The Green Bay Packers defeated the Los Angeles Rams 32-18 at Lambeau Field Saturday night to advance to the NFC Championship Game for the second consecutive year.
Aaron Rodgers threw for 296 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score while the Packers gained 188 yards on the ground and 484 total yards in the game against the NFL’s top scoring defense.
The Packers will host the winner of the Saints-Bucs game next Sunday for the right to play in Super Bowl LV.
Here are 10 things we learned from the Packers 32-18 win over the Rams:
- Aaron Rodgers Is Running the Offense Like a Maestro
The Packers were facing the NFL’s stingiest scoring defense but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the statistics. The Packers gained 484 total yards, scored points on their first five drives of the game and could have had more points at the end of the game if the outcome had still been in doubt.
Head coach Matt LaFleur did a good job of mixing run and pass and Rodgers was patient, executing the short passes the defense gave him and then took a shot downfield on the long touchdown pass to Allen Lazard that iced the victory.
Rodgers seems to be in complete control of this offense and he’s playing at an all-time great level once again as he guns for his second Super Bowl.
- The Offensive Line Rose to the Occasion
The Packers were understandably concerned about facing Aaron Donald and the Rams defense without All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari but the Packers offensive line didn’t miss a beat.
Billy Turner did a good job at left tackle while Elgton Jenkins frustrated Donald and caused him to lose his cool on at least one occasion during the game. In fact, Donald was credited with just one assist and no solo tackles in the game. His rib injury was also a factor in limiting his effectiveness.
The offensive line didn’t allow Rodgers to be sacked in 36 pass attempts while the Pack gained 188 yards on the ground while averaging 5.2-yards per rush and that includes three kneel downs by Rodgers at the end of the game.
The offensive line did a great job and was a big reason the offense rolled up nearly 500 yards in this game.
- The Pass Rush Got Pressure
Green Bay was able to get good pressure on Rams quarterback Jared Goff, especially late in the game. The Packers recorded four sacks with both Rashan Gary and Kenny Clark picking up 1.5 each. Za’Darius Smith registered the other sack.
The Packers also hit Goff seven times in this game with Gary leading the way with three.
The Packers defense got the job done late in the game when the Rams really needed to score and that helped clinch the victory.
- Kenny Clark Is Playing His Best Football
Defensive tackle Kenny Clark was injured in Week 1 and wasn’t playing at his usual high level until later in the season. But now, Clark is playing his best football in December and January just when the Packers need him the most.
Clark finished the game with three total tackles, 1.5 sacks, one tackle for loss and two quarterback hits.
The Packers need Clark to help stop the run and to provide inside push on the pass rush. He did the job well on Saturday against the Rams.
- Allen Lazard Got Some Redemption
Earlier in the game, Lazard dropped a key pass that would have picked up a first down and possibly a touchdown. It was a disappointing play at a key moment.
But in the fourth quarter with a chance to clinch the victory, Rodgers went back to Lazard on a long play action pass that went for a 58-yard touchdown.
Lazard finished the game with four catches for 96 yards and a touchdown. He got redemption for his earlier mistake with the game-clinching touchdown catch.
- Special Teams Remain a Problem
The Packers continue to struggle on special teams. A bad snap cost the Packers one extra point attempt and later in the game, they failed to get a two-point conversion to make up for the missed PAT. The two missing points kept the Rams in the game and allowed them to pull to within one score in the fourth quarter.
Malik Taylor hesitated on one kick return which resulted in a 17-yard return and poor field position for the Packers.
J.K. Scott only had to punt twice in the game but one of them was a poor effort.
Potentially, the biggest issue may be that kicker Mason Crosby was shaken up on the botched snap and may not be 100 percent heading into the NFC Championship Game. The Packers need their clutch kicker on Sunday.
- The Packers Spread the Ball Around
Offensively, the Packers did a good job of being patient and spreading the ball around. The Pack got Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard involved early and threw four key passes to tight end Robert Tonyan.
Equanimeous St. Brown and Aaron Jones caught one pass each and again, were targeted in the first half to make sure the Rams were aware they may get the ball.
The Packers also took the short passes to Davante Adams all game and schemed the touchdown to Tae in a way where the Rams defense could not stop it. The Packers put Adams in motion at the one yard line across the formation and there was no way the defensive back could cover him before the ball was in his hands in the end zone.
Adams finished with nine catches and a touchdown but gained just 66 yards. Still, his presence opened plays for the other receivers and allowed the Packers to pick up short, steady gains.
- The Running Game Worked Well
The Packers had all three running backs available against the Rams and used them all effectively against the Rams highly-ranked defense.
Aaron Jones led the way with 99 yards on 14 carries including a 60-yard dash on the first play from scrimmage in the second half. Jones averaged 7.1-yards per rush and scored a touchdown.
Jamaal Williams ran hard and with abandon. He gained 65 yards in 12 carries. A.J. Dillon was also effective, gaining 27 yards in six rushes before leaving the game with a quad injury. Dillon also fumbled on his last attempt but Rodgers alertly fell on the football and the Packers didn’t turn it over.
The three-headed running attack was highly effective and it helped keep each back fresh throughout the game. The Packers will need their running backs to be ready next week in the NFC title game.
- Krys Barnes Showed His Toughness
Rookie free agent Krys Barnes led the Packers with 10 total tackles despite missing some time after he injured his thumb.
When he returned to action, he had the thumb wrapped up in a club but it didn’t slow down the former UCLA star although it did prevent him from catching a potential interception.
Barnes showed toughness and determination and continues to carve out a role for himself in this defense.
- Aaron Rodgers Will Finally Get an NFC Title Game at Home
Aaron Rodgers has led the Packers to the NFC Championship Game for the fifth time after beating the Rams, but this will be the first time the game is going to be played in Green Bay. Rodgers is 1-3 in the first four contests after beating the Bears in Chicago in 2010 on the way to the Packers win in Super Bowl XLV. The Packers later lost games in Seattle, Atlanta and San Francisco.
Part of the reason the Packers emphasized getting the top seed in the playoffs was the secure home field advantage in the NFC title game. Now, the Packers have reached that game and Rodgers needs to make it pay off.
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