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Sean McVay vs. Matt LaFleur: Rams to play Packers in divisional playoffs

Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers runs during the first half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears.
The Rams defense will be tasked with stopping Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the divisional playoffs on Saturday.
(Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press)

In 2017, shortly after the Rams hired him at 30 and made him the youngest coach in modern NFL history, Sean McVay hired Matt LaFleur to be the offensive coordinator.

Four years later, they will coach against each other as equals in an NFC divisional-round playoff game.

The Rams (11-6) will play the top-seeded Green Bay Packers (13-3) on Saturday at Lambeau Field at 1:35 p.m. PST.

“We know it’s a great challenge,” McVay said Sunday during a videoconference with reporters. “They’re the [No.] 1 seed for a reason.”

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The sixth-seeded Rams advanced to the divisional round on Saturday by defeating the third-seeded Seattle Seahawks, 30-20. The Packers had a bye.

Head coach Matt LaFleur, who has the Packers one step from the Super Bowl, had impact on Rams staff in 2017 and is facing mentor Kyle Shanahan in NFC championship.

Their matchup was ensured after the second-seeded New Orleans Saints defeated the seventh-seeded Chicago Bears, 21-9, in a wild-card game Sunday.

The game pits the Rams’ defense, which gave up a league-low 18.5 points per game this season, against quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense, which averaged a league-best 31.8 points. Rodgers has passed for 48 touchdowns, with five interceptions.

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“Aaron is playing like Aaron’s played,” McVay said. “It’s unbelievable.”

In 2018, LaFleur left the Rams to become offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans. The job included play-calling responsibilities, which McVay handles for the Rams. The Packers hired him before the 2019 season, replacing Mike McCarthy.

LaFleur, 41, has a 26-6 record in two seasons. He is 1-1 in the playoffs.

“The last thing I’m surprised by is the success that he’s had,” McVay said, adding, “It’s pretty crazy that we’re getting an opportunity to play against one another — really our teams are getting to play each other — in the divisional round.

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“And that’s going to be the most important thing is Rams versus Packers. And, you know, we’ll see if we can go get after Matt a little bit. It will be fun.”

McVay declined to say whom he would start at quarterback against the Packers.

John Wolford started against the Seahawks but suffered a neck injury in the first quarter. Jared Goff — who had right thumb surgery 12 days before — came off the bench and helped lead the Rams to a 30-20 victory.

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After the game, Goff said that there was no pain in his thumb.

“I’m very capable with what I have going on right now,” said Goff, who is 3-2 in postseason games.

McVay said Monday that Goff’s thumb displayed no setbacks. He said Wolford was day to day.

Asked if he would be inclined to start Goff if, with another week of practice, the quarterback was even closer to 100%, McVay remained steadfast about not revealing who he planned to start.

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“I’m going to take it a day at a time,” he said, adding that Goff’s thumb affected his play Saturday. “It might not have been painful, but it was something that …. there were some things that he typically is able to execute that it seemed like they were a factor.”

Quarterback Blake Bortles was not active against the Seahawks. McVay said the Rams would “heavily consider” having three quarterbacks active on Saturday.

Defensive tackle Aaron Donald came out of the game against the Seahawks in the third quarter because of a rib injury, but he is expected to play against the Packers, McVay said. He declined to specify the extent of the injury.

“We’ll be smart with him throughout the week,” McVay said, adding, “He’s going to do everything in his power to be ready to go.”

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Receiver Cooper Kupp came out in the fourth quarter because of bursitis in his right knee, McVay said.

“We’ll kind of just monitor that day to day for him and, hopefully, get that swelling and inflammation down with the anticipation and hope to have him ready to go,” McVay said.

Etc.

Defensive coordinator Brandon Staley met Sunday with the Chargers and the New York Jets about their head coach openings, McVay said. … Right guard David Edwards left Saturday’s game because of Achilles tendinitis and was replaced by Bobby Evans. Edwards will be monitored during the week, McVay said. Evans will start against the Packers if Edwards cannot play. … Snow is in the forecast in Green Bay for the days leading up to the game, and temperatures in the 20s are forecast for Saturday. “It will be cold,” McVay said, “but it will be a great change of pace for us.”


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