PETE DOUGHERTY

Of­fense failed to de­liver when it was needed

Packer Plus - - News - Pete Dougherty Colum­nist

Los An­ge­les — The Green Bay Pack­ers had the chance to shake up their sea­son.

They had the NFC’s best team on the ropes in its own sta­dium, though there very well might have been more Pack­ers fans than Rams fans in the Los An­ge­les Memo­rial Coli­seum on Sun­day af­ter­noon.

And then, with the game on the line, they blinked.

Their de­fense did enough to win. Of course, Ty Mont­gomery will have to bear a lot of the re­spon­si­bil­ity for fum­bling away the Pack­ers’ chance to win the game in the fi­nal two min­utes.

But re­ally, Mike Mc­Carthy’s and Aaron Rodgers’ of­fense had to win this game for the Pack­ers and didn’t come through. They had their chance in the fourth quar­ter, with the ball at their own 21, 6:49 to play and a 27-26 lead.

Their de­fense had done the job with a huge stop. Now they needed points. Even a field goal would have given them some day­light, and a touch­down would have re­ally put the pres­sure on the un­beaten Rams.

In­stead, the Pack­ers went three-and­out.

It started with Mc­Carthy’s ques­tion­able de­ci­sion to trot Mont­gomery out on first down in­stead of Aaron Jones. Jones was hav­ing a big day, and if ever there was a time to have the threat of play ac­tion, that was it. In­stead, the drive started with an in­com­ple­tion to Mont­gomery.

Jones picked up four yards on a run the next play. And then, in case any­one was won­der­ing how valu­able great play­ers are in this league, and es­pe­cially great pass rush­ers, Aaron Don­ald showed up. He bull­dozed Lane Tay­lor and sacked Rodgers to bring the posses­sion to a quick end.

For my money, that was the Pack­ers’ best chance to win. They have do it with of­fense, it’s the way they’re built, and the game was in their of­fense’s hands.

“I’m dis­ap­pointed be­cause our de- fense re­ally played well,” Rodgers said, “and we were just re­ally slow go­ing in the first half and couldn’t get a lot of things go­ing. By the time we got back up ahead, we just had one drive to fin­ish the game off and didn’t come up with it.”

Don’t get me wrong: Mont­gomery’s gaffe was huge. Why he de­cided to bring out the re­turn from a cou­ple yards deep in the end zone is be­yond any­one. Mc­Carthy said the re­turn man was in­structed not to – you don’t want to waste valu­able time in the fi­nal two min­utes to re­turn a ball where he’d be lucky to get to the 25 any­way.

So of course, Mont­gomery’s lost fum­ble set­tled the mat­ter. There’s no deny­ing that. It reeked of Bran­don Bo­stick’s de­ci­sion to try to catch the on­side kick in the NFC Cham­pi­onship Game a few years ago. That one cost the Pack­ers a trip to the Su­per Bowl. This one cost Rodgers the chance for an­other last­minute come­back and up­set win over the Rams.

But as bad as Mont­gomery’s mis­take was, it takes points to win in this wideopen pass­ing league, and the Pack­ers, an of­fen­sive team if there ever was one, didn’t get a score when they needed one.

So they come away from their 29-27 loss at 3-3-1. No sur­prise there. They went into this one as 9½-point un­der­dogs and played their best, most com­plete game of the sea­son. Con­sid­er­ing how they’d played through their first six games, in some ways they can look at this as a step for­ward.

Their de­fense, even in giv­ing up 27 points, was good enough. Their young cor­ner­backs showed that when they’re healthy, they can re­ally cover. Jaire Alexan­der (five pass breakups) had about as good a game as a cor­ner­back can have with­out get­ting an in­ter­cep­tion. To win in this league you need guys who can cover great ath­letes in open space, and Alexan­der did that play af­ter play.

Like­wise, Aaron Jones proved yet again he’s an ex­plo­sive run­ner. He had a 7.2-yard av­er­age on 12 car­ries, which is rea­son enough to get him on the field more. He might not pro­tect Rodgers well as a blocker, but he sure does as a run­ner.

Af­ter watch­ing Mont­gomery ten­ta­tively pick a hole on his two car­ries for the day, it’s time to shrink the run­ning back ro­ta­tion to two, Jones and Ja­maal Wil­liams. Noth­ing wrong with putting Mont­gomery out there on third downs, or for a play here and there. But there’s no rea­son to give him an en­tire se­ries un­less it’s in two-minute mode.

Re­gard­less, there are no mo­ral vic­to­ries in the NFL. This one goes in the “L” col­umn. Com­ing off the bye and play­ing on what re­ally was a neu­tral field, the Pack­ers had the chance for a big up­set and didn’t come through.

“The ur­gency has to pick up, so maybe (this game) does that,” Rodgers said, “but there’s no mo­men­tum gained from a loss, in my opin­ion. We can play with any­body, but we knew that be­fore this game. It wasn’t like there was some rev­e­la­tion, ‘Oh, OK, now, yeah, we can prob­a­bly play with the Rams.’ No, we can play with any­body.”

In any game that goes down to the wire like this, you can pick out a play here or de­ci­sion there that was costly. One of the killers for the Pack­ers, of course, was the late sec­ond-quar­ter safety that ef­fec­tively erased their ex­cel­lent first half and 10-0 lead.

You have to won­der why Mc­Carthy, from in­side his own 1, ran straight into the guts of a de­fense that in­cludes Aaron Don­ald and Ndamukong Suh, though Bryan Bu­laga also blew it when he dou­ble teamed de­fen­sive end Michael Brock­ers rather than pick up line­backer Mark Bar­ron shoot­ing the gap.

Of course, the Rams go through and find some mis­takes that cost them, too.

But when you get down to it, the Pack­ers have to win with of­fense, and on this day, against a good team, when they re­ally needed a score they didn’t get it. It re­ally was as sim­ple as that.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Rams de­fen­sive tackle Aaron Don­ald sacks quar­ter­back Aaron Rodgers, quickly end­ing a Pack­ers’ se­ries in the fourth quar­ter.

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