Packers 27, Chargers 20: 6-and-OK
Aaron Rodgers wasn’t disappointed – in the performance, or in the outcome. Apparently, he was just bummed that he didn’t put his iPhone in a hidden pocket inside his real, comfortable throwback football pants and get credit for all the walking around he did on the sideline Sunday afternoon.
So while the Green Bay Packers quarterback may not have seemed overly impressed with his team’s 27-20 victory over the San Diego Chargers at Lambeau Field – a triumph that ran the Packers’ 2015 record to 6-0, even if their offensive quality of play has not been up to his exacting standards – he was actually quite pleased with the results.
It was just that his time on the sideline wasn’t as productive as he’d have liked.
“They had the ball for 38 minutes. A lot of walking around in circles. If I had a tracker on me, on my iPhone, I probably would have had 1,500 steps at least,” Rodgers joked.
Whatever NikeFuel points – wait, Rodgers is with Adidas now, so he’s not using that unit of measure anymore – he lost out on Sunday, though, Rodgers swore he was OK with the Packers imperfect route to their perfect undefeated record at the bye.
“You know what? I’m happy. We’re 6-0, but there’s room for improvement,” Rodgers said, turning at least semi-serious. “We had 49 [offensive] plays tonight; that’s far below our standard. They had the ball for 38 minutes.
“At this point, we don’t need to win pretty every week. We’d like to, and we’re going to get graded to that standard. You set the bar pretty high with the pretty wins. But when you have a game like tonight, 49 plays, the inefficiency in the passing game, it’s not going to be the best meeting room coming back next Monday. But they all count the same. We’ll take ‘em all.”
Unlike seven days earlier, when the defense had throttled the St. Louis Rams while Rodgers had turned the ball over three times (two interceptions, one fumble), Sunday’s victory wasn’t a defense-dominated affair. Instead, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers threw for a whopping 503 yards – the most in Chargers team history and tied for the most ever allowed by the Packers – and it took rookie cornerback Damarious Randall breaking up Rivers’ 65th and final pass at the goal line on fourth-and-goal from the Green Bay 2-yard line
The offense, meanwhile, bolted to a 17-3 but, unlike last season when it would have mushroomed into a 50-point performance, the offense instead wound up doing just enough.
“Even though we haven’t been playing our cleanest on offense, there is a lot of optimism there. We understand that we’ve only got one way to go and that’s to get better,” said veteran right guard T.J. Lang, whose fumble recovery in the fourth quarter was perhaps the game-saving play of the day. “Obviously sitting there at 6-0, there’s a ton of football left. We haven’t won anything yet. We haven’t reached any of our goals yet.
“I think it’s more excitement [than disappointment]. I know everybody would like to score 38 points a game, get those blowouts that we had last year. But the fact of the matter is it’s not going to happen every week. It’s a different football team, and so far just to be able to go out there and really grind through the full 60 minutes, finish the game out and doing what you’ve got to do to get the win.”
After starting their day with their longest touchdown drive of the season (87 yards) and following it up with running back running back James Starks’ 65-yard touchdown run, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix shellacked running back Melvin Gordon, forcing a fumble that Clay Matthews recovered at the San Diego 34-yard line midway through the second quarter. A touchdown there, and perhaps Titletown is Blowout City, where the Packers set up residence much of last season.
Instead, they went three-and-out, and the Chargers went down the field for a touchdown on the final play of the first half to pull within seven points. When the offense went three-and-out to start the second half as well and the Chargers marched 79 yards for the game-tying touchdown with 9:24 left in the third quarter, the Packers’ perfect record was in peril.
“We just need to not have the lulls,” said Rodgers, who finished the day 16 of 29 for 255 yards with two touchdowns and no turnovers (107.7 rating) – and has eclipsed the 300-yard mark in a game just once so far this season. “We need to just be a little more consistent throughout the game. We started out really well; I think we’ve had a touchdown drive for a few games in a row now. We just haven’t been able to put it together.
“[That was a] big sequence there, it was 17-3, we get the ball on the turnover, we get a score there, we go up three scores, that makes it a lot easier for our defense. Instead, we go three-and-out, we punt, they get a touchdown before the half, the next thing you know it’s tied. Thankfully. we put together a couple good drives there at the end of the game.”
Indeed, the offense did enough to win after that, with Rodgers engineering a 69-yard TD drive that ended in an 8-yard scoring pass to James Jones before settling for a field goal on their final meaningful possession when Rodgers missed Jones and Richard Rodgers in the end zone with 2:37 left.
The defense, meanwhile, let Rivers & Co. move right down the field – the Chargers’ gains on the drive went for 11, 12, 5, 13, 12 and 12 yards – before Rivers missed an open Gates on second down and Randall preserved the victory with his play on fourth down.
“You know you look at the style of wins we’re having, hopefully that means something later on down the road,” Matthews said. “These aren’t 42-0 blowouts. These aren’t games in which it’s over [early], like you saw you in the second half of the season last year. Sometimes offense has to step up, sometimes defense does, and special teams. Real gritty wins, especially against good teams. It’s good to see that.
“Hopefully that builds character, and hopefully that means something moving forward. But 6-0, I think it’s the second time in 50 years we’ve done it here, so that’s a big accomplishment.”
How long they can stay unbeaten remains to be seen, with post-bye road games against fellow undefeateds Denver (6-0) and Carolina (5-0) up next on Nov. 1 and Nov. 8.
But for now, they’ve been good enough.
“We’ll take [wins] any way we can,” Rodgers said. “We’ve had six of them this year; they’ve been all different types of wins. We’ve had pretty ones, we’ve had to grind it out. Tonight was kind of a hang-on-there-at-the-end [win]. They all count the same. We’re going to need them down the stretch. We’ve got a nice week off and then two tough ones.”