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As with every week, blocking Aaron Donald becomes Giant concern

Rams' Aaron Donald recovers the ball fumbled by Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen.
Rams’ Aaron Donald recovers the ball fumbled by Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen during the second half on Sunday in Orchard Park, N.Y.
(Adrian Kraus / Associated Press)

As with every NFL team that plays the Rams, the New York Giants will go into Sunday’s game at SoFi Stadium with a plan to minimize destruction caused by Aaron Donald.

The Rams’ star lineman, a two-time NFL defensive player of the year, is off to relatively fast start with three sacks in three games.

“This guy will really ruin your birthday party in a hurry,” Giants coach Joe Judge told reporters this week.

Judge won’t turn 39 until December. Giants quarterback Daniel Jones turns 24 in May.

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But Donald, 29, shows no signs of slowing down in his seventh NFL season.

Last Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, Donald had two sacks and once again became something of one-man wrecking crew during the second half as the Rams came back from a 25-point deficit.

“I’m just out there playing ball, doing what I’ve got to do to try to help my team, trying to pull out a win,” Donald said Thursday during a video conference with reporters.

Rams had Jared Goff rolling left and right out of the pocket in the first two weeks, but against the Bills he started stepping up in a crowded pocket and throwing to ignite a team-record comeback.

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In the fourth quarter, Donald sacked quarterback Josh Allen and forced a fumble, and then recovered it. That set up a touchdown that gave the Rams a 32-28 lead. The Rams eventually fell short, 35-32, but coach Sean McVay said he learned about his defense in the defeat.

“What I learned is that they can make a lot of turnovers in a hurry that can enable us to be able to get back in the game,” McVay said, adding. “There’s a fight in them, we’re very tough, and Aaron Donald is a freak.”

That description is nothing new for the 6-foot-1, 280-pound Donald, the 13th pick in the 2014 draft and a six-time Pro Bowl selection. Donald’s three sacks this season pushed his career total to 75.

Judge said that new Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley has Donald moving around more along the line of scrimmage, and Donald is playing with his trademark relentlessness from all angles.

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“You watch and you think, ‘Wow,’ ” Judge said. “I mean this guy almost singlehandedly ended the game for Buffalo the way he got after the quarterback.”

Donald also disrupted at the goal line, Judge said.

“Buffalo tried to cut him — he just jumped over the center … then completely made a stand by himself. ... He knows going in everybody’s got something in mind for him. Everyone’s got a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

Last week, before the Rams played the Bills, Donald lamented the attention paid to him by opposing offensive coordinators.

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“I wish people could just not worry about me and just let me play,” he said with tongue in cheek.

Then he laughed.

“Don’t give me no attention,” he said, “You ain’t got to slide, you ain’t got to double team me, you don’t have to do nothing. Let’s all play football fair, get some one-on-ones and let’s just do what we’ve got to do. That’s all I want.”

Donald said Thursday that he wasn’t joking.

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“I wish I was,” he said. “I don’t know what the game plan is for them. Hopefully they ain’t got to worry about me.

“They just block one-on-one and see what happens.”

Donald is not expected to encounter that kind of matchup. If he makes a big play, there will only be teammates to cheer him.

A years-long NFL Films project built a massive database of crowd sounds from every stadium, not knowing that audio library would be so valuable in an age of empty venues and artificial noise.

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The COVID-19 pandemic, and the NFL protocols to deal with it, have eliminated fans from most stadiums this season. Donald said that he misses the atmosphere and noise created by big crowds, of fans responding to big plays by both teams.

Against the Bills, the Rams probably benefited from the absence of one of the best home crowds in the league. The Rams return to empty SoFi Stadium to play the Giants.

“We just have to be more consistent at times,” Donald said of the defense. “That’s all it comes down to – being more consistent through four quarters and we’ve got to do that from the start to the finish.”

Etc.

Running back Cam Akers (ribs) did not practice. “I would be surprised if he played” against the Giants, McVay said. Defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day (ankle) and receiver Josh Reynolds (ankle) were full participants. Safety Jordan Fuller (shoulder) was limited. ... Rookie outside linebacker Terrell Lewis practiced. Lewis is in the 21-day window to be activated from the injured list to the active roster. ... Giants defensive back Jabril Peppers (ankle) did not practice, and defensive backs Adrian Colbert (quadriceps) and Julian Love (knee/ankle) were limited, per the Giants injury report.


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