A lot of football heads apply the term “garbage time” to a team that finds any offensive success while attempting to come back from a deficit of two touchdowns or more late in the fourth quarter. The St. Louis Rams found success in garbage time, as Sam Bradford found an open Austin Pettis in the back of the end zone with 19 seconds left in the game.
However, it was garbage time. The touchdown simply made the final score a little prettier, but the 30-20 victory for the Green Bay Packers wasn't as pleasing to the eye of Rams fans.
After struggling for much of the first few weeks, Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers returned to form last week against a staunch Houston Texans defense. Rodgers continued to look normal — by his own extremely-high standard — against the Rams’ defense, completing 30 of his 37 pass attempts for 342 yards and three touchdowns.
The game was incredibly even up and down the stat sheet, but the most glaring difference was certainly the difference in the game: on third downs, Rodgers was… well, Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay converted nine of its 15 third downs, while St. Louis was 4-of-11.
Against any other team today, the Rams would have had a chance. It wasn't necessarily that St. Louis’ secondary looked awful; the young unit just ran into the buzz saw that is Rodgers, who can make even the best NFL defense look like putty with his mobility and precision. The former league MVP took advantage of the softer coverage St. Louis employed all game, hitting receivers Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and James Jones on short hitches and slants while the Rams’ defensive backs continued to play off.
Rodgers led Green Bay's second drive into the end zone by hooking up with Nelson for three yards to make the score 7-3. Rodgers and Nelson connected three times on the drive — including a 51-yard completion — en route to Nelson's final tally of eight catches for a season-high 122 yards.
The Packers successfully recovered an onside kick following the score at the expense of Rams’ cornerback Trumaine Johnson, who was flipped over while leaping to grab the ball. The Rams forced Green Bay's Mason Crosby to miss a field goal as time expired in the first half, leaving the score close at 10-6. The defense also held the Packers to 31 yards rushing in the first two periods.
Although the Packers continued to struggle on the ground in the second half — backup running back Alex Green gained only 35 yards in Cedric Benson's absence — it made no difference to their pass-first offense. Rodgers came out of the locker room firing, completing passes of 18, 13 and 17 yards before finding Cobb all alone in the back of the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown. Cobb finished with 89 yards on eight catches and two TDs.
Two drives later, Rams’ QB Sam Bradford tossed an interception to rookie corner Casey Heyward on a fade pass intended for receiver Chris Givens late in the third quarter. The Packers answered with another Crosby field goal with 11:55 left in the game, this time from 23 yards to push the lead to 20-6.
The game was far from over, however. Following the kickoff, Givens broke free with a 56-yard catch-and-run on a receiver screen, extending his streak to four-straight games with a catch of 50 yards or more. The play ignited St. Louis’ offense, with the most inspiring play coming from Steven Jackson on a 6-yard touchdown plunge at the 8:55 mark, his first of the year. Jackson gained 57 yards on 12 carries.
Then came the dagger. With 3:19 left on the clock, the Rams’ pass rush flushed Rodgers out to his left on what seemed like a promising defensive effort. In what has become typical fashion for Rodgers, the quarterback lofted a perfect 39-yard TD pass to Cobb with two defenders bearing down on him, extending the lead to 27-13. St. Louis got its garbage-time touchdown after another Crosby field goal, but the damage had already been done.
Bradford finished 21-of-34 for 255 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Givens led the team in yards, gaining 73 on three receptions, while Brandon Gibson caught five passes for 60 yards.