The numbers didn’t look good for the Packers defense on Sunday, except for the number that mattered most.
The Packers gave up 424 total yards and allowed the Rams to freely move the ball between the 20-yard lines, but St. Louis managed just three points as Green Bay continued a season-long trend of rising up in the red zone in a 24-3 victory on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
“It’s the identity of this team, of this defense, and once you get an identity, you have to ride that throughout the year,” cornerback Tramon Williams said.
“We’re not trying to live that way purposely, but it’s not going to be perfect every time. It’s not going to be pretty.”
St. Louis rushed for 125 yards, with Steven Jackson accounting for 96 of them. The Rams had just one three-and-out possession, and they reached Green Bay territory on nine of 11 drives.
The Packers always found a way to stiffen, though. The Rams were forced to try two field goals, making only one. Playing catch-up, they turned the ball over on downs in Green Bay territory three times, and nickel cornerback Sam Shields intercepted a pass in the end zone on the most threatening drive late in the third quarter.
The Rams were zero-for-three in the red zone, beginning with settling for a field goal late in the first half. Then Shields’ pick and a dropped fourth-down pass by rookie tight end Lance Kendricks at the 10-yard line killed two promising second-half drives.
“We’ll take the bad with the good,” safety Charlie Peprah said. “While we might not be where we want to be statistically, as long as we get the W’s and keep them out of the end zone, I think we can live with that.”
Feeling good about their effort, Williams said he and fellow corner Charles Woodson were on the sideline at the end of the game, looking up at the scoreboard almost in disbelief that they had given up 400-plus yards again.
It’s the third time an opponent has gained 400 yards this season, with a fourth (Denver) racking up 384. But Williams said this time it honestly didn’t feel like it, because the defense kept getting off the field when it had to.
“I’m not disappointed at all,” Woodson said. “You keep a team out of the end zone, you’ve done a great job. To hold a team to three points when they’re moving the ball up and down the field on you says a lot about you. You give some things, but you buckle down in the times when you’re supposed to.”
Second-year quarterback Sam Bradford passed for 321 yards, but with no touchdowns and an interception, he posted a pedestrian passer rating of just 76.0. He made only two big plays through the air – a 45-yard catch-and-run early in the game by Kendricks and a 32-yard completion to Danario Alexander in the fourth quarter.
Bradford was also sacked three times, twice in Green Bay territory to help thwart drives. The final sack was the long-awaited second sack of the season by outside linebacker Clay Matthews, coming on fourth down at the Green Bay 34 on the Rams’ final possession.
“I’m doing my job. I can say that honestly, knowing that they ask me to put pressure on the quarterback, stop the run, put hits on them, do what I do, and they’ll come,” Matthews said, once again answering questions about his sacks total.
“I think we’re playing especially well when we know they’re getting close to scoring, really buckling down, but we need to be able to do that all over the field.”
What the Packers did on Sunday was plenty good enough, especially with the offense getting shut out in the second half for the first time since the NFC Championship Game last January.
“We’ve been saying this the whole time that there’s going to be a point in time where the offense is not going to click like they should and the defense is going to have to step up,” Williams said. “That’s what we did. We did it the second half last week at Atlanta, and we did it here, kept them off the scoreboard. There’s give and take. We know they’re going to have to score for us again. It’s a team effort.”
The effort has kept the zero in the loss column. That’s the most important number of all.
“We’ve got a long ways to go, but we’re making improvements,” Matthews said. “To hold a team to three points speaks volumes. To keep them out of the end zone is what we strive for each and every week. But we’re giving up a few too many yards, too many big plays, missed tackles.
“At the end of the day, we are 6-0. We’re playing good defense and we’re winning.” Additional coverage - Packers vs. Rams