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Game Review: Winning Formula On Display In St. Louis

ST. LOUIS - There’s no one way to win an NFL football game, but the formula the Packers used on Sunday in St. Louis would be tough to beat anytime and anywhere. Turnovers, big plays and a fourth-quarter ground game all added up to a 36-17 victory over the Rams in front of a partially pro-Packers crowd of 60,234 at the Edward Jones Dome. - More Packers-Rams Game Center


QB Aaron Rodgers spikes the ball in the end zone following his 4-yard TD run in the fourth quarter on Sunday in St. Louis.

ST. LOUIS - There's no one way to win an NFL football game, but the formula the Packers used on Sunday in St. Louis would be tough to beat anytime and anywhere.

Converting turnovers on defense into points, using the big play on offense to jump-start scoring drives, and finding a productive running game in the fourth quarter all added up to a 36-17 victory over the Rams in front of a partially pro-Packers crowd of 60,234 at the Edward Jones Dome.

With the win, the Packers put a disappointing Week 2 home loss behind them and improved to 2-1, one game in the NFC North behind next week's opponent, the unbeaten Minnesota Vikings.

"We just kept throwing punches," fill-in left tackle Daryn Colledge said. "It wasn't pretty. It wasn't the prettiest game we'll ever play, but we just kept throwing punches and found a way to win."

It might have looked nicer had the Packers turned it into a blowout early, which they had the chance to do. After an early field goal for a 3-0 lead, Green Bay got turnovers on the next two St. Louis possessions but couldn't convert them into touchdowns.

Aaron Kampman knocked Rams quarterback Marc Bulger out of the game with a bruised shoulder when he hit his arm during a pass attempt, forcing a fumble that Johnny Jolly recovered at the St. Louis 15-yard line. But Aaron Rodgers missed a wide-open Donald Driver on a corner route to the end zone, and the Packers settled for three points.

Then a slew of Green Bay defenders led by Cullen Jenkins stood up running back Steven Jackson and stripped the ball, with Al Harris recovering at the St. Louis 12. But another mistake, this one a false-start penalty, led to another field goal and a 9-0 lead.

"We didn't get the point production you'd probably like," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "There were some up and down parts of the game and I really like the way the team responded, kept fighting."

The offense responded with a much more efficient second quarter, thanks to two long pass plays. An improbable one-handed catch by Driver for 46 yards and a 50-yard catch-and-run by Greg Jennings set up two touchdowns, a 1-yard fullback dive by John Kuhn and a 21-yard TD toss to Driver.

The defense struggled in that second quarter, though, allowing backup quarterback Kyle Boller to drive the Rams 78 and 84 yards for a pair of touchdowns. Both scores came on passes to tight end Daniel Fells, the second one with just two seconds left in the first half, cutting Green Bay's lead to 23-14.

St. Louis got three points closer with a field goal early in the third quarter, but the Green Bay offense got going again to put the game away.

First, the Packers got out of a hole when they were backed up to their own 2-yard line, moving out near midfield. They didn't score on that drive, but after getting it back from the Rams, a 53-yard pass to Jennings on the first play of the fourth quarter set up a 4-yard quarterback draw by Rodgers for a 29-17 advantage.

From there, the Packers turned to running back Ryan Grant, who pounded away for 50 of his 99 rushing yards in the fourth quarter. In fact, counting the last two plays of the third quarter, when Grant had consecutive 7-yard runs, Green Bay's feature back rushed 13 times for 64 yards (4.9 avg.) in the game's final 16 minutes.

"The most important statistic in my view around football is to be able to run it for four quarters," McCarthy said. "The yards came there at the end, and that's when you really needed them. Just the fact that we were able to sustain a four-quarter run-pass mix up is playing to our strength."

It was tough sledding early for Grant, who had just 25 yards on 10 carries (2.5 avg.) in the first half behind the re-shuffled offensive line that had Colledge at left tackle for Chad Clifton (ankle), Jason Spitz at left guard and Scott Wells at center. Grant had a key 9-yard run to help get the Packers out of that field-position hole in the third quarter, but then a 10-yard run later on that drive was called back for a holding penalty.

"It was a little tough early on, but I'm glad guys kept fighting, stayed with it," Grant said. "I just tried to just keep running hard and be a spark for guys, keep that intensity going. (The line) got better as the game went on."

Added Rodgers: "I like the fact that we stayed with the run. I felt we wore them down in the second half a little bit."

{sportsad300}The defense also tightened up in the second half, allowing the Rams only two first downs and 47 yards of offense on their next four possessions after they had pulled within six points. Jackson was their workhorse, posting 27 carries for 117 rushing yards and five catches for 46 receiving yards to account for 48.5 percent of St. Louis' 336 total yards.

The defense had one more turnover in it, too, as Charles Woodson stepped in front of Danny Amendola on a crossing route and picked off Boller's pass at the St. Louis 26. Three plays later, Rodgers found Kuhn wide open in the right flat for a 10-yard TD pass for the game's final points.

That gave the Packers 13 points total off of the Rams' three turnovers, and put Green Bay - which didn't turn the ball over for the second time in three games - at an impressive plus-8 turnover ratio for the season.

"That's been the theme ever since we've been together is getting turnovers and causing havoc," linebacker Brady Poppinga said. "That's the identity we've created. It's been great up to this point and it's a matter of continuing that and maintaining that throughout the rest of the season and beyond."

Maintaining all aspects of Sunday's winning formula wouldn't hurt either. It will be difficult to do that against teams better than a winless Rams' squad playing with a backup quarterback, but for now it leaves the Packers in a much better place than they were a week ago.

"It's good to come back from a loss like we had last week, a very disappointing loss," Poppinga said. "It shows the character of this team. It shows who we are more than anything."

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