Packers Keep their Playoff Hopes Alive with a Win over the Rams

Still teetering on the brink of playoff elimination, the Green Bay Packers face off against the Baker Mayfield-led Los Angeles Rams in a primetime matchup at home. Needing a win to stay alive in the playoff hunt, the Packers will have to go through an injury-riddled Rams team. Despite being without Aaron Donald last week, Jalen Ramsey and the Rams defense nonetheless shut down the Las Vegas Raiders offense. The Rams are once again without Donald this week, a huge break for the Packers offense. As Ramsey will likely shadow either Allen Lazard or rookie standout Christain Watson this week, other receivers will have to step up and make plays if the Packers can’t get the run game going against a Rams defense that is allowing 3.9 yards per carry to running backs. The Packers get back wide receiver Romeo Doubs this week, who has been dealing with an ankle injury since their week eight matchup against the Detroit Lions, but remain without star left tackle David Bahktiari as he recovers from his appendectomy.

On the other side of the ball, the Packers defense will face a Rams offense that is without starting QB Matthew Stafford and star wide receiver Cooper Kupp. Backup QB Baker Mayfield, who joined the Rams just days before the Rams matchup with the Raiders last week, was at the mercy of the Packers defense in his previous matchup against them last year with the Browns, tossing four interceptions, two to Rasul Douglas. This year’s Packers defense has been underperforming, but there is no reason they shouldn’t be able to handle an equally struggling Rams offense missing their two best players.

The Packers are in a must-win situation, but have been notoriously bad the game after bye weeks since Matt LaFleur became the head coach, going 1-2 with a -40 point differential in three years under LaFleur. Will the Packers come out hot, with playoff hopes on the line or will they come out rusty like years past?

Post-Game Report
The Packers defense came back strong after giving up a 15 yard rush on the first play from scrimmage. The pass rush was able to get pressure on Baker more than they have anybody else all year, featuring a sack each for Preston Smith and Kingsley Enagbare, and a strip sack by Quay Walker. The defense played well on early downs in the first half, but struggled to get off the field especially on third and 10+ yardage situations as they have all year. Nonetheless, the pass rush and run defense played well enough to hold the Rams to a pair of field goals in the first half. Rookies Enagbare and Walker made some great plays in the first half, both with great pass breakups that were close to being interceptions. Overall a good performance by the defense in the first half.

On the other side of the ball, the Packers offense were able to move the ball efficiently, but a Rodgers overthrow of a wide open Lazard turned into an interception to mitigate a potential scoring drive. Outside of that it was smooth sailing for the Packers as they cruised to putting up 10 points off of three drives, featuring a mason crosby field goal and a bruising eight yard rush for the Packers lone touchdown of the first half.

In the second half the Packers continued to dominate the Rams. The offense came out with back-to-back touchdown drives, one a second Dillon touchdown and another a seven yard catch and run by Aaron Jones. After that the Packers offense would continue to move the ball but another turnover, this time a Jones fumble, would stall another potential scoring drive. The defense would continue to dominate as well, Smith, Justin Hollins, and Devonte Wyatt logging sacks on Mayfield and continuing to pressure him all game. Kenny Clark even got in on the action, pressuring Mayfield to throw an easy interception to Rasul Douglas. The defense did give up a touchdown to Rams tight end Tyler Higbee, but a missed extra point would keep the score at 24-12. The score would remain that way the rest of the game, as the Packers cruised to an easy 24-12 win over the Rams.

Players of the Game
Packers Defensive Rookies: All three of the Packers defensive rookies today played a great game with minimal mistakes. Quay Walker, Kingsley Enagbare, and Devonte Wyatt made plays all over the field. All three rookies took part in sacking Mayfield. Walker and Enagbare recorded a tackle for a loss and each had a pass breakup that was nearly an interception going back the other way. If these rookies continue to develop, they could be special and key parts of the Packers defense, especially Enagbare who has been great filling in for Rashan Gary.

Keisean Nixon: Every week the question of why Amari Rodgers was ever returning kicks for the Packers is more and more relevant. Nixon has been electric returning kicks for the Packers, and that continued to be true today, racking up 95 yards on three returns, including a 52-yard return, and a 49-yard return that was called back due to a holding penalty. Nixon nearly broke off a touchdown twice and could potentially pull it off in the future. Solely for his return ability, the Packers should sign him to a lifetime contract.

Injury Report
AJ Dillon left the game in the second half and was evaluated for a concussion. He did not return to the game.

The Packers played a great game today, but had too many turnovers that, against playoff teams, would cost them a win. The Packers offense NEEDS to limit these turnovers and limit the miscues that create them. At the end of the game, Watson missed a hand signal from Rodgers that indicated he was gonna throw it to him. The pass would fall incomplete and ultimately did not impact the end result of the game due to the game being just about over, but mistakes like these could hurt the Packers in bigger situations. These mistakes need to be cleaned up.

The defense played well today, but gave up far too many third and 10+ first downs. To a team with a more high powered offense like the Dolphins, Eagles, or Vikings, not being able to get off the field in these situations would ultimately be the Packers demise. The Packers need to start capitalizing on these third and long situations and get off the field. I still question why Joe Barry plays the defenders so far off the line and allows these big gains. It didn’t hurt the Packers much today but it will.

The difference in the play of the Special Teams unit this year compared to last year is night and day with Keisean Nixon at returner. His return ability is the best I’ve seen out of a Packers player in a while. He easily could’ve broken off a touchdown tonight and I predict he will by season’s end.

The Packers get their sixth win of the season and keep their playoff hopes alive. The will continue their road to the playoffs with a date with the high powered Miami Dolphins (8-6), who are 5-1 at home this year.
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