LOS ANGELES – The Green Bay Packers' offense took on two different forms Sunday in a 29-27 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, finding varying degrees of success by at first pounding away with a balanced, tight-end-heavy call sheet, and then spreading them out with up to five pass catchers flooding the backfield.
“Creativity aspect, I mean that’s what the offseason’s for,” Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said. “We’ve got a lot of scheme, all three phases left. But once again, you want to fit the, make sure you’re giving your players a chance to be successful. That’s why you when you move those guys around that’s really a product of who’s healthy and what you think they’re going to do.”
In the first half, the Packers handed the ball off 13 times to running backs for 54 yards and had Aaron Rodgers drop back 15 times to pass (including a sack and scramble). Aaron Jones rushed eight times for 44 yards (5.5 yards per rush) and Rodgers was an efficient, if unspectacular, 7-for-13 for 127 yards and no touchdowns in giving the Packers a 10-8 halftime lead.
All four tight ends on the active roster saw playing time, with Lance Kendricks being motioned into the backfield as a lead blocker.
"We wanted to come out balanced, we wanted to establish the run and get them to back up a little bit and not stack the box," Jones said. "That way we could open up on play action, which you saw play action was working well."
McCarthy then switched it up in the second half, splitting Jimmy Graham out wide with three other wide receivers. A running back would often leak out as another option. The Packers handed off just four times to running backs in the second half and Rodgers dropped back 20 times.
“That was Mike calling the plays,” Rodgers said. “I call them in the two-minute but we decided to open things up a little bit in the second half and it was working. We went to some one-by-three stuff, moving Davante (Adams) around, then got Jones some opportunities on favorable down-and-distances.”
Jones broke off a 33-yard touchdown run on one of those handoffs, and Rodgers went 11-for-17 for 159 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Adams (5 catches, 133 yards) caught a 41-yard pass to set up Jones’ touchdown run.
“We just got a little more aggressive," Adams said of the second-half switch. "That’s what we gotta do. We gotta start out like that and games aren’t going to be as close. I feel like we called a pretty good game. Aaron had some great checks in there, he manipulated a lot of what was going on in that second half. When you get a good feel for what’s going on, it makes things easier.
Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix said he was aware of the reports circulating on social media that he was on the trading block.
Clinton-Dix has said that he didn’t expect to be with the team next season because he's in the final year of his contract, but he probably didn’t think he would be gone as early as Tuesday when the trade deadline arrives.
“I don’t know anything for sure,” Clinton-Dix said. “I’ve got to get to Tuesday, if I hear something I hear something.”
Asked if he thought the reports were true, he said, “You tell me, am I getting traded or not? Yes or no? Is it 100 percent?”
Apparently, we’ll know very soon.
With three more road games in the next four weeks, the Packers have to find a solution to their issues on the road thus far in 2018.
The loss Sunday dropped the Packers to 0-3, and they have to travel to New England, Seattle and Minnesota by the end of November.
“We’re in a tough stretch right now, playing a bunch of division winners,” Rodgers said. “We’ve got to find a way to win a game on the road. We’re 0-3 on the road; we’re 3-0-1 at home. We know we’re tough to beat at home. Now we know we can play with anybody, if we didn’t know that already, so we’ve got to go to New England and beat a really good football team.”
Added center Corey Linsley: “We’re right there. We’re right there. We gotta make some changes, we gotta make the right moves and just progress. We haven’t taken that step. The more and more we go on the road, the more urgent it is to press ahead.”
Ty Montgomery’s fumble wasn’t the only special-teams gaffe that hurt the Packers in the fourth quarter. Nor, perhaps, was it the most unsettling moving forward.
Rookie punter JK Scott was drafted in the fifth round this spring precisely to flip the field and help the Packers' defense, especially late in a tight game. Punting from the Packers 15-yard line with 5:30 left and a 1-point lead, Scott shanked a 25-yard punt that gave the Rams possession at the Packers 40.
The Rams took advantage of the short field, pulling in position to kick a 34-yard field goal that set the final score at 29-27. The Packers had a chance to win without Montgomery’s fumble, but perhaps it wouldn’t have mattered had Scott flipped the field.
Scott said he dropped the football too inside on his final punt, forcing him to swing his leg across his body.
“It’s definitely one of those where you don’t really need to look up,” Scott said. “You just know you mishit it.”
The shanked punt ruined an otherwise good day. Scott had averaged 47.25 yards per punt on his first four, with a long of 55. But the rookie couldn’t come through in the clutch, mishitting his biggest punt of the game.
Sam Shields found a way to make big plays against his former team, and the veteran cornerback didn’t even have a pass breakup.
Shields went back to his roots in the second quarter, catching a 12-yard pass on a fake punt to extend a drive. The Rams didn’t score on the possession, but it helped change momentum after a slow start.
Cornerback Kevin King, who was responsible for Shields on the fake, said he wasn’t caught by surprise when Rams punter Johnny Hekker threw Shields a pass.
“They like to do that. Because their punter is actually their third quarterback, so I know they like to do that. But sometimes they go deep with it.
“So kudos to them. That was a good play.”
Shields also had a big special-teams play later in the second quarter, downing a punt at the 1-yard line. This time, his play did result in points. Running back Aaron Jones was tackled in the end zone one play later for a safety.