Rams Battle Green Bay Packers on Saturday
January 14, 2021
Aaron vs. Aaron. The intriguing NFC second round Divisional playoff matchup this Saturday at Lambeau Field at 1:35 p.m. on Channel 11 will feature the Los Angeles Rams and defensive tackle Aaron Donald, the best defensive player in the NFL versus the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers, one of the best offensive players in the league. Due to a rash of injuries, the Rams with the NFL's No. 1 defense is a 6.5 underdog to the Packers and Rodgers who directs the league's No. 1 scoring offense.
The Rams, who will spend the entire Playoffs on the road, upset the Seahawks last Saturday, 30-20, in the opening NFC Wild Card game at Lumen Field in Seattle. The NFC's top-seeded Packers had an opening round bye last weekend after finishing with a Conference best 13-3 record during the regular season. If the Rams win, they will travel to take on the winner of the No. 2 seeded New Orleans Saints or the No. 5 seeded Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the NFC Championship game on Saturday, January 23.
As of Tuesday afternoon, there were eight Rams on the Injury Report list, one which gave the team some welcome news. Quarterback Jared Goff, who came off the bench with three screws in his thumb to help beat the Seahawks, had full participation in practice on Tuesday. Goff had surgery only two weeks ago but showed true grit when he relieved starting quarterback John Wolford in the first quarter when Wolford left the game with a neck injury.
Wolford did not participate in practice on Tuesday. Neither did offensive lineman David Edwards and linebacker Terrell Lewis with ankle conditions. Wide receiver Cooper Kupp did not participate due to a sore knee as well as Aaron Donald, who left the Seattle game early in the third quarter after injuring his ribs when tackling Seahawk quarterback Russell Wilson. Fortunately, Donald did not break any ribs and is expected to be ready for the Packers. Offensive left tackle Andrew Whitworth and kick return specialist Nsimba Webster saw limited action in Tuesday's practice.
"We'll be smart with him throughout the week," said head coach Sean McVay. "But I do think that if there's anything that he's going to do, he's going to do everything in his power to be ready to go, don't expect that to affect his game status for this week. Cooper Kupp had bursitis of his knee. We're going to just monitor that day-to-day for him and hopefully get that swelling and inflammation down, with the anticipation and the hope to have him ready to go.
As in last week's leadup to the Seattle match, McVay will likely wait until the last minute to decide who will start at quarterback. Wolford started but was removed on the Rams second possession when he was tackled by Seattle safety Jamal Adams and injured his neck. Goff relieved Wolford but had a rough three quarters before settling down to lead the Rams on two scoring drives in the fourth quarter. Goff, who has turned the ball over at an alarming rate over the past two seasons, did not throw an interception or fumble the ball. It was the first game this season in which the Rams did not have a turnover.
"I think I want to just be able to see their health. That's the first thing and then we'll just kind of go from there," said McVay. He also commented on Goff's situation: "I think he said that it didn't bother him too much, so that's a positive... It affected him yesterday. I mean, if you watch the game, it did... he did a great job battling and being ready to go. There were some things that he typically is able to execute that it seemed like they were a factor."
The Rams decided not to activate backup quarterback Blake Bortles for Seattle. If Goff wasn't able to perform coming off the bench, the Rams would have been in dire straits. That situation is being reconsidered for the Packers. McVay: "I think that's a possibility, something that we would explore, especially just given the circumstances that's definitely something that we've talked about and we'll heavily consider this week."
Statistically, the Packers have the edge on the Rams offensively. Under Rodgers, they led the league in scoring with 509 points and were fifth with 389 total yards per game. They were eighth in total rushing yards and ninth in total passing yards. In comparison, the Rams were 23rd in scoring, 11th in total offense with 377 yards per game, 10th in rushing yards and 13th in passing yards. Obviously, Rodgers was much more efficient than Goff in manufacturing points.
Rodgers led the league with a very impressive 121.5 passer rating. He threw a league-leading 48 touchdowns and only five interceptions all season. He also led the league with a 70.7 passing percentage, completing 372 passes in 526 attempts. He was sacked 20 times. Goff was 23rd in passer rating with at 90.0, threw 20 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, was sacked 23 times and fumbled the ball seven times.
The Rams will need to rely on their defense to defeat the Packers. Led by All-Pro Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey, the team held opponents to 281.9 yards per game. Applying constant pressure with very little blitzing, they held Seattle's potent offense to 278 total yards last Saturday. Russell Wilson completed only 11 of 27 passes for 174 yards. The Rams sacked him five times: twice by Donald, twice by outside linebacker Leonard Floyd and once by defensive end Morgan Fox. It's imperative for a repeat performance against the Packers if the Rams are to advance.
Second-year Head coach Matt LaFleur will be going against McVay for the first time since LaFleur took over at Green Bay last season. LaFleur was the Rams offensive coordinator under McVay during the 2017 season. They also worked together previously when they were both on the Washington Football Team's coaching staff. "He's a great friend of mine. You're so happy to see that success. It's pretty crazy that we're getting an opportunity to play against one another... we'll see if we can go and get after Matt a little bit. It'll be fun."