They are basking in the afterglow of a dominant defensive performance that solidified their standing as a Super Bowl favorite. But the Rams won’t face another backup quarterback thrust into a starting role any time soon.
On Sunday at the Coliseum, the Rams play the Green Bay Packers and superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The two-time NFL most valuable player is a major step up over San Francisco’s C.J. Beathard, who was pummeled by Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald and forced into throwing two key interceptions in last Sunday’s 39-10 victory.
Rodgers is “a first-ballot Hall of Famer” with a track record of brilliance, Rams coach Sean McVay said Monday.
“He’s a real problem,” McVay said. “It’s going to be a great challenge but something I think our guys will be excited about.
“This is what you love.”
The Rams improved to 7-0 against a 49ers team without injured starter Jimmy Garoppolo. Rodgers, who signed a $134-million extension before the season, is the first of four star quarterbacks coming up next, including New Orleans’ Drew Brees, Seattle’s Russell Wilson and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes.
Rodgers is averaging 333 passing yards per game, which ranks third in the NFL. He’s passed for 12 touchdowns with only one interception.
Against the 49ers two weeks ago, he passed for 425 yards and two touchdowns, and engineered a last-minute drive for a game-winning field goal.
Rodgers and the Packers are rested after last week’s open date. Rams players know what they are up against.
“That’s going to be a different deal,” Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman said in the locker room. “C’mon. It’s Aaron.”
Rodgers, in his 14th season, has won a Super Bowl and led his team to the playoffs eight times. McVay noted that Rodgers’ ability to make throws from all angles, to extend plays and to lead game-winning drives sets him apart.
Middle linebacker Cory Littleton is playing at a high level in his first season as a starter, but Rodgers presents his toughest challenge to date.
“We have to stop him from extending plays,” Littleton said Sunday. “He’s mobile in that pocket, he gets out of that pocket, he stretches plays out and he makes things happen.
“As long as we can contain him, control him and put him in situations that we want, we should be OK.”
The Rams emerged from Sunday’s victory without major injuries. But McVay acknowledged that quarterback Jared Goff “got banged up a little bit.”
“With some of the hits that you're taking, that's natural to be sore, but he's in good shape,” McVay added.
Goff passed for 202 yards and two touchdowns against the 49ers. He has passed for 14 touchdowns with five interceptions.
Receiver Cooper Kupp, sidelined because of a knee sprain, is “making good progress,” McVay said.
“Whether it's this week or whether it's another week [he returns], hard to say right now,” he said.
Running back Todd Gurley leads the league with 14 touchdowns and is among the front-runners for MVP. The Rams also are getting solid play from Gurley’s backup.
Malcolm Brown, effective in spots throughout the season, took advantage of a more prominent role during one drive against the 49ers. He carried four times for 24 yards and caught a six-yard pass to help set up Goff’s 19-yard touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks.
Brown finished with a team-best 65 yards in 13 carries and earned a game ball.
“You want to be able to have Todd on the field, but you also want to be mindful of just the overall workload,” McVay said. “Then, also, you want to give Malcolm an opportunity to go out there and do his thing as well.
“He's an efficient player, really productive, trustworthy and you win with players like Malcolm Brown.”