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Unlevel Playing Field: Field position, fan support help Packers

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  • Unlevel Playing Field: Field position, fan support help Packers

    By Jim Thomas
    Monday, Dec. 17 2007

    For nearly three quarters, the St. Louis game plan worked effectively and the
    Rams stuck with it. They established Steven Jackson and the running game early,
    and took their shots with Marc Bulger in the passing game.

    Through three quarters, the Rams had a 2-to-1 edge in possession time and had
    outgained Brett Favre and the potent Green Bay offense by nearly 100 yards.
    Yet, when the Rams looked up at the scoreboard at the Edward Jones Dome — aka
    Lambeau Field South — they trailed by two touchdowns.

    How did this happen?

    Well, some gridiron historians refer to football as the "100-yard war." On
    Sunday, it became more like a "50-yard skirmish" for the Packers. Thanks in
    large part to lousy special teams play, the average starting point for the
    Packers' drives was their 48-yard line.

    Of Green Bay's 12 offensive series, six started in St. Louis territory. Three
    others started at the Packers' 40, 44 and 48-yard lines.

    "I just know when we're on offense and we hit the 50, it's kind of like you're
    going downhill," Bulger said.

    The Packers were going downhill all afternoon, like a sled on the snow at Art
    Hill. Of the 53 offensive plays by Green Bay, 41 began in St. Louis territory.

    "You're not going to beat a good football team like (Green Bay) doing that,"
    coach Scott Linehan said.

    Given such a lopsided edge in field position, it's almost surprising that the
    final score wasn't more lopsided than Green Bay 33, Rams 14.

    "They have only two losses for a reason," Bulger said. "They're a good team.
    They made us play with that field position."

    And made them pay because of that field position. Green Bay's victory coupled
    with Seattle's loss to Carolina clinched a first-round playoff bye for the
    Packers (12-2).

    On a day when Favre eclipsed Dan Marino's NFL record for career passing yards,
    it seemed as if all of Green Bay was on hand. With Rams fans continuing to bail
    on their 3-11 team, thousands of "lower bowl" tickets belonging to Rams
    season-ticket holders ended up in the hands of Packers fans.

    Green and gold were the colors of the day. Cheeseheads everywhere. Dozens of
    pro-Packers signs throughout the stadium. There was no way to know officially,
    but it looked as if there were more Packers fans than Rams fans in attendance.

    "It was a joke," Jackson said. "It's as simple as that. The whole (lower) level
    was Green Bay Packers. We allowed them to put up signs. It's a joke."

    "That was the worst, as far as the other team's fans," center Andy McCollum
    said. "There was way too much green in there if you ask me. But what are you
    going to do?

    "If we win some more ballgames, it'd probably be a different story. So we've
    got to take control of that and make sure that kind of thing doesn't happen. It
    was almost like Lambeau."

    The Rams may have felt like visitors, but they were playing well enough to make
    it a game and threaten an upset midway through the third quarter.

    En route to a season-high 143 yards rushing, Jackson already had 103 yards by
    halftime, including a 46-yard touchdown run in which the Rams caught Green Bay
    in a blitz. All told, the Packers' ninth-ranked defense yielded a season-high
    173 yards rushing.

    Bulger, back in the lineup after missing the past two games with a concussion,
    threw a first-quarter touchdown pass to Torry Holt, who beat Packers cornerback
    Al Harris badly on the play.

    It remained a one-score game as the third quarter wound down — even with the
    Rams' kickoff coverage unit and punting team springing major leaks. And even
    with wide receiver Drew Bennett letting what would have been a first-down pass
    from Bulger deep in Packers territory go right through his hands for an

    But the back breaker came with 6 minutes remaining in the third quarter. On
    third and 10 from the St. Louis 44, the Rams' defense went after Favre with an
    all-out blitz. There was just one problem: No one bothered to cover Packers
    wide receiver Greg Jennings. With the blitz bearing down on him, Favre lobbed a
    pop fly to Jennings. He was so open, he might have had time to run into the
    stands, grab a Cheesehead hat, come back on the field and still catch the

    As it was, Jennings hauled in a 44-yard touchdown pass from Favre, giving Green
    Bay a 27-14 lead with 5 minutes, 58 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

    "We were in 'zero' coverage, man coverage," Linehan said. "I think we had just
    a miscommunication between a couple of players, on who was taking the vertical
    and who had the underneath coverage. Obviously, you can't do that."

    Cornerback Ron Bartell and Oshiomogho Atogwe both jumped the underneath route,
    a crossing pattern by Donald Driver. That left Jennings, running a "streak"
    route straight down the field, uncovered.

    "It was just a mix-up in coverage," Atogwe said. "It was a bad decision on some
    of the guys' parts. It just happens like that. It's one of those plays you'd
    like to get back. But you just learn from it."

    Welcome to Rams football, 2007.

Related Topics


  • RamWraith
    Packers give the Rams extra motivation
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Sunday, Dec. 16 2007

    For the past couple of months, the Rams have been under the radar, out of sight
    and basically out of mind in NFL circles. That's what happens when you open the
    season with eight straight losses.

    On Sunday, the Rams play somebody from the other side of the tracks. For only
    the second time since October, the Rams play a team with a winning record. And
    it's not just any team. It's the Green Bay Packers, arguably the most storied
    franchise in NFL history.

    At 11-2, Green Bay can clinch a first-round bye with a victory, coupled with a
    Seattle loss (or tie) at Carolina. A Green Bay tie and a Seattle loss also does
    the trick.

    The incomparable Brett Favre, at age 38, can surpass one of the NFL's biggest
    passing milestones if he throws for 184 yards Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.
    That total will allow Favre to break Dan Marino's record for career passing
    yards, set at 61,361.

    Even at age 33 and in his 12th NFL season, defensive tackle La'Roi Glover
    admits to being a bit more energized than usual because of the caliber of the

    "The motivation is there because of who Brett Favre is and the things he's been
    able to accomplish in the NFL," Glover said. "So it's going to be a little
    heightened excitement."

    But it's not as if the Rams are going to seek out Favre's autograph during TV

    "He's a quarterback who is good at what he does," running back Steven Jackson
    said. "But you can't get caught up in that. We are playing the Green Bay
    Packers. If you are in awe of who you're playing, then that's a loss already.
    We have to go out and take care of business."

    As for Favre's pending record, which can be achieved at the Rams' expense with
    that modest total of 184 yards?

    "I'm not worried about Brett Favre setting any type of records," cornerback Ron
    Bartell said. "I'm worried about getting the win. He's set so many records in
    his career, who cares about if he passes for 180 yards? I just want to get a

    For the Rams, 3-10 and officially out of playoff consideration, getting a
    victory will be no mean feat. Not only are the Packers ranked No. 3 in the NFL
    in total offense, they come to St. Louis with the league's ninth-ranked
    defense. With a special teams unit that ranks in the top 10 in most major
    categories, the Packers have few soft spots.

    "They can run the ball. They've got, to me, the greatest passer that's ever
    played the game," defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. "And they've got
    great receivers. So we have our work cut out...
    -12-16-2007, 08:54 AM
  • RamWraith
    Rams are lambs at Lambeau 45-17
    by RamWraith
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    GREEN BAY, Wis. - Gov. Jim Doyle declared Monday "Brett Favre Day" throughout the state of Wisconsin. It was Brett Favre night Monday at Lambeau Field.

    Making his 200th consecutive NFL start, Favre threw three touchdown passes to lead Green Bay to a 45-17 victory over the Rams. The victory put Green Bay (7-4) into a first-place tie with Minnesota in the NFC North. The loss prevented the Rams (5-6) from moving into a first-place tie with Seattle in the NFC West.

    In the strange but true category, the Rams remain the No. 6 seed in the NFC, despite losing for the fourth time in five games. But they continue like a team that has no interest in extending the season beyond their regular-season finale Jan. 2 against the New York Jets.

    The Rams moved the ball up and down the field but committed two costly turnovers, and they scored a touchdown only once in four red-zone possessions against one of the league's worst red-zone defenses.

    Marc Bulger became only the fourth opposing quarterback to throw for more than 400 yards against Green Bay, joining Joe Montana, Randall Cunningham and Trent Green. His 448 yards was a franchise record against Green Bay. Not that it did the Rams much good. They continually self-destructed once they got to the Green Bay 30 or thereabouts.

    Meanwhile, the St. Louis defense looked as if it had no interest whatsoever in tackling 250-pound Packers running back Najeh Davenport. Despite playing at less than full speed because of a hamstring injury, Davenport rushed for 178 yards - the fifth-highest total in Green Bay franchise history.

    What could go wrong did for much of the first half for the Rams. They got into an early hole Monday and spent the rest of the game trying to climb out.

    On the Rams' third offensive play of the game, the normally sure-handed Isaac Bruce was done in by a pair of rookies. After catching a short pass for a first down at the Rams 38, Bruce was stripped of the football by Joey Thomas. Ahmad Carroll scooped up the fumble and raced 40 yards for a touchdown. That gave Green Bay a 7-0 lead just 2 minutes 37 seconds into the game.

    That's how the scoring started and ended for Green Bay - with a Bruce fumble returned for a score. In the final minute of play, Packers safety Darren Sharper jarred the ball loose from Bruce after a reception, with Michael Hawthorne picking the ball up and racing for a final in-your- face touchdown.

    Bruce had fumbled only 11 times in his previous 10 NFL seasons. But Monday's fumbles were his second and third in the last three weeks. Until Monday, Green Bay had only eight takeaways and hadn't come up with one since Halloween.

    By early in the second quarter, the Rams had outgained Green Bay 148 yards to 38 but still trailed 7-3. The Rams were unable to exploit one of the league's...
    -11-30-2004, 05:25 AM
  • DJRamFan
    [Packers] Packers relish Rams' visit
    by DJRamFan
    AP Sports Writer
    GREEN BAY, Wis. - The Green Bay Packers finally have the St. Louis Rams right where they want them: at Lambeau Field, on grass, in freezing weather.

    Forgive Brett Favre if he's not jumping for joy.

    "Well, I would much rather play them here than at their place. We haven't had much success at their place, and there's no guarantee that we will here," Favre said. "I think it's going to be a very difficult game. Either way. Here or there."

    That might be, but he tied an NFL playoff record by throwing six interceptions at St. Louis 22 months ago, then broke his right thumb there last year.

    The desperate Rams (5-5), who have lost three of four games, face the surging Packers (6-4), winners of five straight, on Monday night in a crucial game for two teams hoping to display some playoff pedigree in the jumbled NFC.

    The Packers are banged up in both backfields, which might very well negate any home-field advantage _ something that sure was missing the last time they played at home on a Monday night, a 48-27 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Oct. 11.

    "We'd like to erase that memory with a special Monday night performance and get rid of some of those ghosts we have from earlier in the season," Packers defensive end Aaron Kampman said.

    The problems with the Rams go back to Jan. 20, 2002, when Favre threw those half-dozen interceptions in a 28-point playoff loss.

    In October 2003, Favre broke his right thumb in a loss at St. Louis. Because he decided to play the rest of the season with a splint instead of having season-ending surgery, he kept alive his consecutive starts streak, which will reach 200 in the regular season Monday night, 219 counting the playoffs.

    Few teams have had Favre's number like the Rams, who capitalized on 12 Packers turnovers to outscore Green Bay 79-41 in their last two meetings.

    So the Packers have been looking forward to this night ever since the schedule came out.

    "They're a different team, as everyone knows, indoors," safety Darren Sharper said. "The fact that we have them at home hopefully will play into our favor. But we're just happy to see them because they put a whooping on us last year and we'd like to get a little payback."

    Payback? Guard Mark Tauscher is thinking more along the lines of a setback.

    "You can't do anything about what happened last year, or the year before," he said. "But we can give them a big setback and knock them off here and really give ourselves a big boost because anytime you struggle against somebody and then you get over that hump, that's big emotionally."

    Just like back in the 1990s, when the Packers lost seven straight to the Dallas Cowboys, three times in the playoffs...
    -11-29-2004, 01:21 PM
  • DJRamFan
    [Packers] Packers timing it just right
    by DJRamFan
    Green Bay has won five straight since it flopped in its last appearance on 'Monday Night Football'

    By Todd McMahon
    There was a time, not long ago, when a general consensus had formed that the Green Bay Packers' time was all but up in the 2004 season.

    They left a national TV audience equal parts flabbergasted and appalled the evening of Oct. 11. The Tennessee Titans stormed Lambeau Field and battered the Packers into submission by way of a 48-27 defeat, the most points ever surrendered by the home team at its sacred stadium.

    Like that, the two-time reigning NFC North champions had sunk to the unfathomable low of being at the bottom of the division with a 1-4 record spun out of a four-game losing streak.

    That was the last time the Packers had a co-starring role on ABC's "Monday Night Football." My, how the times have changed in the seven weeks leading up to their return engagement - and there's more to it than the network's catching flak for one of its desperate housewives baring herself to Philadelphia star receiver Terrell Owens in a recent pregame locker-room spoof.

    At 8 tonight, the coast-to-coast TV audience will be introduced to a Green Bay team that has taken on a new, albeit familiar identity. All the Packers have been doing since bombing in their last "MNF" episode is win.

    They put a five-game winning streak on the line against St. Louis (5-5) at Lambeau Field. At stake for the 6-4 Packers is maintaining a hold on the NFC North lead, a concept that seemed a pipe dream in the wake of the debacle against the Titans.

    "We know how it feels to be 1-4. That feels pretty bad. We've been through that, and we don't want to go back there," said right guard Marco Rivera.

    No turning, or looking, back is precisely the outlook head coach Mike Sherman drilled into his players' heads Wednesday morning. It was his first meeting with the team since addressing it late last Sunday night, following its gritty 16-13 comeback win at Houston in another prime-time game.

    He paralleled what transpired in those four quarters to how the Packers' season has unfolded to date.

    A 13-3 deficit through a dismal three quarters mirrored their 1-4 start in the win-loss ledger. "In that game, things weren't looking very good," Sherman reflected.

    Lo and behold, the Packers caught fire in the final 15 minutes to score 13 unanswered points, pulling out the victory on Ryan Longwell's 46-yard field goal as time expired. A microcosm of how they've rallied in the past month and a half to string together the five wins.

    "The guys hung together throughout the game; they believed in themselves," Sherman continued with the analogy. "You're down 13-3 going into the fourth quarter, and guys battled back. I thought...
    -11-29-2004, 01:21 PM
  • RamWraith
    More struggles drop Rams below .500
    by RamWraith
    By Jeff Gordon
    Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist

    The Rams made plays on the big “Monday Night Football” stage. In fact, they made dozens of them.

    For stretches, they played impressively against a red-hot, playoff-bound opponent on the road.

    But the Rams, now 5-6, couldn’t muster a winning performance at Green Bay. They committed a turnover here, allowed a big run there and failed to stop quarterback Brett Favre when the Packers got in scoring range.

    So the result is what most experts predicted: A 45-17 Packers victory that kept the Rams from climbing back into the NFC West lead.

    The Rams had no trouble piling up yardage on the Packers. But protecting the ball and finishing drives, that’s where they fell short.

    They handed the Packers the game’s first touchdown on Isaac Bruce’s fumble. Then their first two first-half forays into the red zone netted just three points.

    Green Bay was able to race to a 21-3 lead while hardly breaking a sweat. The Rams tried to battle back in the second half, but quarterback Marc Bulger threw a third-quarter interception into the Packers end zone to kill the rally.

    Then the Rams tried a fake field goal that backfired and, well, things just never got better up at Lambeau Field. The painful loss was capped by still another Bruce fumble that led to still another Packers touchdown in the game’s final minute.



    --Rookie defensive tackle Brian Howard delivered, dumping running back Najeh Davenport for no gain on the first Packers possession, helping the defense score a quick three-and-out stop. That was about the only time the Rams would stop the bulldozing Davenport in this game.

    --Coach Mike Martz had an interesting offensive game plan for this game, featuring both Steven Jackson and Marshall Faulk as runners and receivers. His play-calling also caught the Packers in their base defense early on with some four-receiver sets.

    Too bad the offense didn’t do a better job in the red zone during the first half, when the game was still in question.

    --Hey, a crunching kick coverage tackle – delivered by linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa on return man Antonio Chatman in the second quarter. Ouch!

    --With the Rams desperately needing points late in the first half, Bulger completed four passes to young wide-outs Shaun McDonald (two) and Kevin Curtis (two). These youngsters can play.

    Those completions set up Bulger’s last-minute touchdown pass to Isaac Bruce in the first half, which cut the Packers halftime lead to 21-10. At that point, the Rams had 225 yards offense and the 11-point deficit to show for it.

    --Tight end Brandon Manumaleuna played big with his 26-yard reception over the middle in the third quarter, going up to catch the ball in...
    -11-30-2004, 05:26 AM