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Defense gashed again but keeps Rams out of end zone

Oct. 16, 2011
 
Green Bay Packers cornerback Tramon Williams tries to break up a pass intended for St. Louis Rams receiver Greg Salas in the first quarter of Sunday's game at Lambeau Field.
Green Bay Packers cornerback Tramon Williams tries to break up a pass intended for St. Louis Rams receiver Greg Salas in the first quarter of Sunday's game at Lambeau Field. / Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette

Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson stood on the sideline, glanced at the scoreboard and felt pretty good in the waning moments of a 24-3 win against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday. The Packers are the lone undefeated team in the NFL and are 6-0 for the first time since 1965. The defense had just allowed a season-low three points.

However …

“We looked up at the scoreboard and (Woodson) was like, ‘We still gave up 400 yards,’” Williams said. “I was like, ‘For real?’ It didn’t really feel that way. I don’t know what it was, but it didn’t feel like we gave up that many yards. But we did. But we got the win.”

To hold any NFL team to three points is an accomplishment, but room for improvement remains.

The Rams weren’t exactly “The Greatest Show on Turf” and came into the game ranked No. 31 in total offense and No. 32 in points per game. Their big offensive free agent acquisition, receiver Mike Sims-Walker, was benched because of a lack of productivity. And second-year quarterback Sam Bradford still passed for 321 yards as the Rams used their version of the hurry-up offense. They put up 424 yards, but just three points.

The defense has allowed 400-plus yards in three of six games.

“We’re sticking with the theme this year, giving up a few too many yards, but making the play when we need to and keeping them out of the end zone, which is a plus,” linebacker Clay Matthews said. “But gave up too many yards, too many big plays. There’s obviously room for improvement, but at the end of the day, holding them to three points is a big accomplishment.

“We’ve got a long ways to go. We’re making improvement.”

The Rams moved the ball inside the red zone three times and failed to cross the goal line, but their miscues kept additional points off the board. Josh Brown missed a 47-yard field goal on the game’s first possession. Bradford was picked off by Sam Shields on first-and-goal from the 10-yard line just before the third quarter ended. Lance Kendricks dropped a pass on fourth-and-6 from the Green Bay 15-yard line.

But the Packers pressured Bradford throughout the day and recorded three sacks — one from Matthews, A.J. Hawk and Charles Woodson. The last time the Packers held a team to three points was the 2010 season finale against the Bears, a 10-3 Green Bay victory.

“It’s not that we’re not playing with intensity,” safety Charlie Peprah said. “It’s more little things — people have to be in the right gap here, people have to do this, do that. Just focus things like that. Little things you have to clean up. That’s what practice is for, film study. We’re going to get it corrected. But we know when they get within scoring range — do whatever it takes to keep them out.

“We pride ourselves on red-zone defense. Our mindset is don’t let them in. Keep ’em out. That’s what we say, keep ’em out. If anything, make them kick.”

Coach Mike McCarthy added: “At the end of the day, it’s about keeping them out of the end zone. I would definitely say that’s a win for our defense.”

The Packers ranked No. 24 in the NFL in total defense at the end of the afternoon games, but No. 7 in points allowed per game. They’ve been the quintessential bend-but-don’t-break defense — which is a dangerous way to live.

“It’s a mindset,” Williams said of their red-zone success. “It’s obviously physical, you’ve got to have it. But it’s definitely a mindset. It’s the identity of this team, of this defense. Once you get an identity, you have to ride that throughout the year.

“We’re not trying to live that way purposely, but everyone in this league is good. It’s not going to be perfect every time. It’s not going to be pretty. If you get the job done and get the win, you have more time to prepare and get better consistently throughout the year.”

kcopeland@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @kareemcopeland.

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