STUDS AND DUDS
Putting the spotlight on several individual performances
Several terrific individual performances weren’t enough for the Green Bay Packers to escape Los Angeles with a season-altering win over the undefeated Rams on Sunday.
Two big mistakes – a safety that ignited the Rams’ rally, and a fumbled kickoff return that robbed the Packers of a final opportunity to win – led to a 29-27 defeat and a third loss in seven games to start the 2018 season.
Here are the studs and duds from the Packers’ loss to the Rams:
STUDS CB Jaire Alexander
The rookie cornerback became the first Packers defensive back with five pass breakups in a single game since 2005. He covered Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods all over the field, blanketing deep routes, intermediate targets and short stuff from the slot. He played inside and on the perimeter, took on two playmakers without hesitation and made plays everywhere. The Packers’ firstround pick added seven tackles, including an impressive open-field stop on Cooks on a jet sweep in the fourth quarter.
DL Kenny Clark, Mike Daniels
They’re bunched together because Sunday was arguably the best game they’ve ever played together. The Packers were able to survive against the run and consistently pressure Jared Goff largely due to Clark and Daniels dominating the line of scrimmage on every snap. While Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh were great for the Rams, Clark and Daniels were as good or better Sunday. Clark produced two sacks, numerous other pressures and five tackles at or near the line of scrimmage, while Daniels consistently won at the point of attack or collapsed the pocket, including at least two plays where he bull-rushed All-Pro left tackle Andrew Whitworth into the quarterback and created pressures for others.
WR Davante Adams
Adams was underused Sunday, receiving only seven targets despite consis- tently winning routes against All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters. He still produced five catches for 133 yards, marking his third straight 100-yard receiving game. He beat Peters with a double move for a 48-yard completion, setting up the Packers’ first touchdown. Later, he smoked Peters on the post for 41 yards, setting up the Packers’ final touchdown. Both big plays came on third down. Over the last three games, Adams has 24 catches for 405 yards and three scores. He’s on pace for 119 catches and almost 1,600 yards this season.
OLB Clay Matthews
Matthews will likely never be an everydown disruptor again, but he is capable of providing a few big plays every game. That’s exactly what he produced Sunday. He forced a throwaway from Goff with an inside rush and a hit on the quarterback in the first half; he crashed down on the tight end and caused a tackle for loss on third-and-short to force a punt; and he worked back to the quarterback to take down Goff on third down in a key spot late. If the Packers can get three impact plays from Matthews every week, they’ll be in good shape.
RB Aaron Jones
Jones continues to be a spark plug any time he receives opportunities. He produced 45 yards on his first seven touches and was on the field for both touchdown drives in the second half, including one he finished on his own with a 33-yard score on a draw play. When he’s on the field and getting chances, the Packers move the football and score points.
LB Blake Martinez
Clark and Daniels kept Martinez clean for most of the afternoon, allowing him to fly into gaps and make plays in the run game. He was also mostly solid in coverage, with several stops on Gurley in space after short catches. Martinez finished with a game-high 12 tackles and one sack, which he delivered in the first half by beating veteran John Sullivan and taking down Goff on third down, forcing a punt.
WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling
The rookie receiver continues to develop on the fly. He played 31 snaps, second only to Davante Adams at receiver. Trust is building. And why wouldn’t it? Aaron Rodgers trusted him on a short pass while backed up near their own end zone, and he went back to him in a pivotal spot in the fourth quarter when Valdes-Scantling beat the press and re-stacked the corner on a go-route (which Rodgers said he asked for on the sideline before the series) for a 40-yard touchdown pass. Every week, the rookie gets a little better.
DUDS S Jermaine Whitehead
Mike Pettine’s plan was to use Whitehead as a third safety on the field to combat the Rams’ passing game and help cover dynamic running back Todd Gurley. The NFL’s best offense and best play-caller eventually found ways to exploit the idea. Gurley beat Whitehead on a 32-yard catch up the sideline late in the first half and then got lost in the shuffle when Whitehead didn’t recognize Gurley’s crossing route, resulting in a 30-yard TD. Later, Goff found Josh Reynolds for a TD between Whitehead’s zone coverage. A pre-snap penalty bailed him out on a missed coverage on Gerald Everett. RB Ty Montgomery
He carried two times for 6 yards, caught one pass on two targets for 2 yards and made two huge mistakes. On the first, Montgomery failed to help pass protect when Aaron Donald came screaming inside, resulting in a third-down sack with just under seven minutes to go. Then, of course, he took the final kickoff out of the end zone and fumbled away Rodgers’ final chance to win the game. Forget whether he was told to take a knee or not; a veteran HAS to know the situation and HAS to hold onto the football.
G Lane Taylor
Arguably no player on the roster had a tougher assignment than Taylor, who played 60 minutes against the best defensive player in football. The left guard won some battles but Aaron Donald scored a decisive victory. Late in the first half and into the second, Donald dominated the contest, consistently disrupting the pocket or redirecting the run game.
P JK Scott
It was his 25-yard punt late in the fourth quarter that directly contributed to the Packers’ collapse. The shank essentially handed the Rams three points.
Packers linebacker Blake Martinez sacks quarterback Jared Goff on Sunday. Martinez led the team with 12 tackles.