How can you not be romantic about football? During another week where the Green Bay Packers (9-3, 2-1 NFC North) struggled with injuries leading up to a major NFC matchup, the green and yellow topped the Los Angeles Rams (7-4, 1-2 NFC West) in a major 36-28 win at Lambeau Field.
The Packers actually won the coin toss for once and deferred, so the Rams were the first to take the field Sunday afternoon. After LA running back Darrell Henderson rushed for 6 yards on 2nd and 5 for a first down, Green Bay’s defensed locked in the next few plays and forced the Rams to punt early.
Despite still nursing a sprained MCL, Packers running back Aaron Jones was active and started for Green Bay on Sunday. To get things rolling on offense, on 2nd and 7, quarterback Aaron Rodgers connected with wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling for 8 yards and the first down. Then, on 3rd and 2, Rodgers connected with wide receiver Davante Adams for Green Bay’s first big gain of the day for 15 yards and a first down. From there, the Packers continued to keep their foot on the gas and even went for it on 4th and 1 at their own 49. And they finally used running back AJ Dillon in a short situation, and he rushed for 2 yards to keep the drive alive. As the Packers started to creep into Rams’ territory, Rodgers continued to get in rhythm and connected with Adams again, this time for 7 yards and a first down with cornerback Jalen Ramsey hanging all over him. However, the nice, balanced start for the Packers’ offense wasn’t enough and after shaving over eight minutes off the clock and failing to move the chains, they chose to punt from the Rams’ 38-yard line.
Green Bay wouldn’t have to wait long before they got the ball back though. Just two plays into LA’s next drive, linebacker Rashan Gary got to quarterback Matthew Stafford and forced a fumble and linebacker Preston Smith was there to recover it and bring it to LA’s 6-yard line. From there, on 3rd and goal, Rodgers rolled right, pump-faked, and beat Ramsey around the edge for a 1-yard touchdown and a 7-0 Packers lead.
After a tough showing last week, Green Bay’s defense came to play and prove to all of us that it was just a fluke. On their next drive, they forced a 4th and 1 situation for the Rams and safety Adrian Amos came up with a grown man tackle to prevent Henderson from gaining any yards, forcing a turnover on downs at LA’s 29-yard line.
To start the second quarter, the Packers looked to extend their early lead. However, they couldn’t succeed after Rodgers was sacked on 3rd and 7 and Green Bay was forced to settle for a field goal. Kicker Mason Crosby was good from 45-yards out and the Packers extended their lead to 10-0.
The Rams were not going to just let the Packers run away with this one though (although, that would’ve been nice). Just three plays later on 3rd and 8, Stafford looked deep over the middle to wide receiver Van Jefferson and connected with him for a 79-yard touchdown after cornerback Chandon Sullivan got beat and ended up tripping on the play. In a blink, the Packers’ lead was cut to 10-7.
Despite the mood killer on defense, Rodgers and the offense continued to fight. On 3rd and 3, 12 connected with wide receiver Randall Cobb for an enormous 54-yard gain to move the chains and propel the Packers into the red zone. However, it wasn’t enough for Green Bay to find the end zone and they, once again, looked to Crosby for a field goal. His 28-yard attempt was good, and the Packers extended their lead to 13-7.
At this point, things started to get even crazier. After Green Bay’s d-train forced a major three and out, Cobb muffed the punt return and LA recovered it at Green Bay’s 25. Luckily for the Packers, their defense continued to hold and forced the Rams to settle for just a field goal. Their 36-yard attempt was good, and they cut Green Bay’s lead to 13-10.
With just over seven minutes remaining in the half, Rodgers and Cobb connected for another big gain, this time for 27 yards on 1st and 10. After that, on 3rd and 2, Rodgers and Adams connected for an even bigger gain of 43-yards to get to LA’s 11-yard line. From there, on 2nd and 6, Rodgers connected with who else but Randall Cobb for 7 yards and a touchdown to extend their lead to 20-10.
However, the Rams continued to give the Packers a run for their money and executed their two-minute drill well. After running back Sony Michel picked up back-to-back first downs, Stafford connected with wide receiver Cooper Kupp for 22 yards and a first down. Then, right out of the two-minute warning, Stafford connected with Kupp again, this time for 19 yards and a first down to push the Rams into the red zone. From there, Stafford connected with Henderson for a 6-yard passing touchdown to cut the Packers’ lead to just 20-17 at the half.
Despite playing well in the first half, to open the second half, Erin Andrews and the FOX broadcast crew reported that Cobb was ruled out for the game at halftime due to a groin injury. Viewers saw Cobb limp off the field early into the half, but he quickly returned for the Packers and made several big plays before they later ruled him out. This is certainly something to monitor the next two weeks and hopefully the bye provides Cobby with the rest he needs to heal up and get back out on the field.
To start the second half, the Packers had to dig deep and find a way to keep the game in their hands after the Rams cut it close at the end of two. Luckily, they succeeded and embarked on a 7:42 long touchdown drive that stretched 75 yards and consisted of 13 plays (ESPN stats).
Right out of the half, Rodgers connected with MVS for 28 yards on 2nd and 14 to move the chains. Then, on 3rd and 1, the Packers continued to put their faith in AJ Dillon, and he rushed for 2 yards and a first down. From there, Dillon got involved in the pass game and converted for another first down after a 6-yard reception. Similar to the first half, when the Packers found themselves in a fourth and short situation in the second half, they went “all gas, no brakes” and Rodgers connected with tight end Josiah Deguara for 12 yards to keep the drive alive and deep into the red zone. After that, Rodgers connected with Dillon on another pass play, this time for 5 yards and a touchdown to extend the Packers’ lead to 27-17.
The defense came out with, as Matt LaFleur would say, their piss hot to start the second half, too. In just 44 seconds, they forced a three and out and the Rams were forced to punt it back to the Packers.
Green Bay responded with a three and out of their own but would quickly get a second chance after LA fumbled the punt return and linebacker Krys Barnes was there to recover it for the Packers at the Rams’ 28. Tight end Dominique Dafney was credited for the fumble.
Despite starting with great field position, the Packers couldn’t make something of the big turnover and, once again, turned to Crosby to extend their lead even further. His 29-yard field goal attempt was good, and the Packers took an even bigger, 30-17 lead.
Just when you thought things couldn’t get better for the Packers, they somehow did. On 3rd and 7, Stafford looked left for Cupp but it was picked off by cornerback Rasul Douglas and he took it back 33 yards to the house for the pick six! Green Bay attempted a two-point conversion and failed, so they took a 36-17 lead.
Although the game felt like it should’ve been over, there was still plenty of time left for the Rams to creep back into this one. On the opening play of the fourth quarter, LA caught Green Bay sleeping on another long pass play and Stafford connected with newly acquired wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. for 54 yards and a touchdown. Unlike the Packers, the Rams’ two-point conversion was good after an impressive, toe-dragging catch from Kupp, and LA cut Green Bay’s lead to 36-25.
During the remainder of the fourth quarter which felt like seventeen years, the Rams and the Packers both had to punt on back-to-back drives.
After that, with just over three minutes remaining in the game, Green Bay moved within field goal position, but Crosby’s 42-yard attempt hit the left upright and was no good.
The Rams had one final attempt to make a miracle happen but couldn’t come through after defensive tackle Kenny Clark stuffed Henderson on 3rd and 1 and forced the Rams to attempt a field goal. Their 39-yard attempt was good and that would give us our final score of 36-28. After the field goal, LA attempted an onside kick but Amos recovered it for the Packers to seal the deal and help Green Bay improve to 9-3 on the season as they head into a much-needed bye week.
What we learned: This Packers team has the heart to go far
It feels like we’ve been here so many times this season. The Packers are beat-up with injuries, their backs are against the wall, everyone is picking the other team over them, and somehow, someway Green Bay pulls off an impressive win.
If you’ve been following my writing at CHTV the last few seasons, I’ve preached about how previous Packers teams have lacked the “heart” and “fight” necessary to make a legitimate Super Bowl run. This 2021 squad, however, has proven time after time they have what it takes to compete come January/February and it’s really exciting to watch.
This team is 9-3 with several of its key players on both sides of the ball out with injuries and is now heading into a bye week where even more of their key players have the opportunity to get healthy. Kudos to LaFleur and the way he’s lead this football team.
What went right: Run defense
Read that again.
If you would’ve told me at the start of this season that the Packers’ run defense looked impressive against the Rams I would’ve laughed. According to Packers digital writer Wes Hodkiewicz, Green Bay’s defense didn’t allow a carry of more than seven yards and the Rams finished with just 68 yards on 20 rushing attempts for an average of 3.4 yards/carry on Sunday.
What went wrong: Special teams and giving up big pass plays
I don’t even want to talk about special teams. I know Dafney and Barnes had a nice recovery on special teams after the Rams fumbled their return but, other than that…puke. They find new ways to make me angry every week.
Although the defense played really well overall, the two huge pass touchdowns they gave up weren’t ideal. Until last week against Jefferson and the Vikings, Green Bay had done a decent job of not giving up major plays like that on defense. However, giving up both 79- and 54-yard touchdown passes in the same game is less than ideal.
Offensive MVP: AJ Dillon
AJ Dillon is the gift that keeps on giving for the Packers. He had another great game on Sunday and showed up in both the run and pass game. According to ESPN stats, he led the team in rushing with 20 carries for 69 yards and had 5 receptions for 21 yards and a touchdown.
Defensive MVP: Rasul Douglas
I know Douglas gave up the one big touchdown play but, other than that, I loved everything I saw from him on Sunday. He continues to prove that he was an absolute steal for the Packers and continues to make big plays when Green Bay needs them.
According to ESPN stats, he finished the game with 6 tackles, 3 of which were solo, 4 pass deflections, 1 interception and 1 touchdown.
Up next, it’s finally bye week! See you in two weeks.