The Rams have gone from being left for dead to being a wounded animal that no one in the NFC should want to face.
His 30-20 win at Seattle on Saturday was combined with a punishing running back, a suffocating defense and enough help from all angles to withstand the loss of starting quarterback John Wolford, transported to the hospital with a neck injury, and unstable play. of Jared Goff, whose thumb on his throwing hand swelled to flint proportions.
Still, the Rams were able to hand Seahawks coach Pete Carroll his first home loss in the playoffs and end Seattle’s 10-game win streak at home in the postseason.
This was a 53-man, 360-degree win for the Rams, who put the depth of their roster on full display, even though they haven’t had a first-round pick since taking Goff first overall in 2016. .
It was a testament to Sean McVay’s evolution from an offensive brain to an experienced and well-rounded head coach.
So the Rams go to the divisional round, where their second game will likely be in Green Bay against the Packers, who finished 13-3 for the second straight season.
If, as expected, New Orleans beats Chicago on Sunday, the Rams will play the Packers.
If Chicago pulls off the surprise, the Rams will play Tampa Bay, where they won, 27-24, in Week 11.
The Bears are very likely to win, so it is premature to bet on a Rams-Packers game. But with a trip to Green Bay being the most likely eventuality, that potential showdown is worth taking a little deeper look at.
The teams last met during the 2018 regular season at the Coliseum, the year of the Rams’ Super Bowl, when Los Angeles escaped with a 29-27 victory.
That’s when Green Bay kicking returner Ty Montgomery ignored an order to kneel and instead missed his comeback, and the Packers’ comeback opportunities, in the dying moments.
But just as this is a different Rams team than the version driven by Todd Gurley, these are different Packers, trained not by Mike McCarthy, now in Dallas, but by Matt LaFleur, who was McVay’s offensive coordinator in his debut season. of 2017 with the Rams. .
This season, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has made a compelling case for his third NFL Most Valuable Player award. Perhaps the teammate most responsible for that is one who won’t even dress for the game: rookie quarterback Jordan Love, whom the Packers traded for a first-round draft.
Rather than feel aggrieved and sleepwalking for 16 games, Rodgers clearly took Love’s writing as a personal challenge and put together a spectacular season.
“I think it’s the strongest I’ve definitely felt and probably the least sore, the fewest bumps and problems,” Rodgers told reporters Thursday. “We all deal with certain things throughout the season, but being able to get through all the training sessions and not be limited in any of them was definitely a change for me, a very welcome change.
Not surprisingly, considering their offensive roots, the Rams and Packers look somewhat similar on that side of the ball, with their group formations, full-speed movement and jet sweeps, and reliance on the running game.
Of course, Rodgers is almost always the best quarterback in the game regardless of the matchup, and the Rams are still a big question mark at position. But the defenses that can give him trouble are those that can run four and lose seven in coverage, and the Rams can do that. The health of Donald, who left Saturday’s game with a rib injury, is paramount.
Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey did a good job with Seattle catcher DK Metcalf, and would chart the assignment of Rodgers’ favorite target, Davante Adams.
The rest of the Rams’ secondary is very solid, so if Green Bay plays Los Angeles, it won’t be easy for the Packers to move the ball through the air.
Green Bay’s Aaron Jones is an excellent running back, and Rams rookie Cam Akers is gaining steam and was a key component in Saturday’s victory, rushing for 131 yards.
When it came to stopping the race last season, the Packers could be horrendous.
They were trampled in the NFC championship game against San Francisco, with Raheem Mostert of the 49ers rushing for 220 yards and four touchdowns.
But this is a much stronger Green Bay defense, with strong play from a couple of former UCLA standouts: defensive lineman Kenny Clark and undrafted rookie inside linebacker Krys Barnes.
Those players will be key if the Packers end up hosting the Rams. But even with the uncertainty at the quarterback, as Saturday’s performance demonstrated, LA will not walk away smoothly.