Packers must make this their new standard

181028-editorial-2560

LOS ANGELES – Aaron Rodgers said “it wasn’t some revelation” that the Packers showed they could play with the league’s best on Sunday.

But even if the Packers didn’t have to prove it to themselves, they proved it to a lot of outsiders in a tough 29-27 loss to the unbeaten Rams.

A moral victory? Absolutely not. No such thing in the NFL. A meaningful loss? It has to be.

“We’re eight weeks in, we’ve got nine to go,” Rodgers said with the Packers 3-3-1 and their bye week in the rear-view mirror. “We’re in a tough stretch now playing a bunch of division winners.

“We have to find a way to win some of these on the road. Now we know we can play with anybody, if we didn’t know that already.”

The schedule gets no easier, with a prime-time trip to New England next week and road games at Seattle and Minnesota looming up through Thanksgiving weekend.

The Packers are now winless on the road in three tries, but in coming up one possession short on Sunday, they played head-and-shoulders better than in two ugly road losses earlier. It’s those defeats that have kept the Packers hovering around .500 near the season’s midway point, not so much this one.

It sounds simple, but the key now is to make this the new standard of play for the 2018 Packers, not revert to the prior inconsistencies moving forward.

Rodgers stressed “there’s no momentum from a loss,” and he’s right, but if the Packers truly have established a new bar, there should be more wins on the horizon.

Easier said than done, because there are no more bye weeks to rest up and take advantage of extra preparation. But the Packers have to be able to count on this level of play to get the season moving in the right direction.

What the Packers can’t count on again is a road crowd like the one they had at the LA Coliseum, which sounded divided down the middle between Packers fans and Rams fans. In New England and Seattle, they’re going to get crowds more like those in Washington and Detroit that made it tough to find any rhythm on either side of the ball.

“It sounded like a home game at times for us,” Rodgers said. “I’m glad the Packer fans showed up. They were fantastic, great energy. Disappointing we couldn’t give them one last drive.”

The big-play mojo on offense returned, and the Packers applied steady pressure on defense, leading to five sacks. The Rams won the battle on special teams too decidedly, particularly late in each half, and that phase must hold up its end.

“We improved in some areas today, but self-improvement was for Monday,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. “We expected to win, but we didn’t play well enough down the stretch.”

Still, going toe-to-toe from scrimmage against the league’s last remaining unbeaten needs to be worth something. It’s up to the Packers to make sure it is, especially on the road.

“I think they’re really good,” Rodgers said of the Rams. “I think we’re pretty good, too.”

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