Biggest Takeaways from Green Bay Packers' Week 5 Win
A win is a win, but the Packers' play in the victory wasn't always pretty. Not only did quarterback Aaron Rodgers break his streak of not having thrown an interception at home since December 2012, but he broke it in a big way, with two interceptions and one fumble.
Green Bay's offense was also relatively one-sided, clearly thrown off by the St. Louis front seven. It wasn't able to get much of a ground game going; Rodgers was, in fact, the team's leading rusher on the day, with 39 yards on eight carries.
Though Eddie Lacy carried the ball 13 times, he averaged just 2.1 yards per carry.
There were also more negative developments on the injury front: guard T.J. Lang (knee), outside linebacker Nick Perry (shoulder) and nose tackle B.J. Raji (groin) all left the game and didn't return. Cornerback Casey Hayward was also injured during the game.
Let's break down five things we learned from this game.
Aaron Rodgers' Streak Had to End Sometime
It was a subject so belabored that one could almost sense that Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams would be a turning point.
Talk of Aaron Rodgers' streak without an interception at home dating back to December 2012 had reached a fever pitch heading into the Week 5 matchup with the Rams, a defense known for pressuring quarterbacks.
Sure enough, the streak came to an end on Sunday after 587 passes without a pick. Rodgers threw a ball that Mark Barron tipped and James Laurinaitis then intercepted it.
But it didn't stop there.
Just before the end of the first half, Rodgers attempted to connect with James Jones, and this time, Trumaine Johnson caught that ball outright.
For good measure, Rodgers also fumbled the ball after Robert Quinn sacked him in the third quarter; Quinn recovered it.
It seems the manner in which Rodgers' streak ended was directly proportionate to how overblown talk of the streak had become: excessive.
Injuries to B.J. Raji and Nick Perry Hurt Run Defense
The Packers' run defense has been improving dramatically over the last three weeks.
After it allowed Chicago running back Matt Forte to rush for 141 yards in Week 1, it held Seattle's Marshawn Lynch to 41 yards, Kansas City's Jamaal Charles to 49 and San Francisco's Carlos Hyde to just 20 in Weeks 2-4.
On Sunday against the St. Louis Rams, however, the Packers weren't able to hold Todd Gurley quite so much in check. Gurley himself had 159 yards and the Rams, overall, had 191. It wasn't enough to make the difference in the game's outcome, but it was a disappointing step backward for a run defense that had been demanding respect.
Of course, a big reason for that step back was losing both nose tackle B.J. Raji and outside linebacker Nick Perry to injuries during the game. Neither returned after suffering groin and shoulder injuries, respectively.
Through the first four games of the season, Raji had graded out as the No. 16 defensive tackle in the league against the run, out of 71 total qualified players.
Perry, who has been putting together an impressive season as he faces free agency in March, had some critical third-down stops on Lynch in Week 2.
With Raji out, Gurley was able to penetrate the middle with more success. There's no word yet on how long both players will be out, or if they will miss any games.
Drops Are Rare for TE Richard Rodgers, but Can Be Ugly
Tight end Richard Rodgers, whom quarterback Aaron Rodgers said in January may have the "best hands on the team" per Robert Zizzo of Press-Gazette Media, doesn't drop the ball very often.
Heading into Week 5, Rodgers was one of a handful of tight ends with no drops credited to them on the season by Pro Football Focus.
However, Rodgers had an ugly drop in Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams, the kind that he hopefully won't make again during his career—or at least not often.
At the Rams' 30-yard line in the fourth quarter, Rodgers dropped what very well could have been a 30-yard touchdown. The Packers were up by 11 points at that time, so the play wasn't necessary for the win, but it would have given them some peace of mind, especially given that the offense was sloppy as a whole on the day.
Later on that drive, Rodgers' hands-to-the-face penalty called back a 47-yard Mason Crosby field goal, taking three points off the board and forcing the Packers to punt.
Given the injuries at the receiver position, the Packers need Rodgers to limit his mistakes.
Packers Struggled to Establish the Run
The Packers' leading rusher on the day versus the St. Louis Rams was not Eddie Lacy, and neither was it James Starks or any other halfback or fullback.
It was, in fact, quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who carried the ball eight times for 39 yards.
Lacy struggled to get yardage despite getting 13 touches, finishing his day with 13 carries for just 27 yards. He averaged 2.1 yards per carry, despite coming into the matchup averaging 4.6 yards per carry, putting him at No. 14 in the league.
Starks also wasn't used as much as one might have expected in spite of Lacy's struggles, getting just five carries for 17 yards.
Though the Rams have a ferocious defensive front, it translates more into quarterback pressure than run defense. They came into the matchup allowing an average of 120.3 rushing yards per game, putting them at 26th in the league.
The Packers didn't even come close to hitting that, totaling just 86 rushing yards as a team.
It's possible that Lacy is still recovering from the ankle injury that has been plaguing him this season; it would explain why he wasn't able to churn through for more yards after contact and why we didn't see as many cutbacks from him.
Losing starting guard T.J. Lang to a knee injury also hurt the run game.
Taken as one game, the Packers' lack of rushing success isn't cause for concern, but it would make life harder for Rodgers and his diminished group of weapons if the offense were to become too one-dimensional.
Packers Get RT Bryan Bulaga Back, but Offensive Lives Woes Continue
As soon as the Packers got starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga back after he missed three weeks with a knee injury, they lost guard T.J. Lang.
Lang was carted off the field halfway through the second quarter with what the team confirmed was a knee injury. Josh Walker replaced Lang and then was eventually subbed in with Don Barclay, who had been standing in for Bulaga at right tackle over the last three weeks.
The offensive line at least only allowed two sacks on Aaron Rodgers, but one was critical, as Rams defensive end Robert Quinn forced a Rodgers fumble and then recovered it.
The reconfigured offensive line has been struggling; in Week 4 against the San Francisco 49ers, all three of Rodgers' sacks were attributed to Barclay, per Pro Football Focus.
However, there's hope that both Bulaga and Lang will start in Week 6, in Green Bay's final game before their bye week. "I'll be alright," Lang tweeted after the game on Sunday.