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Key Matchups: Los Angeles Rams At Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers vs Aaron Donald

In last season’s NFC Divisional round, the Los Angeles Rams were only able to get pressure on Aaron Rodgers four times. They had been averaging nine pressures per game in 2020. An injury to Aaron Donald was a big reason for this drop-off. He had averaged 2.8 pressures per game in the regular season and in that game he had zero.

It is a different story heading into this weekend’s matchup. Donald is healthy and entering the matchup coming off a bye week. The Rams defense is still terrorizing quarterbacks, once again averaging nine pressures per game.

Generally, pressure for Rodgers isn’t a problem. He usually makes good decisions and his completion percentage doesn’t drop significantly when he’s under the heat. That isn’t the case this year. When under pressure, his completion percentage is third-worst in the league. In addition to that, according to Pro Football Focus, his big-time throw percentage under pressure is significantly lower while his turnover-worthy plays percentage under pressure is much higher this year than in recent years. One of the hallmarks of Rodgers’ career has been his ability to turn bad situations into huge plays. What these stats show is that hasn’t been the case recently.

The Rams will be the most potent pass rush the Packers have faced thus far. Donald’s interior pass rush won’t allow Rodgers to step up into the pocket. In theory, this should flush Rodgers out of the pocket, where he has made some of his most famous dazzling throws. So, getting edge pressure in addition to pressure up the middle will be step two to containing Rodgers. 

The Packers will have to reach deep into their depth chart to find a starting left tackle. David Bakhtiari has been dealing with a knee injury since last season and they lost Elgton Jenkins to season-ending knee surgery last week. Jenkins moved from guard to tackle when it was apparent that Bakhtiari wouldn’t be healthy by the start of the season. So this, along with other injuries makes the Packers line a serious liability. This means Von Miller and Leonard Floyd should be able to make the impact the Rams need on the edge. 

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Brian Allen vs Kenny Clark

The interior pass rush laid out in the preceding section was deployed to great effect by the Tennessee Titans against the Rams. Jeffery Simmons had a career day when rushing up the middle in week nine. He posted nine pressures and three sacks. Brain Allen allowed four of those pressures, two resulting in sacks. 

Brian Allen’s journey to playing center this year hasn’t been a smooth one. When Austin Blythe departed in free agency the Rams initially moved Austin Corbett into the center role. Corbett played most of training camp on the first team, until just before the season started. Brian Allen was named the starter and Corbett moved to guard. Since taking on the role he has been better than expected. He has had good games. He allowed only one pressure when facing Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh of the Buccaneers, but he has also had a few games like the one against Simmons. 

This week he will face Kenny Clark. Clark is third in pressures among interior pass rushers. Donald is second and Simmons is first. Some of Clark’s best performances have come against the league’s top pass-blocking offensive lines, but none better than the Rams. That said, the strength of the line doesn’t match up very well against tough interior pressure. Even when Allen is at his best, he isn’t the strongest link in the chain. But, the question is which Allen will show up. The version against the Titans or the Buccaneers.  

A reason that Allen may have struggled recently is a shoulder injury sustained against the Titans. Clark is also coming off an injury. He left the game in the first half of the Chiefs game due to a lingering back issue. 

Matthew Stafford vs Adrian Amos

Matthew Stafford has had issues with safeties in the last two games. He threw a pick-six to Kevin Byard and two picks to Jimmy Ward, one of which was returned for a touchdown. This week he will square off against another talented safety, Adrian Amos. Amos has become one of Green Bay’s cornerstones in the secondary and has really hit a stride recently. He has two interceptions and six passes defended this season. He is the ninth highest-graded safety by PFF and quarterbacks have an NFL passer rating of just 72.7 when targeted.

One of Stafford’s interceptions against the 49ers was an errant throw deep to Odell Beckham Jr. It looked like a misunderstanding between the two rather than an incredible read by Ward. It should go without saying that the Rams likely used their bye week and the run-up to this game to work on the chemistry between Beckham and Stafford. The urgency for a bond between the newly added receiver and Stafford was turned up to 11 when Robert Woods went down with a season-ending injury.

Stafford has relied heavily on finding a rhythm early on in games. When he has, he seems to lock in and then uncork a big throw. In the first quarter, he often looks to Tyler Higbee in the short passing game, Cooper Kuppand Robert Woods on the intermediate passes, and Van Jefferson as the deep option.

In his limited snaps, Beckham was targeted deep, which is where Amos is generally expected to cover. With Woods out, Beckham’s role has become even more important. He will still be used as a deep threat, but he will have to be used in Wood’s intermediate-depth role. These routes make up a  bulk of McVay’s plays and they are far more complicated than the deep game. It will be important that Stafford and Beckham find their connection.

On Tuesday, Sean McVay told the press that integrating Beckham is still a work in progress. He went on to say, “What I didn’t want to do is immerse him in some information and then you end up adjusting and changing. So, I think you want to be able to foundationally build it the right way, formations, all those kinds of things, and then you do need to be specific with the way that we implement the game plan”

Amos’ role in the defense became much more important when the Packers hired Joe Barry. Barry helped install Brandon Staley’s scheme last season with the Rams. Amos, along with Darnell Savage, has been tasked with capping explosive plays. Stafford’s success hinges on connecting on explosive plays. In wins this season, Stafford’s yards per passing attempt is 8.5. In losses, it was just 5.5 yards per attempt. Per SharpFootballStats.com, Green Bay has allowed the fourth-fewest explosive passing plays, and Amos has been the main reason why. 

Beyond Amos, the Packers secondary is formidable. Kevin King has stepped up his game while Jaire Alexander was on the injured reserve. King has improved as his playing time has increased. Rookie first-rounder Eric Stokes has shined in games, although his best games have come against bad quarterbacks.

Stafford will have to find a way to get the ball downfield and avoid Amos while doing so. The Rams success has been driven by big plays early on in games. 

Darrell Henderson vs AJ Dillon

As good as the Packers have been when defending the pass, they have struggled against the run. They are 24th in run defense DVOA and give up the fifth-most yards per rush. The problem is the Rams don’t run the ball very much. They are 24th in the league in rushing attempts per game. 

Plenty of ink has been spilled over Sean McVay’s relationship to the running game. And while the jury will remain out about if he is right or wrong about his utilization of his running back, it seems like a good strategy to run the ball against a team that it’s easy to run the ball on. Running the ball will also give the Rams the ability to keep the ball out of the hands of Aaron Rodgers. 

The Packers running game on the other hand has been one of the league’s best. They are ranked fourth by PFF. Not only that but teams have proven that running on the Rams defense can be effective. But the Packers lost Aaron Jones, one of the heads of their two-headed rushing monster, to injury. For the first time this season, AJ Dillon took the bulk of the hand-offs. He rushed 11 times for 53 yards. But the Packers only ran the ball 19 times, which is much lower than their usual output. Their game against the Vikings was a back and forth shootout, which limits how many rushing scenarios in a game, so it will be interesting to see how Matt LaFleur executes the rushing attack against the Rams. 

The one big mitigating factor affecting the Rams running game has been injury. Of course, there is Cam Akers, but both Darrell Henderson and Sony Michel have been banged up at times during the season. And while Henderson isn’t on a hard pitch count, McVay does seem to monitor his workload. This certainly would stop McVay from being able to commit to ‘pounding the rock.’ 

At the moment, neither team can feel entirely confident with their running game. But for these two high-flying offenses, the team that is able to control the clock will likely be the one that comes out on top. 

Jalen Ramsey vs Devante Adams

The big topic coming out of the Rams loss in week 10 was, ‘Why wasn’t Jalen Ramsey draped all over Deebo Samuel.’ The simple answer is that Raheem Morris puts Ramsey where he thinks he can make the biggest difference. But it is hard to argue that Ramsey wouldn’t make the biggest impact against their opponent’s best receiver. 

Not only is Davante Adams his team’s best receiver, but he is also one of the best in the league. He trails only Cooper Kupp and Samuel in receiving years. Adams has been targeted 98 times, which is three times more than any other Packer wide receiver. 

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So not only will it be an important matchup in the game, it will be interesting to see just how often they will go toe-to-toe. 

With the number of targets that Adams gets, it seems like a no-brainer to force the Packers to pass to a different receiver or throw to the best cornerback in the game. 

Los Angeles Rams Practice Leading Up To Playing The Green Bay Packers. Photo Credit: Brevin Townsell | LA Rams

Los Angeles Rams Practice Leading Up To Playing The Green Bay Packers. Photo Credit: Brevin Townsell | LA Rams

Ryan Anderson

Author Ryan Anderson

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