Packers 21, Rams 7: Speedy delivery
Aaron Rodgers’ assessment was fast – just like the Green Bay Packers’ offense had been.
“We scored and we stayed healthy,” the Packers quarterback said following the team’s 21-7 preseason victory over the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome. “That's kind of a perfect preseason game."
Also kind of perfect: The Packers’ up-tempo, no-huddle offense, which Rodgers orchestrated en route to a touchdown and a field goal on his first two series of the exhibition season after sitting out last week’s rainy opener in Tennessee.
And even though every preseason success comes with the requisite caveat that defenses are intentionally keeping things bland – “We kept things very, very basic on defense,” said Rams coach Jeff Fisher, adding that he went into the game expecting the Packers to run their no-huddle extensively – there was no denying that the speed and execution was exactly what the Packers will try to replicate once the games do start to count.
The No. 1 offense – with Rodgers at the controls, Eddie Lacy in the backfield, rookie third-round pick Richard Rodgers at tight end and Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Jarrett Boykin at wide receiver – got the ball after the opening coin flip and hustled its way to a 3-yard Rodgers-to-Cobb touchdown, capping a 12-play, 86-yard, 5 minute 22 second sprint that included 47 yards on seven touches by Lacy, a 14-yard Rodgers scramble and back-to-back Boykin catches.
When they got the ball back again, James Starks went in at running back and Brandon Bostick and Andrew Quarless went in at tight end – but the results stayed the same. Rodgers directed another 12-play drive – this one covering 80 yards and taking 5:21 – en route to a 31-yard Mason Crosby field goal and a 10-0 lead. It would’ve been a 93-yard touchdown drive, but Rodgers’ 10-yard low fastball touchdown strike to Nelson was wiped out by one of the astonishing 30 penalties called (22 enforced) during the game.
Nevertheless, it was the kind of offensive clinic that coach Mike McCarthy was hoping for when he said that he wanted to speed up the offense and run 75 plays per game this season. Green Bay (1-1) ended up running 64 plays, but with the way the No. 1 offense was rolling, 75 snaps certainly would have been feasible.
“That’s what every team wants and offensively. I think we’re off to a good start,” McCarthy said after watching Rodgers complete 11 of 13 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown (133.3 rating).
“I thought the efficiency of our operation was what we were looking for. Obviously, [we were] very productive with the goals of scoring two drives and we were able to get that done. There will be a lot of film to learn from. We had the one touchdown come back because of the penalty, but I was very pleased with first offense.”
McCarthy acknowledged that last week’s rain-soaked preseason opener at Tennessee – a game which Rodgers, Lacy and Nelson all sat out – wasn’t conducive to the no-huddle offensive, which the Packers have been incorporating in their game plans for three years but appear dedicated to doing even more this season. Even against the Rams (0-2), who were without several key defensive players and were even more vanilla defensively than the Packers were, this qualified as a success because it took what the offense has been doing in practice and converted it to a game situation.
“I liked the tempo,” Rodgers said. “We talked about that a lot in practice. It's tough to simulate unless you're in a game situation. You can do it for a time in practice, but usually you don't simulate 12-play drives, calling that many plays. I think we had a couple of them. That was good for us. I know some of our guys were a little winded – myself included – at times during those two drives, but that's what you want. You want to get your wind up in the preseason, and I'm sure the Rams didn't mind it either because they were going to get a workout out there, too."
In fact, everyone got a workout, since the Packers kept running their no-huddle for the rest of the game, even when Rodgers traded his helmet for a baseball cap and Scott Tolzien (10 of 15, 107 yards) and Matt Flynn (2 of 3, 44 yards, with a 34-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Janis and a 2-point conversion to Davante Adams) took over.
“There’s a lot of benefits to it, but if you’re not good at it, there’s a lot of negatives to it, too,” Flynn said. “To be good at it, you’ve got to have guys that are in shape. And the benefits are that if your guys are in shape, you can gas defenses sometimes, you can get base looks, they have a hard time getting the exotic calls going on defense, and you [can] go out there and play your game.
“And what an advantage we have, having Aaron out there who’s a coach on the field and knows exactly what play to run against every defense.”
The starters figure to get one more crack at going up-tempo in Friday’s third preseason game, against Oakland at Lambeau Field. Rodgers and most other key starters figure to get the Aug. 28 preseason finale against Kansas City off as the focus will be on young players trying to make final impressions before Aug. 30 roster cutdowns.
“It felt good. It's what we wanted to come out and do,” said Nelson, who did not have a reception after his touchdown catch was revoked. “We did well. We moved the ball. We wish we’d have gotten that second touchdown, without the penalty, but we hit a lot of aspects in this game. We were able to run the ball, throw the ball, and Aaron scrambled a couple times. The [offensive] line did a great job of giving him time.
“We’ll check the film, there’s always areas to correct, but you can’t beat it.”
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today” on 540 ESPN, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.