The Green Bay Packers started fast and finished strong Saturday afternoon, using 10 first-quarter points and 11 in the second half to beat the St. Louis Rams by the final score of 21-7 at the Edward Jones Dome.
It was over when…
…Rookie Jeff Janis turned a short pass over the middle into a 34-yard touchdown late in the third quarter. You can't teach speed, and Janis showed he has plenty of it. The seventh-round pick turned the corner and then outran the Rams secondary to the end zone. The score and ensuing two-point conversion put the Packers up 18-7.
- Aaron Rodgers: He was surgical in his preseason debut, completing 11-of-13 passes for 128 yards and one touchdown over just two series. The offense, which utilized the no-huddle on each drive, scored on both possessions. The pace and rhythm of the whole operation was close to perfect. Rodgers is already in mid-season form.
- Mike Pennel: The undrafted free agent proved difficult to block for the second straight week. He had a sack in the first half when he cleaned up the quarterback following Mike Neal's pressure, spinning out of double team to get home. Much like last week in Tennessee, No. 64 was in the backfield on a number of snaps, especially against the run.
- Tim Masthay: His first three punts averaged 54 yards, and all three ended up inside the 20-yard line. He was a big reason why the Rams' average starting position was at the 16-yard line during the first half. Hey, punters are people too.
The Packers ran 64 plays and totaled 386 yards (6.0 yards per play) and 22 first downs…The Packers defense allowed just 216 yards on 62 plays (3.5 yards per play). The Rams ran 27 times for 79 yards, good for an average of just 2.9…In his first live action since tearing his ACL, Sam Bradford completed 9-of-12 passes for 101 yards and a score. His passer rating was 127.4…The Packers had two touchdowns wiped out by penalties. The errors cost Green Bay at least nine points (but more likely 11, if the extra points were converted). Another penalty took away an interception. Overall, Green Bay committed 12 penalties…Undrafted free agent Jay Elliott had three sacks and a forced fumble on his first series…DuJuan Harris' fumble was the only turnover of the game…The Packers had seven sacks, while the Rams registered just two. However, St. Louis hit Packers quarterbacks six times…Andrew Quarless led all receivers with 58 yards on four catches. Harris led the Packers with 32 rushing yards on seven attempts…Mason Crosby made both of his kicks (long of 49) and his only extra point attempt…Davante Adams caught two passes for 28 yards, converted the two-point conversion and fielded two punts for zero yards (but zero fumbles)…The Packers were 1-for-4 scoring touchdowns in the red zone.
--What a first drive. With the 11 players expected to start against Seattle on the field, the Packers first-team offense marched 86 yards over 12 plays, taking up almost five and a half minutes. Eddie Lacy ran five times for 25 yards and caught two passes for 22 more. Rodgers completed 6 of 6 passes for 47 yards and a four-yard touchdown to Randall Cobb. It was a clinic. The next drive went 12 more plays and spanned 80 yards, but stalled after David Bakhtiari's penalty negated a second touchdown in the red zone. Overall, the two drives with Rodgers under center totaled 176 yards and produced 10 points. Can't ask for much more.
--Julius Peppers was much more active this week than the last. After 10 forgettable snaps in Tennessee, Peppers' first series vs. the Rams consisted of at least one hurry and one tackle for loss. He also beat the right tackle clean to the inside on one quick throw from Bradford. There would have been a sizable collision in the pocket had Bradford held the football for one or two more seconds. On the second defensive series, he beat rookie Greg Robinson with speed off the right edge. His near-sack forced an incompletion. Later on the drive, Peppers rushed from a 3-point stance and got some push, but Bradford made a strong throw for the score. Mike Daniels was also impressive pushing the pocket.
--The Packers starting offensive line passed its biggest test of the preseason with flying colors. Rodgers routinely had clean, well-formed pockets to throw from, and the running game was mostly productive, especially on the first drive. The Rams were without Michael Brockers, but the likes of Robert Quinn, Chris Long and Aaron Donald were non-factors. Make no mistake about it: this was a statement performance, a confidence-building effort. The Packers won't face a better front before traveling to Seattle for the season opener.
--Pennel is making the final 53-man roster. How could the Packers justify risking him on waivers? Big guys with his power and movement skills are too rare. Playing the run looks like a strength of his, and he even showed off some pass-rushing skills in the first half. If healthy, he should be on the Week 1 roster.
--Janis looked comfortable returning punts. Dealt with some traffic, but he remained calm and caught the football. Of course, he wasn't looking up into a monsoon. It was still a promising start. Janis can wrap up the No. 5 receiver role if he shows an ability to return punts, a role still very much up for grabs. His touchdown showed why the Packers might have to keep him regardless. Janis can really run.
--Scott Tolzien (10 of 15, 107 yards) looked shaky on his first series but settled down in the second half. He was sharp after the break, completing eight straight passes at one point. Flynn (2 of 3, 44 yards) threw a touchdown pass on his first attempt but had limited opportunities. He took two sacks behind a leaky backup line. Not sure either quarterback moved the needle on the backup competition.
-- The slightly more important third preseason game will bring the Oakland Raiders to Lambeau Field for a nationally televised contest next Friday night. The starters will play their most snaps of the exhibition schedule. Charles Woodson, James Jones and C.J. Wilson return to Green Bay. The Packers could look dominant against a Raiders team that has been really poor early on in each of their first two preseason games.
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