Disappointment is certainly one word to describe the level of play turned in by the Los Angeles Rams over the weekend as they fell to the Green Bay Packers. Both offensively and defensively, the Rams were pushed around by an energized Packers team and summarily beaten by a final score of 32-18 in the Divisional round. The disappointment is a sign that the expectation heading into the matchup was that the Rams would be a major challenge for the Packers. However, that was not the case. Today we take a look at what went wrong at Lambeau Field and why the Rams will be watching the rest of the playoffs from home.
Donald Missing in Action
The previous week against the Seattle Seahawks, defensive tackle Aaron Donald missed much of the final three quarters due to a rib injury. His absence wasn’t a concern on that day as the pass rush was effective at slowing down Russell Wilson and the Seattle offense. Donald was limited in practice leading up to Saturday’s game against the Packers. While he made a valiant effort to play in the game, the injury left a visible difference in how he performed. Donald was on the field for a total of 40 plays on Saturday, a disappointing 53% of the defensive snaps. Nearly all of the snaps came in the first half.
Without Donald in the game, the Rams defensive line struggled to make an impact. Part of the impact of Donald is his versatility to create matchup nightmares anywhere on the line. This often forces the offense to key on where he lines up and slide help over. This additional attention helps to create easier matchups for the rest of the defensive line. With their all-world lineman on the sidelines, the Packers protection group had a field day. Donalds’ injury quickly became an issue as he was quickly rotated on defense with his duration on the field lessening at the start of the second quarter. It is not surprising then to find the Packers surged to their lead with 16 points scored in the quarter.
Ice Cold Defense
Los Angeles went into Lambeau Field with one of the hottest defensive units in the league. Over the previous six games, the defense had held the opposition to less than 300 yards, in each contest. They also had six takeaways during that same stretch. Against the Packers, the defense surrendered 484 yards of total offense, including 188 yards on the ground. It was a total collapse for a defense that had been surging to that point. Adding to the disappointment, the Rams were unable to generate a turnover on defense and give their offense an extra chance to make it a game.
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The Rams failed to collect a single sack against the Packers. Green Bay hoped to offset the Los Angeles pass rush with quick passes to the outside. However, as it became clear that the Rams were unable to generate pressure, the Packers began taking bigger shots downfield. Those shots paid off and proved to be the dagger late in the game as Aaron Rodgers found Allen Lazard for a 58-yard touchdown, giving the Packers a 14-point lead with six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. It was the back-breaking blow as the Rams were unable to get any closer.
In games where the Rams have struggled this season, they’ve been the team on the back foot, trying to get out of the way of their more physical opponent. Against the Packers, Los Angeles received body blow after body blow, before eventually hitting the canvass for the final time. This wasn’t a trend contained only to the defense. The Los Angeles offense struggled early to find a flow. A major player in that was the ability of the Green Bay defensive line to dictate the line of scrimmage. While the Packers ran wild on the Los Angeles defense, the Rams offense sputtered on the ground, finishing with less than 100 yards rushing for only the third time this season.
The inconsistency of the ground game led to relying on the passing attack. While Jared Goff played a solid game, he was often under duress and sacked a total of four times, each one serving as drive-killers. The Rams struggled at the point of attack on both sides of the football and it was their downfall. What seemed like a team peaking in the playoffs, ended in disappointment on a call afternoon in Wisconsin. While physicality rings true throughout the season, the playoffs place a higher emphasis on the need to win in the trenches. Los Angeles failed to do so and it cost them the season. Quite the disappointment for a team with high expectations.
What Happens Next
As the Rams head into the offseason, many questions swirl around the team. Less than 48 hours after the loss, the Rams lost talented defensive coordinator, Brandon Staley. The Rams lost their coordinator to their SoFi Stadium tenant, the Los Angeles Chargers. Now the Rams have to address changes to their coaching staff among decisions with the roster, namely at the quarterback position. Los Angeles has a decision to make regarding the future of Goff and his time with the team. Heading into the 2021 season, three players (Goff, Donald, Ramsey) account for nearly half of the team’s contract bill. According to OverTheCap, the Rams are set to be $22.7 million over the expected 2021 salary cap. The year ended in disappointment but things could get worse for the Rams.
– Ryan Adverderada is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Cardinals and covers the San Francisco 49ers for Full Press Coverage. Like and follow on Follow @ryanadverderada