Whenever you get a free opportunity to take a shot you’ve got to make the most of it.”
The Packers’ Jamari Lattimore recovered an onside kick at the Rams 49 after St. Louis’ Trumaine Johnson was flipped on his head when he was just about to haul in the ball, setting up a 47-yard field goal by Mason Crosby for a 10-3 lead late in the first.
Zuerlein ended a string of three misses, the last a 66-yarder that had the distance but was wide left at the end of last week’s 17-14 loss at Miami, with a 50-yarder that gave the Rams the early lead. Zuerlein is 5 for 7 from 50-plus yards.
Crosby was wide right and short on a line-drive 58-yard attempt, which would have matched his career best, on the final play of the half.
Givens, a fourth-round pick who’s been the Rams’ best deep threat all year, averaged 24.3 yards on three receptions. … Johnson left with a hip injury after the onside kick but returned for the third quarter. … Packers backup DE Mike Neal and Rams backup DE Eugene Sims both left with knee injuries in the second quarter. Sims, who will undergo additional medical testing, was the only significant injury for the Rams. … Packers DE Clay Matthews picked up his ninth sack in the third quarter when he chased down Bradford on a rollout.
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