After their Wild Card victory against the Seattle Seahawks, Sean McVay and the Los Angeles Rams continued their case for a team with the best defense in the league, some of the best playmakers in the league, and still my personal pick for coach of the year as they entered the game as underdogs but made a lost man out of Russell Wilson. Seattle’s star QB passed for less than 175 yards as the Rams kept the running game at bay and limited D.K. Metcalf, which sent Wilson running back to Pike Place.
McVay’s game plan showcased how badly he wanted the defense to win the game and thank God he did. Notorious Rams back-up quarterback and Wake Forest product John Wolford got the start after Jared Goff underwent surgery due to a broken thumb. Wolford’s starting role lasted longer than a Facebook ad, but not as long as Edward Norton’s stint playing the Hulk. The crux of that: it was short. And a pain to the fanbase. Thus McVay summons Jared Goff and the Rams pull off a more-than-favorable “upset” as they go from NFC West rival to No. 1 seed in the NFC.
The comparison made in a previous article to the 2011 championship New York Giants team and current day Los Angeles Rams is not just reflective of the two underdog teams, but also in the teams they faced. The 2011 Giants faced a Packers team in Week 2 of the playoffs that had the league running scared with an arsenal of attack led by Aaron Rodgers, featuring Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley, Jordy Nelson, and Donald Driver. The Packers team was known for their offense and was set to face a stalwart defense with a middling offense. That latter description is applicable to a.) 2011 Giants, and b.) 2020 Rams. A win this week will truly feel like an upset, and just like every week, the Rams are ready to make it a contest. In a collective effort by both offense and defense to make game-changing plays comes the potential for game-changing players.
Here are three names for the Rams that could shine and lead them to a win that will inevitably feel like a steppingstone to the Super Bowl.
Three Non-Star Players That Need To Ball Out For The Rams To Win
You may have forgotten about running back Malcolm Brown after Cam Akers’s 28 rushes for 131 yards against the Seahawks. If the Rams win the game, you may be thanking this RB for a performance that is capable of shifting the game’s outcome.
One of the main topics of discussion this week has been Jared Goff’s frozen play under cold conditions, dwelling on the matchup against the Chicago Bears in 2018 where Goff threw for 180 yards and four interceptions, clearly shown as an outcome of the bearish temperature.
Things are shaping up to be a nightmare for Goff, only two weeks removed from breaking his thumb. It is unclear whether the Rams should hone in on either halting the Packers’ offense to such a low score that the Rams win the game in the low-20s, or whether they should push Goff to square-off against one of the league’s elite offenses.
The Packers’ defense will try to get Goff to throw, but Malcolm Brown can manage to take the lead for the offense alongside Akers, whose increased production in the last several weeks has put his name on the defensive scheme thus leaving Brown with the opportunity to fly under the radar. Even with Wolford out and Goff playing at possibly 70%, the Rams sneakily scored 30 points, fortified by their effective run game that produce 161 yards between Akers and Brown.
With 64 rushes in the past three games, Akers is veering into unfamiliar territory for rookies playing a heavy lead back role in an arduous playoff series, which could prove to be wearing for the new RB. Brown’s inclusion in the game plan can kickstart the offense when the defense least expects a big play and be the needed offense that the Rams will likely require to conjure up if they expect to win against Aaron Rodgers.
This may feel like a cop-out because it’s *technically* two names but both players share a similar purpose surrounding one well-known name: Aaron Donald. Slow to get up at one point in the third quarter against the Seahawks, Donald left the game with a rib injury but is ready to suit up Saturday against the Packers. While no one doubted Aaron Donald’s status on the field for an upcoming playoff game, there has to be a question of where the QB pressures will come from if the star DT’s injury turns out to be a greater hindrance.
Recording one sack against Russell Wilson in an unlikely standout performance, defensive lineman Morgan Fox proved he can keep the QB’s feet peddling and he’ll need to do once more against Aaron Rodgers, who posted the league’s best QBR (84.3).
Leonard Floyd is a well-liked player among the fanbase as the Carraway to Aaron Donald’s Gatsby, or Robin to his Batman for those who hate books without pictures. Floyd’s impact on Aaron Rodgers and the offensive line sees greater potential after the loss of All-Pro David Bakhtiari.
Fox and Floyd will also need to impact the running game rather than freeing Aaron Jones. It may be in their best interest to test Aaron Rodger’s passing by forcing him to throw against Brandon Staley’s tight-knit 3-4 scheme. With playmakers like Jalen Ramsey, John Johnson III, Darious Williams, and Troy Hill the Rams may continue their success as not just a stopping defense, but as a scoring defense.
Going back to the Rams’ problems with Jared Goff comes the question of how they are going to score if the quarterback can’t throw down the field or lead the offense to the red zone. Kickers may not have feelings according to football fans, but those readers in a Greg Zuerlein jersey can unashamedly nod to this pick.
As the final change to PK for the Rams after an unsuccessful tryout with Sam Sloman and Kai Forbath, Matt Gay has hit all but two field-goal attempts and will have to be in the running for an MVP ticket within the Rams locker room if he is able to kick in conditions that Goff can’t throw against. Strongly reliable from 30-49 yards away, Matt Gay will likely be the Rams’ best offensive play on Saturday and if Goff can score one, maybe two touchdowns, with a standout performance by the defense, these LA Rams can advance to the NFC Championship game. If it happens to be against the Buccaneers it’ll be a great revenge game for Gay.