LOS ANGELES – The Green Bay Packers needed to make a statement Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles.
They did, to a degree, but still headed home to Wisconsin with a sour taste following a 29-27 loss to the Rams at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. For 55 minutes, the Packers put together their most complete effort – offense, defense and special teams – and held a 27-26 lead. But then Aaron Donald sacked Aaron Rodgers on third-and-6, punter JK Scott squibbed a punt just 25 yards and the defense broke down on third-and-6 and allowed a 23-yard Todd Gurley run that led to the eventual game-winning field goal.
Ty Montgomery then fumbled away the ensuing kickoff, sealing the loss.
The Packers were always better than the 10-point underdog status placed on them heading in, but in the end they proved that the 3-3-1 record they will take to New England is a fitting mark.
Here are five takeaways from the game:
1. Perfectly mediocre
At this point in the schedule, NFL teams are what their record says they are – and the Packers remain a perfectly mediocre 3-3-1. The offense couldn’t take advantage of the defense’s best first-half of the season by scoring just 10 points – and giving the Rams two with a busted run play that resulted in a safety. The defense couldn’t turn the ball over and had some big mistakes in coverage in the second half, but then the special teams unit melted down in the final five and a half minutes with a botched punt and a fumbled kickoff return.
2. Tale of two game plans
The Packers came out of the gate with intent to establish the run, deploying two to four tight ends and running the ball as much as they threw it in the first half. The Packers handed off 13 times to running backs and Aaron Rodgers dropped back to throw 15 times (including one sack and one scramble). The Packers went up 10-0 with this formula and managed to take a 10-8 lead into the half with 54 rush yards by the running backs (44 by Aaron Jones) and Rodgers threw for 127. In the second half, the Packers went to more four wide receiver sets and dropped back to throw 13 times while handing it off just three times in the third quarter (with Jones taking one run 33 yards for a score). In the fourth quarter, Rodgers threw it seven times and they handed it off just once. The Packers did score 17 points thanks to that change-up out of the break.
3. Jaire Alexander was missed
The first-round pick played his first game since leaving the win over Buffalo on Sept. 30, and Rams quarterback Jared Goff tested him. Often. And the rookie came up big all game, breaking up a deep ball to Brandin Cooks in the end zone. The Rams tried Cooks again on Alexander, along with Robert Woods and Nick Williams, and they also did not find success in catching the ball for much of the game – though the Rams were able to eventually complete a couple of long passes on the rookie in the second half. Alexander’s presence also allowed Mike Pettine to be creative with Tramon Williams, moving the veteran to the slot and using him as a blitzer.
4. Packers start fast(er)
One of the primary reasons the Packers came into Los Angeles at 3-2-1 is that they rarely held a first-quarter lead and rarely held two-score leads in the first halves of games. This was cited as reasons for run-pass imbalance on offense, and really no one had an answer for the early issues on defense. On Sunday, the Packers didn’t score on their first offensive possession, but the defense forced a Rams punt on theirs. Green Bay capitalized with a touchdown and a 7-0 lead. The Packers then were able to take a 10-0 lead thanks to solid fundamental coverage and run defense. The Packers’ offense didn’t take advantage of the defense forcing five first-half punts from Los Angeles, however, but at least they weren’t trailing by multiple scores by halftime.
5. The game was essentially at a neutral site
Even though the Rams were the only unbeaten team in the league, high-flying on offense and stout on defense,Packers fans flooded the L.A. Memorial Coliseum. The Rams had to go to a silent count at home. Packers plays were cheered loudly, and the Rams were booed vociferously. Rams fans did get loud when warranted, but the Packers definitely had the bulk of the 75,822-person crowd on their side.