It’s been 42 days since the Green Bay Packers have been able to enjoy a Victory Monday.
A 20-3 win over the Matthew Stafford-less Los Angeles Rams snapped a four-game losing streak and improved Green Bay’s record to 3-5 on the season.
“Man, it feels good to win,” defensive lineman Kenny Clark said in front of his locker after the game. “It’s huge with all the work that we put it for it to pay off, huge for our confidence. We have to keep it going, stay locked in and focused. Very proud of how our defense played today, especially our secondary against two excellent receivers. We’re going to enjoy this one.”
On a cloudy and sometimes misty afternoon at Lambeau Field Sunday afternoon, the struggling Packers offense showed improvement and the short-handed defense held Los Angeles to a single field goal with a solid performance over four quarters.
Packers players got to double-dip with their usual day off on Tuesday after a short day of film review, team meetings, and rehab on Monday.
With a road game Sunday in Pittsburgh to game plan for, there is no such luxury for Matt LaFleur and his coaching staff. But LaFleur sported a smile as he addressed the media in his post-game press conference.
“Well, it feels good to be able to celebrate in the locker room,” said LaFleur, who reached a career milestone with his 50th career regular-season victory. LaFleur accomplished this in his 74th career game to become the second-fastest Packers head coach to 50 wins. The first? Vince Lombardi, who earned his 50th after 66 games.
“I think any time you win a game in this league, you can never take it for granted, and certainly I’m proud of our guys,” LaFleur said. “They continue to battle. The Rams, you have to give them a lot of credit. They played us tough for three and a half quarters. Obviously, being shorthanded, when you don’t have your quarterback the caliber of Matthew Stafford, that’s tough for them. But I was really proud of our defense today, because they were put in some really tough situations, and, you know, we survived some of those bad spots.”
The offensive woes continued for the Green Bay offense in the first quarter, but the Packers scored first on a seven-play, 41-yard drive after the defense recovered a Rypien fumble. Jones scored on a 3-yard run for a 7-0 lead one minute into the second quarter, but Los Angeles capped a 13-play drive with a 52-yard field goal to close within 7-3 before halftime.
It was Green Bay’s first touchdown scored in the first half of a game since a Week 2 loss in Atlanta.
The Packers continued their second-half scoring success, tallying 13 unanswered points in the final two-quarters of the game on two Anders Carlson field goals and a 20-yard Love to tight end Luke Musgrave pass play that cemented the victory 20-3 late in the contest.
Penalties again were an Achilles Heel for Green Bay, as the team accumulated eight for 57 yards. It was far from a perfect performance—ugly at times—but there were some positives by the Packers offense and defense to build on:
Jordan Love did not throw an interception and completed 20 of 26 passes with a career-high completion percentage of 76.9 and a 115.5 quarterback rating.
While Love still struggled with deep throws, including severely underthrowing a streaking Christian Watson at the goal line, he threw for 228 yards and a 20-yard touchdown to Musgrave on a perfectly executed play fake with 3:41 left to seal the victory.
Aaron Jones took on a workhorse load, rushing 20 times for 73 yards—five more than the entire Rams team’s total for the game—and caught four passes for 26 yards. His play-making ability lifts the entire offense, which totaled 391 yards and a season-high 184 yards on the ground. Emanual Wilson and AJ Dillon contributed 43 and 40 yards respectively.
“I think Aaron has been getting healthier each and every week,” LaFleur said. “Certainly, to be able to give him the ball as much as we did today helps our offense. He’s a dynamic player and usually good things happen when the ball is in his hands. I know he had the fumble and he said he had to make up for that. He’s done that. He’s done so much for us over the course of the five years I’ve been here.”
Rams quarterback Brett Rypien had a long afternoon, fumbling the ball on a hit by Jonathan Owens in the first quarter that led to a short field for a Green Bay touchdown drive.
“Just not good enough,” Rypien said. “I had the fumble early. . then had a tipped interception. If that ball is six inches further out there it’s probably a completion.
“It’s a small margin of error in this league and we just fell short today.”
The Packers defense limited the Rams’ rushing attack to just 68 yards in 26 attempts (2.6 yard average) and Rypien completed 13 of 28 passes for 130 yards for a 45.2 quarterback rating. LaFleur praised the play of his defense, and especially the secondary which featured two rookies playing prominent roles after the trading of Rasul Douglas to Buffalo earlier in the week.
Cornerback Jaire Alexander returned to his Pro Bowl form, showcasing his athleticism with two leaping tipped passes, including one that was intercepted, along with seven total tackles.
“You have to give it up for guys like Carrington Valentine, who steps in and I thought he played as good as he’s played and Jonathan Owens coming in there and making plays, (and) Anthony Johnson,” LaFleur said. “Jaire looked like the Jaire that we all expect. He was flying around. He was all over the place, making great plays. Obviously, he had the one PBU that led to the interception. And I thought we played physical. I thought we did a good job against the run.”
Love said getting Jones in a rhythm early was a key to the game.
“It was very big,” Love said. Anytime you have a player like that, you want to get him the ball as much as you can and get him going. . . that’s what we did early. He was able to make some really good runs and a couple of catches. Anytime you can get him going, get him in a rhythm, it’s big time.”
Green Bay will need Jones and player-makers like Watson, Wicks, Reed, and Musgrave to continue to contribute as the Packers travel to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers at 12 noon on Sunday.
“The guys continue to battle each and every day,” LaFleur said. “I see it. I think we’re making some improvements. We’re far from a finished product, I would say, but it does feel good to win, and I think that will give us hopefully some energy as we come in and have a very tough contest next week in Pittsburgh.
“It’s a team that’s been as consistent as anybody over the years under Mike Tomlin, so we have to have a great week or preparation for that in order to have the same feeling next week.”