UNDEFEATED - Rams Beat Packers 29-27
November 1, 2018
Eight and counting. The Los Angeles Rams escaped with a well-earned victory over the Green Bay Packers, 29-27, before 75,822 roaring fans in the L.A. Coliseum to keep their perfect 2018 NFL season record alive at 8-0. The tens of thousands of Packer fans that invaded the Coliseum helped put the game in doubt from the opening kickoff.
The game had all the trappings that would have sent the Rams reeling in past seasons. Only this unbeaten Rams team seems hell-bent on adapting and improving with each game. Appropriately, running back Todd Gurley iced the game for the Rams with a slick down-shift move, aborting a touchdown but denying quarterback Aaron Rodgers one last chance.
"Yeah, we go over this stuff every week... unselfish players, situational masters that's what it's all about, just having that edge," said Gurley. "We don't want to give 12 back the ball."
Rodgers' opportunity for a signature 2-minute comeback was dashed when Rams linebacker Ramik Wilson forced Ty Montgomery to fumble the kickoff return at the Green Bay 21-yard line. The end result: Montgomery was unceremoniously traded to the Baltimore Ravens this Tuesday for his miscue.
The Packers were openly stunned as to why Montgomery disregarded head coach Mike McCarthy's orders to not return the kickoff. Rodgers has 14 fourth quarter comebacks and 21 game-winning drives in his 14-year career. "... the plan there is to stay in the end zone," said McCarthy postgame.
"Two-minute, we actually talked about it as a team, clearly part of that situation that both sides of the ball handle right now... The plan was to stay in and give the ball to Aaron Rodgers."
Rodgers commented: "Yeah, it sounded like a home game at times for us. The crowd was fantastic. I don't really expect that maybe in L.A. but I know they had five L.A. teams playing today, so I was glad the Packer fans showed up. They were fantastic, great energy, just disappointed we couldn't get one last drive."
Rams head coach Sean McVay called the Rams' final timeout with 1:05 left in regulation. Running the ball left on third-and-ten to set up a potential Zuerlein field goal attempt, Gurley broke free with a clear path to the end zone. He ran 17 yards before putting on the brakes, allowing cornerback Tramon Williams to tackle him at the 4-yard line. Green Bay had no time-outs remaining as the clock ran out.
"It's about us collaborating and winning a football game together. When he (Gurley) does that, that says a lot more then what you can sit up here and say as a coach and fortunate to have guys in leadership positions like Todd."
It was a game that could easily have gotten away as the Packers took a 10-0 starting the second quarter. Quarterback Jared Goff and the Rams offense were drawing blanks as they failed to score in their first five possessions. Enter punter Johnny Hekker who placed a 52-yard kick on the Packer 1-yard line with 2:40 remaining in the first half.
That set up linebacker Mark Barron tackling Green Bay running back Aaron Jones in the end zone for a safety on the next play. Goff responded with a 72-yard 7-play drive ending with a 1-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Josh Reynolds. The drive was sustained by two consecutive successful challenges by McVay, overturning long incomplete passes to Brandin Cooks and Gurley. The Rams had to feel relieved to be down only 10-8 at halftime.
L.A. took their first lead of the game, 16-13 on a 30-yard touchdown pass from Goff to Gurley at 7:19 of the third quarter. Gurley also caught the 2-point conversion. He currently leads the league in scoring with 96 points with 15 touchdowns and three 2-point conversions. The Rams increased the lead to 23-13 when Reynolds caught a 19-yard touchdown pass.
Rodgers rallied the Packers back with touchdown passes on two consecutive drives to retake the lead 27-26 at 8:50 of the fourth quarter. On the Packers next possession defensive tackle Aaron Donald came to the Rams' rescue as he sacked Rodgers at the Green Bay 15-yard line on a crucial third-and-six.
Donald: "Anytime you get a sack, it's going to be good, definitely when it's needed. We're just feeling good. We got the win. We'll watch the film, build off the good things and fix the things we did wrong. But we feel good to be 8-0."
Punter J.K. Scott poor 25-yard kick gave the Rams excellent field position setting up Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein's 34-yard game-winning field goal with 2:05 remaining. Fortunately for L.A. Rodgers would never get another shot at the end zone due to Montgomery's poor decision on the ensuing kickoff.
The Rams made another big splash on Tuesday as they acquired defensive end Dante Fowler from the Jacksonville Jaguars for L.A.'s 2019 third-round pick and their 2020 fifth-round pick. The team has been searching for a much-needed edge rusher since the departure of Robert Quinn this past off-season. The Jaguars gave up on Fowler, the #3 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, partially due to a number of off-field issues dating from 2016.
The Rams now have seven first-round picks starting on defense and arguably the best defensive front line in the league with Donald, Ndamukong Suh, Michael Brockers and Fowler. The trade comes just in time for Rams as they travel to New Orleans to take on quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints this Sunday for the NFL game of the year to date.
The Saints are 6-1 overall and coming off an impressive road win over the Minnesota Vikings, the team that eliminated them in the NFC Playoffs last season on a last-ditch miracle touchdown pass from quarterback Case Keenum to wide receiver Stefon Diggs. The Rams are 2.5 point favorites but many experts are choosing this game to be the one to derail their perfect season record. Stay tuned.