Packers beat Rams, 36-28, cruise into bye week with 9-3 record
GREEN BAY - He might’ve worn a different shade of blue, but the Green Bay Packers treated Matthew Stafford like he never left Detroit in a 36-28 win Sunday over the Los Angeles Rams.
The backbreaker came late in the third quarter when Packers cornerback Rasul Douglas perfectly jumped Stafford’s pass to Cooper Kupp, intercepting and returning it 32 yards for his first career touchdown and a Lambeau Leap. From there, the Packers essentially coasted the final 15 minutes, holding on to prevent a losing streak after last week’s defeat in Minnesota.
BOX SCORE:Packers 36, Rams 28
It wasn’t a blowout for the Packers. Similar to his time in Detroit, Stafford made enough plays to keep the Rams within striking distance. He just couldn’t make the winning plays when it mattered. Instead, it was the Packers making big plays to keep the Rams at a distance, improving to 9-3 this season.
Stafford finished with good numbers, not unlike his Detroit days. He was 21-of-38 for 302 yards and three touchdowns, but he made costly mistakes, including fumbling while being sacked in the first quarter.
With the win, the Packers gained a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Rams (7-4), important in a top-heavy NFC. Matt LaFleur has still never lost consecutive games in his almost three-year tenure as Packers head coach.
Here are five observations from the Packers’ ninth win of 2021:
Rodgers shook the rust
In Aaron Rodgers’ first three halves after returning from missing a game because of COVID-19, he completed 36-of-59 passes for 480 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a 85.4 passer rating. In three halves since – starting after halftime in Minnesota last week – Rodgers has completed 38-of-56 passes for 504 yards, five touchdowns and a 125.8 rating. On Sunday, he finished 28-of-45 for 307 yards, two touchdowns no interceptions and a 97.2 rating against the Rams. Rodgers looked rusty after missing the Packers' game at Kansas City, not surprising considering he had only one regular practice over a 27-day stretch because of coronavirus and a toe injury. It’s safe to say he’s shaken that rust ever since.
Cobb down, Adams still shines
Randall Cobb was on his way to likely his best game this season until the veteran receiver injured his groin before halftime. Fortunately for the Packers, they still had Davante Adams. Cobb finished with four catches for 95 yards and a 7-yard touchdown – all in the first half – before leaving with the injury. Meanwhile, Adams had his typical day, catching eight of his nine targets for 104 yards. Adams went over 1,000 yards on the season with his fifth 100-yard game, his second straight after catching seven passes for 115 yards in Minnesota last week.
Jones complements Dillon
Aaron Jones returned after missing one game because of an MCL injury. He got the start and had three carries in the Packer’s first four snaps, but Jones quickly fell to the backdrop behind AJ Dillon. Maybe that was the script, but it’s clear Dillon is ascending in his second season. Dillon was a one-man drive to open the third quarter, touching the football on eight of 13 plays for 39 yards, including a third-and-1 conversion on the ground and 5-yard touchdown catch when he ran through Rams linebacker Troy Reeder. Dillon finished with 69 yards on 20 carries and Jones had 23 on 10 carries in his return. Together, the Packers have perhaps the best one-two backfield punch in the NFL. As Sunday showed, it makes a big difference having Jones and Dillon on the field together, and Dillon is more than capable of taking pressure off Jones as he returns from the knee injury.
Rashan Gary still ascending
The Packers also got reinforcements on defense. Rashan Gary returned from a hyperextended elbow, and he made his presence known early. Gary ran through a holding penalty against Rams left tackle Andrew Whitworth to cause a sack fumble against Stafford in the first quarter. Preston Smith recovered the fumble and returned 5 yards to the Rams’ 6-yard line, setting up the Packers’ first touchdown. Gary now has 6.5 sacks this season, which is becoming a breakout year for the 12th overall pick in the 2019 draft. With Za’Darius Smith out almost all year because of a back injury, Gary is solidifying himself as a difference-making pass rusher.
Crosby has (almost) perfect day
In a rough year for Mason Crosby, Sunday had to be considered a highlight. At least until the end. Crosby made his first three field goals against the Rams, notable with his struggles this season. He was almost flawless, but late in the fourth quarter Crosby doinked a 42-yard field goal try off the left upright. It was the fourth straight game Crosby has missed a field goal, an obviously troubling trend as the season enters December. Crosby has missed 10 kicks overall this season, including nine field goals. He’s now 18-for-27 kicking field goals on the year.