Something had to give. The number one defense against the number one offense. Never in Ram history, even in the heyday of the Ram ‘Fearsome Foursome’ from the 1960’s, had the Rams ended the regular season number one in scoring defense, allowed the fewest touchdown passes, and had the number one overall ranked defense at the end of the year. The old motto, defense wins championships now needs an asterisk. *Unless you are playing the 2020 Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers.
The Packers scored each time they touched the ball in the first half. They scored when given only 29 seconds, from their own 25 yard line… and they left a time out on the table. Fifty four yards in 29 seconds. They even had two shots at a touchdown. They “settled” for a field goal after facing 75 yards and only 29 seconds. Against the best defense in the NFL. Let that sink in.
Aaron Rogers had a 108.1 QB rating. Jared Goff was close with a 105.9. Perhaps the most important stat was the Packers offensive line again keeping Rogers clean for the entire game. The entire LA Ram final defensive stats: no sacks, 1 tackle for loss, 1 QB hit, and 4 passes defensed. Did the injury to Aaron Donald help the Packers and the stat sheet? Undoubtedly. But this was an incredible playoff effort for an offensive line missing their best player. Elgton Jennings just earned the All-Pro award he received this year. Frustrating Donald into a 15 yard composure penalty in a drive that ended in a touchdown was a huge swing for the Packers. Watching the Rams best secondary defender, Jalen Ramsey, lose his mind over the motion created LeFleur play design that pinned a touchdown on his stat sheet gave players and fans the feeling that the Packer game plan was not going to be frustrated by LaFleur’s former teacher, Sean McVay.
This win was a “monkey off the back” game for LaFleur. Last year he was humiliated in the playoffs by a former tutor in Kyle Shanahan. This year the student out-schemed and out maneuvered his former master. How did he do it? Devising a scheme that relied on his playmakers. The running game two headed monster of Jones and Williams (and an additional 27 yards from rookie A.J. Dillon) battled, scratched and spun for 164 yards. Tonyan, MVS and Lazard had 4 catches apiece and Davante had his usual 9 catches for 66 yards and a touchdown.
Rodgers late touchdown to Allen Lazard was, as Wayne Larrivee likes to say, “the dagger”. While the rating for the two QB’s was very close, Rodgers made the key plays for his team. Two plays that occurred before that last TD pass were emotional and momentum back breakers for the Rams. When A.J. Dillion fumbled after a crushing hit by Troy Reeder and A’Shawn Robinson, the game was still in the balance. Rodgers staying focused, picking up the ball and saving the drive was critical. Two plays later Lazard is in the end zone.
The other critical Rodgers play was after Rick Wagner was called for a controversial holding, backing up the Packers to their 8 yard line. Two plays layer, in his own end zone, Rodgers sidestepped the rush of Leonard Floyd, and calmly dropped a laser to Lazard for a first down. That drive ended in a punt but those yards prevented the Rams from getting the ball back with a short field or perhaps even a safety.
The special teams….hey we just won a playoff game in Lambeau against the best defense in the league where the Packers only punted twice and were just finger tips away from scoring a TD on one of those drives. Why spoil a good mood.
Defensive game balls should be given to Kenny Clark, Rashan Gary and Za’Darius Smith. The Rams were 3 of 8 on third down and Goff was sacked four times for a total of 26 yards lost. The Packer defense did not dominate, but made more big plays than the Rams defense. Make no mistake, Jared Goff came to play and his injured thumb had no impact on his arm strength or accuracy. He just couldn’t make the key plays of the game.
That was left to Rodgers and company to the delight of eight thousand or so happy fans at Lambeau Field and millions more cheering into their televisions. Here’s to hoping they have as much fun next week. Next up, the NFC Championship.