Matt LaFleur going into this game was 8-0 after a loss in three years. All he seems to do is win during his tenure in Green Bay. Even with injuries to key players, the Packers were able to win an important game against the LA Rams 36-28.
The offense was at the top of its game, and the defense played an almost perfect game against the 6th best offense in the NFL. With the Packers approaching their bye, there were three things Packers fans learned after this season-defining win.
Packers are the Most Complete Team in the NFC
For years, Aaron Rodgers has been arguably the best quarterback in the NFL. But the Packers have never been able to put a Super Bowl-winning team around him. Whether he didn’t have enough pass-catchers like in previous years, or the defense was unable to get enough stops to win playoff games.
That is not the case any longer.
Joe Barry has created a defense built to win in Green Bay. Even without key players like Zadarius Smith and Jaire Alexander. Running backs haven’t been able to find holes against the defensive line led by All-Pro Kenny Clark, and Quarterbacks haven’t been able to find open receivers quickly enough before the pressure comes to them. Because of the defense, the Packers have been winning the time of position battle all year.
So when Aaron Rodgers has the ball more than the other team, that’s usually a good thing.
The Packers had the ball for nearly 40 minutes against the Rams, as the LA offense was off the field often. They turned the ball over three times (fumble, downs, and pick-6) and punted five times.
The offense even has a new wrinkle with the best rushing attack the Green and Gold have seen since possibly 2007 with Ryan Grant. Aaron Jones has proved this year why he was resigned, but AJ Dillon has been a breakout star for the Packers. He’s been catching balls out of the backfield and plowing over defenders in the fourth. They make one of the best running duos in football.
With all this help, it gives Rodgers back support, where Green Bay has rested for his entire career. He doesn’t have to win games at the end anymore. If any Packer team were to win a Super Bowl, it would be this one. This win against the Rams puts the Packers in that position.
That doesn’t mean they’re perfect.
Defense’s weakness is the Deep Ball
All season I have been stressing the only way teams beat this Packers’ Defense is chucking it deep. For the cover 2 defense Joe Barry plays, it forces safeties to make decisions whether to leave inexperienced corners one on one on streak routes. Players like Rasul Douglas, Chandon Sullivan, and Eric Stokes have gotten burned all year.
Not that anyone’s been keeping track, but the Packers have now allowed nine 40 yard passes in the last eight games. Some of those include a 70 yarder to Ja’Marr Chase in Week 5, a 40 yarder to Terry Mclaurin in Week 7, a 55 yarder to Deandre Hopkins in Week 8, a 56 yarder to Justin Jefferson in Week 11, a 79 yarder this week to Van Jefferson, and a 54 yarder to Odell Beckham also this week.
Besides the Rams Van Jefferson, those all came against Pro Bowl-level receivers in single coverage. This is where inexperience shows, and why Jaire needs to be back as soon as possible. When you have a defense as elite as the Packers do, you don’t want the other team scoring like this.
The Rams scored three touchdowns this game, and two came of 50+ yard passing touchdowns. This would’ve been a blowout if it weren’t for those two laps in coverage. That needs to be figured out before the playoffs.
Packers’ Special Teams Unit will Decide Playoff Games
It is clear to all of Packer Nation than Mason Crosby is struggling. Whether it’s the snapper to holder exchange or simply Crosby in his own head doesn’t matter. The point is that Matt LaFleur doesn’t trust the field goal unit right now. On a 4th and 10 today from the Rams 39, LaFleur elected to punt it instead of a 56-yard attempt from Mason. In his entire career, Crosby would be kicking that ball. But this year it’s different.
But the punting unit has done its job all year. The Packers have been winning the field position battle nearly every game. And that is thanks to new punter Corey Bojorquez. He has only shanked a few punts this year, but otherwise has been putting opposing offenses inside their own 20, and sometimes in their own 5. In the playoffs, you don’t want to give guys like Stafford, Murray, and Brady short fields (even though it went in the endzone, look how far he punts this ball).
On the other side though, they have to figure out who they want returning punts. Amari Rodgers has simply been awful all year, whether it’s muffing punts or letting punts go when he should be fair catching them. Today, the Packers replaced Rodgers with Cobb against the Rams, who then muffed a punt immediately. A muffed punt in the playoffs will lose a game on its own.
But at the end of the day, it all comes back to Crosby. At the end of a playoff game, Crosby is going to have to be trusted to make a kick. Plain and simple. Otherwise, the Packers better get good at converting on 4th down (which they were 2-2 today).