Aaron Rodgers received all the attention in the aftermath of last Sunday’s win over the Texans, and deservedly so, after his six-touchdown performance and newly famous “Shhhh…” interview.
But there was another accomplishment almost as impressive as Rodgers’ in Houston last weekend, and that was the way the Packers defense held running back Arian Foster to 29 rushing yards on 17 attempts.
The Packers defensive line in particular, without the services of B.J. Raji who was held out of the game with an ankle injury, did yeoman’s work in containing Foster, and rookie Jerel Worthy proved he’s making progress by having one of the best outings of his young career.
“I’m starting to get the hang of it,” Worthy told reporters this week. “The more confidence the coaches instill in me a little bit, it’s just giving me a reason to go out there and play harder, and I just want to continue to grow as a player and make a lot more plays.
“I’m starting to come into my own a little bit, starting to settle into a little bit of a comfort zone, but at the same time I just want to prepare for every game as if it’s the Super Bowl. So I just want to make sure I stay on top of everything I want to do.”
To hold the NFL’s second-leading rusher coming into last Sunday’s game to 1.7 yards per carry was one of the keys to a Green Bay victory over the previously undefeated Texans.
Minus Raji, Worthy also took on a bigger role on the Packers defensive line. He played in a career-high 56 snaps, which was over 76 percent of the team’s total defensive plays, according to ProFootballFocus.com.
For the first time in 2012 Worthy entered a game expecting to play a big role in the Packers’ base 3-4 defense. In Raji’s stead, Ryan Pickett moved to nose tackle and Worthy took over Pickett’s duties at end.
To go along with stuffing Foster, Worthy also had a sack on the Texans’ second possession of the game on third down, which forced a punt and built some momentum early in the game as the Texans’ game plan got out of whack.
“Oh yeah, especially with C.J. (Wilson) getting that sack on the first play of the game, (it) kind of set the tone for the defensive line up front,” said Worthy, “and we come back the next series and take them out of what they want to do.”
On the final play of the first quarter, Worthy also dropped Foster for a loss of one yard, and by that point, the Packers had the game in control.
The task doesn’t get any easier this week as the Packers travel to St. Louis for their third consecutive road game to take on the Rams and running back Steven Jackson.
It’s true, Jackson hasn’t done much this season. He has yet to score a touchdown and is averaging a career-low 3.6 yards per carry, but this is a three-time Pro Bowl player who must be respected.
If Worthy and the Packers defensive line can duplicate the showing they put forth a week earlier in Houston, they stand a good chance of stopping Jackson as well.
“I thought our defensive line set the tempo for our whole defense, particularly against a scheme that was different in Houston,” said head coach Mike McCarthy on Friday. “The challenge will be totally different this week in St. Louis, but I thought our defensive line was outstanding in Houston. We’re going to need that type of performance again this week.”
The challenge with Jackson is how big he is. At 6-2 and 240 lbs., he’s a load to bring down.
That’s a fact not lost on Worthy as he prepares to face Jackson and gets ready for another game without the services of Raji.
“He’s an animal,” Worthy said of Jackson. “He’s a huge man that runs hard, runs physical.
“With a guy like that, he’s always moving piles forward, so when you make contact, you always want to run your feet a little bit and just make sure he doesn’t fall forward for those extra yards.”