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It might be cheesy, not easy, for Rams in next round of playoffs

The Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers looks to pass during a game against the Carolina Panthers on Dec. 19, 2020.
Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers looks to pass during a win over Carolina on Dec. 19. The Packers went 13-3 this season and have the NFC’s top seed in the playoffs.
(Mike Roemer / Associated Press)

The Rams have gone from left for dead to a wounded animal that nobody in the NFC should want to face.

Their 30-20 triumph at Seattle on Saturday was cobbled together with a punishing running back, a stifling defense and enough help from all angles to withstand the loss of starting quarterback John Wolford — transported to the hospital with a neck injury — and the shaky play of Jared Goff, whose thumb on his throwing hand swelled to Flint-stonian proportions.

Still, the Rams were able to hand Seahawks coach Pete Carroll his first home loss in the playoffs, and end Seattle’s 10-game postseason home winning streak.

This was a 53-man, 360-degree win for the Rams, who put their roster depth on full display, even though they haven’t had a first-round draft pick since they took Goff first overall in 2016.

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Jared Goff returned after John Wolford sustained a neck injury, and the Rams’ defense put on a show in a 30-20 playoff win over the Seattle Seahawks.

It was a testament to Sean McVay’s evolution from an offensive mastermind to a seasoned, all-around head coach.

So on the Rams go to the divisional round, where their second game most likely will be at Green Bay against the Packers, who finished 13-3 for the second season in a row.

If, as expected, New Orleans beats Chicago on Sunday, the Rams play the Packers.

If Chicago pulls off the upset, the Rams play at Tampa Bay, where they won, 27-24, in Week 11.

It’s entirely possible that the Bears could win, so it’s premature to bank on a Rams-Packers game. But because a trip to Green Bay is the most likely eventuality, it’s worth taking a slightly deeper look at that potential matchup.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, left, and Rams coach Sean McVay talk after L.A.'s victory.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, left, and Rams coach Sean McVay talk after the visitors eliminated Seattle from the playoffs.
(Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

The teams last faced each other during the 2018 regular season at the Coliseum, the Rams’ Super Bowl year, when Los Angeles escaped with a 29-27 victory.

That was when Green Bay kick returner Ty Montgomery ignored an order to take a knee and instead fumbled away his return, and the Packers’ comeback chances, in the waning moments.

But just as this is a different Rams team than that Todd Gurley-powered version, these are different Packers, coached not by Mike McCarthy — now in Dallas — but by Matt LaFleur, who was McVay’s offensive coordinator in his 2017 debut season with the Rams.

This season, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has made a compelling case for his third NFL MVP award. Perhaps the teammate most responsible for that is one who won’t even dress for the game: rookie quarterback Jordan Love, whom the Packers traded up to select in the first round.

Rams quarterback Jared Goff emerges from his benching and gives a performance that’s both scary and solid in Saturday’s playoff win at Seattle.

Instead of being aggrieved and sleepwalking through 16 games, Rodgers clearly took the drafting of Love as a personal challenge and assembled a spectacular season.

“I think it’s the strongest I’ve definitely felt and probably the least sore, least amount of bumps and issues,” Rodgers told reporters Thursday. “We all deal with certain things throughout the season, but to be able to have made it through every practice and not be limited in any of them definitely was a change for me — a very welcome change.”

Not surprisingly, considering their offensive roots, the Rams and Packers look somewhat similar on that side of the ball, with their bunch formations, full-speed motion and jet sweeps, and reliance on the running game.

Of course, Rodgers is almost always the best quarterback in the game, regardless of the matchup, and the Rams remain a big question mark at the position. But the defenses that can give him problems are those that can rush four and drop seven in coverage, and the Rams can do that. The health of Donald, who left Saturday’s game with a rib injury, is paramount.

Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey did a good job on Seattle receiver D.K. Metcalf, and would draw the assignment of Rodgers’ favorite target, Davante Adams.

The rest of the Rams’ secondary is very solid, so if Green Bay plays Los Angeles, it won’t be easy for the Packers to move the ball through the air.

Green Bay’s Aaron Jones is an excellent running back, and Rams rookie Cam Akers is gathering a head of steam and was a key component in Saturday’s victory, running for 131 yards.

The Rams’ 30-20 playoff victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday by the numbers.

When it came to stopping the run last season, the Packers could be horrendous.

They were trampled in the NFC championship game against San Francisco, with the 49ers’ Raheem Mostert running for 220 yards and four touchdowns.

But this is a far more solid Green Bay defense, with strong play from a pair of former UCLA standouts: defensive lineman Kenny Clark and undrafted rookie inside linebacker Krys Barnes.

Those players will be key if the Packers wind up playing host to the Rams. But even with the uncertainty at quarterback, as Saturday’s performance showed, L.A. isn’t going away quietly.


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