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Rams vs. Packers: Saturday Scoop

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Rams vs. Packers: Saturday Scoop

The Green Bay Packers host the St. Louis Rams on Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field.  The Packers haven't lost a regular season game there since late in the 2013 season and when quarterback Aaron Rodgers starts and finishes, not since the home opener in 2012.  Rodgers also hasn't thrown an interception at home in nearly three calendar years.  So many jinx opportunities already, so I'll stop. 

Normally, a game against the Rams is one of those matchups that many expect the Packers to eventually pull away and win.  The two teams have faced each other several times over the past seven or eight seasons and the Packers have been on the better side of most of those games.  This time, however, there seems to be a bit more intrigue.  While the Packers are still somehow 10.5 point favorites in this game, many can't stop talking about the Rams pass rush against a banged up Packers offensive line.  Some are talking about an upset by the Rams this week.  A trap game, if you will.  To that I say, as well as the Packers have played so far, isn't most any game a trap game?  

The irony of all of this swooning over St. Louis's pass rush is that the Packers actually have the better defense, from a statistical standpoint.  They're giving up fewer rushing and passing yards per game than the Rams.  Both teams have 17 sacks on the season.  It's the "how" that varies between these two teams.  The long-running narrative on St. Louis is how they have arguably the best defensive line in football.  And justifiably so.  Chris Long and Robert Quinn have been dominating off the edge together for years.  Tackle Aaron Donald joined the fray a few seasons ago and has quickly established himself as one of the best interior pass rushers in the league.  That means the Rams can generate good pressure with their line alone and that formula has baffled the Packers in the past.  

Green Bay's offense relies on timing and precision by Rodgers.  The precision piece comes naturally and as we've said a thousand times before, we just expect masterpiece after masterpiece from Rodgers.  The timing, however, can be disrupted and that's where opposing defenses have thrived against the Green Bay offense.  Some recent examples are the Seattle Seahawks and New York Giants of a few years ago.  By not having to blitz Rodgers, the defense covers more field and forces the receivers to work harder to get separation.  This adds time in the pocket for Rodgers and the longer the play takes to develop, the harder it is for his linemen to stay on their blocks.  That goes for any offensive lineman in the NFL, but the Packers line has had their share of struggles this season.  

The two tackles, David Bakhtiari and Don Barclay, have beared the brunt of the blame for the pressure that teams are getting on Rodgers.  Coming into last week's game against the San Francisco 49ers, the Packers had only allowed three sacks of Rodgers.  The 49ers had three last week.  Barclay was abused and Bakhtiari had to hold to keep his quarterback from getting crushed.  Every lineman holds, but Bakhtiari is getting beat on the edge too often.  The good news is that Bryan Bulaga returned to practice this week.  He's still listed as doubtful for Sunday's game, but at least we know he's a week or two away from ending the reign of Barclay at right tackle.  Bakhtiari has reportedly been playing with a sore knee and while we have to assume that he wouldn't be out there if he couldn't go and be effective, there are still questions swirling about whether the injury is impacting his play.  With Long and Quinn coming all day long, the Packers will surely have a plan to slide help to either side, as needed.  Between extra bodies in the backfield and quick passes, the Packers can negate some of that pressure on Rodgers.

Speaking of the Packers passing attack, they will once again be without Davante Adams.  Randall Cobb, James Jones, Ty Montgomery and a combination of Jeff Janis and Jared Abbrederis will have to carry the load at receiver.  Richard Rodgers could become an x-factor in this game if he's able to get out of the backfield after helping pass protect.  He's a big target and could help exploit a Rams secondary that is allowing 235 passing yards per game.  Another way to slow down an active pass rush is an effective screen.  The Packers seem to have the talent and tools to run this, but it's not often used.  If nothing else and if St. Louis can get to Rodgers, he seems to have adopted old #4's desperation shovel pass and is also apparently ambidextrous.  With little time to throw and react, all Packers eligible receivers will need to have their heads on a swivel this week.

Rams rookie running back Todd Gurley ran for over 100 yards on the Arizona Cardinals defense last week, a defense that was known for stopping the run.  Despite that blip on the radar, the Cardinals still have a better run defense than both the Packers and Rams.  Green Bay will again be without safety Morgan Burnett, who is solid in run support.  They'll have to mind their gaps and assigments against the shifty Gurley.  Success in stopping the St. Louis ground attack puts more pressure on quarterback Nick Foles and keeps the Rams from controlling the clock.

They don't face each other on the field, but Rodgers and Foles both like to set up the offense for the big play.  In Green Bay's case, the long bomb pass play hasn't been there this season without Jordy Nelson running the shot.  The Rams have two deep threats in Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.  They won't likely find much success running deep on Packers corner Sam Shields but they may try to test rookie Damarious Randall.  Randall plays with good fundamentals, but has been beaten deep a few times.  As for the Packers, it's going to be all about receivers being in tune with Rodgers.  They won't have to contend with crowd noise and the ferocious Rams pass rush, so they should be able to find some success.  I'm predicting a low-scoring affair, so the Packers have to take advantage of opportunities.  

Those opportunities will also be there on the defensive side of the ball, where Shields has had an interception in two straight games.  The secondary is where I see Green Bay havin the defensive edge in this matchup.  The Packers should also be able to get a pass rush on Foles and disrupt his accuracy.  Green Bay has seen sack production from both the defensive line and the linebacker spots.  There have been many contributors, allowing defensive coordinator Dom Capers to take some chances knowing his players can get home.

Last, but not least, the special teams.  Austin is still dangerous on punt returns.  He has one touchdown on the year and Packers punter Tim Masthay continues to struggle with consistency.  He has hit a few line drives, which to a player like Austin is an open invitation to the end zone.  Fortuntely the Packers have covered well.  Is this the week that Montgomery breaks a long return?  In a game where I see points coming at a premium, it may come in quite handy to take one in or at least give the offense a shorter field.

The Packers have a chance to improve to 5-0 with a win and another home game next week followed by the bye.  It's hard to imagine the Packers dropping one at home to a dome team, but that's why they play the games.  As for the referee crew overseeing this game?  Don't worry, it's not Tony Corrente's crew who baffled us all with a big missed call at the end of last week's Monday Night Football.  This one goes to Brad Allen's team, who have thrown very few flags this season.  

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Jason is a freelance writer on staff since 2012 and also co-hosts Cheesehead TV Live, Pulse of the Pack and Pack A Day podcasts.  You can follow him on Twitter here

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (5) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Tundraboy's picture

Superb and honest assessment of match up and our offense. For so many reasons cited, I believe that the D will need to set the tone in this one. The state of the Offensive line, and injuries at WR will once again have Rodgers scrambling, but this time I think we hold it together more and with better results than in SF game. And we are home. Go Pack Go

John Galt III's picture

Expect the unexpected.

If you are the Rams how do you beat the Packers? If the Rams are punting from their 50 on a 4th and 2, watch for a trick play. Then watch for an onside kick. Those kind of things.

If I am Jeff Fischer I will have some "trickertion" up my sleeve.

We better be ready.

Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

I'm expecting to see the offense start using Cobb and Mongomery in different ways today. Last week's reverse (REVERSE!) was just the start. Opening up the playbook vs. an aggressive line could start this week.

Tundraboy's picture

That was a pleasant surprise. I too expect they will be creative this week with Montgomery and Cobb.

PaulRosik's picture

The Packers early offense depends on timing. But once Rodgers breaks the pocket then the defense is in real trouble.

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