[Packers] Packers finally get Rams in the great outdoors
By Tim Froberg
The last two times Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers played St. Louis, the games were held under a roof.
And Favre and the Packers were quickly under siege.
Playing against a high-powered offense known as "The Greatest Show on Turf," the Packers were throttled in both games, falling 45-17 in a divisional playoff game during the 2001 season and dropping a 34-24 regular-season decision in October 2003.
Now, it's time to see how the Rams and their superb cast of offensive playmakers will handle the great outdoors in a late-November Monday night game at the fabled, but not-yet-frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.
Green Bay's defense is not a stellar unit. However, the chances of Bob Slowik's unit controlling a Rams offense, which relies less on power and more on the speed of its skill players and precision of its passing game, seem much greater in the wind and biting temperatures offered at Lambeau than in a climate-controlled dome.
Still, Green Bay's defense understands the type of firepower it is up against. "Once they get it clicking, they're a really dangerous offense," said linebacker Hannibal Navies. "They haven't put up the numbers they usually do, but you don't see many teams with as many great skill players like they have."
Rams head coach Mike Martz doesn't seem to be worrying about the weather. In a conference call with the Wisconsin media Wednesday, Martz said Mother Nature was preparing his team for its November date with the Packers.
"It's snowing like crazy here - it's a white-out," Martz said. "We've played in enough games in that type of weather, so that shouldn't be an issue for us."
Rams quarterback Marc Bulger won't be surprised if the game turns into a shootout, but says the Wisconsin elements will demand his team to rely more on its running game than it has in recent games.
Even with seven-time Pro Bowler Marshall Faulk and productive first-round draft pick Steven Jackson, the Rams are averaging just 109.7 rushing yards per game. A primary reason for the low rushing average is the Rams' tendency to fall behind in games, forcing the team to play catch-up with its passing game.
"With the weather, we're obviously going to have to run the ball more," Bulger said. "I know they're going to get their points. That's been the point of emphasis this week: scoring points because we've haven't been scoring as many as we'd like."
The most impressive young player for the Rams has been Jackson, whose performance has been so solid as a rookie that he has taken some playing time away from Faulk.
Faulk leads the Rams in rushing (676 yards in 154 carries), while Jackson has rushed for 337 yards in 66 carries and has a per-carry average of 5.1 yards.
"Steven has been everything you would want, and I couldn't be happier with him," Martz said. "For a rookie to come in and learn all the things he had to learn, he's gone way beyond what I would have expected him to do. When he's in there, we don't change anything.
"For a rookie to be able to comprehend all the things we do, as far as personnel groupings, blitz pickup and formations, that's really something. He doesn't make mistakes. He's such a mature guy and has been very business-like and accountable."
LIGHTEN UP, GUYS
Right guard Adam Timmerman, who played four seasons with the Packers (1995-98), remains a fixture on the Rams offensive line.
Timmerman, 32, joined the Rams as an unrestricted free agent in 1999 and since has played in two Pro Bowls.
Timmerman was a fan favorite in Green Bay, with an outgoing personality that hasn't changed.
"He's a real intense guy - he'll fight and all that - but a minute later, he'll be making everyone laugh," Bulger said. "He's been to the most Super Bowls of anyone on the team and has been to Pro Bowls. He's been there, done that.
"He keeps it light when guys get a little too serious in the huddle, no matter whether it's practice, a game or a walk-through."
Martz and Bulger are amazed that Packers quarterback Brett Favre will make his 200th consecutive regular-season start Monday night, extending his NFL record for quarterbacks.
"He is truly unique and one of a kind," Martz said. "More than likely, there will never be anyone like him. That's quite an achievement."
Added Bulger: "That's going to be one of those (Cal) Ripken things that I don't think will ever be broken or duplicated. When I'm not playing against him, I'm a fan."
Former second-round draft pick Robert Thomas, who was benched earlier this month at middle linebacker in favor of Trev Faulk, may regain his starting job against the Packers.
When asked what the chances were that Thomas would replace Faulk in the middle, Martz replied: "Pretty good. It's a speed issue. Both those guys are accomplished backers, but Robert is unique in his ability to run at that position. He's got extreme speed and has a chance to get there when the ball is out on the edge."
LANDETTA AN NFL LIFER?
Former Packer Sean Landetta is 42 years old and still kicking. Landetta is the Rams punter and is averaging 43.3 yards per punt with a net average of 32.5. Always a superb directional punter with the ability to drop kicks inside the 20, Landetta has just three touchbacks.
He was criticized by Martz earlier in the week, however, after Buffalo ran one punt back for a touchdown and another inside the 5-yard line. Landeta's net average ranks 31st in the league. "Sean didn't punt well at all, and he hasn't for some time now," Martz said. "That's a major issue."
EDWARDS RETURNING TO LAMBEAU
Offensive guard Chris Dishman (knee) is the only Rams player who has been ruled out for Monday's game.
Cornerback DeJuan Groce (knee) is doubtful, while big-play receiver Torry Holt (knee) is questionable. Cornerbacks Travis Fisher (knee) and Kevin Garrett (concussion) are probable, along with ex-Packers safety Antuan Edwards (groin) and offensive tackle Grant Williams (shoulder).
Edwards was claimed by the Rams on Nov. 11 after being waived by the Miami Dolphins. Due to a slew of injuries in the secondary, he will likely play Monday in dime situations on passing downs.