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Packers defeated Rams defense by creating mismatches for their running backs

It wasn’t all about Aaron Rodgers

Divisional Round - Los Angeles Rams v Green Bay Packers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

When the Green Bay Packers win, Aaron Rodgers gets mentioned. Understandably so, and in the Packers’ 32-18 win over the LA Rams on Saturday, Rodgers again displayed the exceptional talent that makes him a first ballot Hall of Fame quarterback.

However, as is becoming more often the case these days, the impact of the running backs and Green Bay’s rushing offense can also be overlooked.

The Packers rushed for 188 yards on Saturday, by far the most rushing yards that any team had against the Rams during the season. Green Bay’s opening drive featured five runs that gained 16 yards, eventually resulting in a short field goal. But their second drive opened with three straight runs by Jamaal Williams, gaining 17 yards on those plays. The Packers ran the ball six more times on the drive, gaining 28 yards, and they finished it off with a one-yard touchdown pass to Davante Adams.

Through two drives, the Packers had 10 points and Rodgers had a touchdown pass, but they had also run the ball 14 times before scoring the touchdown.

Green Bay was not only eating clock, they were setting up Rodgers in the exact passing situations he had hoped for and the Packers took a 16-3 lead with only 3:29 remaining in the first half; three drives alone had nearly wasted away the entire first half and Rodgers’ only regret was that they were only up 16-3 instead of 21-3.

That takes talent by Rodgers, talent by Green Bay’s three-headed rushing attack, and talent by the Packers’ offensive line, but also of the coaching staff putting them in those positions. Of course, how Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley would respond to that would mean the world ...

And the results weren’t what he was hoping the world would say back to him.

An interesting breakdown of how the Green Bay Packers successfully ran against a highly-ranked run defense was posted by Ed Steele at FootballFilmRoom.com on Monday. I want to highlight a few key phrases from Steele, but check out the post for his full thoughts.

What did the Packers do right and what did Staley’s LA defense do wrong? Steele starts by explaining why the Rams were already facing difficult matchups in the middle of the field:

The Rams are a 2-deep safety defense, with quarters as the predominant coverage of choice. One of the weak spots of quarters is the 2nd level. With 4 deep defenders and 4 defensive linemen, that leaves just 3 players in between. The Packers did a great job of attacking this area by using a healthy amount of motion to 3×1 formations coupled with run-pass options.

Steele explains that LA had to honor Green Bay’s threat to pass to a three-receiver set, but that left them vulnerable with a five-man box against the run.

Defenses in general have to honor the passing game from the 3-receiver side of a formation. However, the motion by Green Bay created a more severe reaction since the Packers use that motion for quick bubble screens or flat routes meant to outflank defenders to the perimeter. This widened the Rams Defense and reduced the amount of defenders in the box. Then they ran the ball inside, as you can see below.

By putting a safety in the box instead of a linebacker, it makes a defense less likely to make a stop against a premier running back. This eventually led to Aaron Jones breaking one off for 60 yards.

Again, the Rams had to account for the 3-receiver side with their underneath defenders. Since they prefer to play zone, they didn’t have cornerback Jalen Ramsey follow Adams. Instead, they had their middle linebacker cheat to the 3-receiver side and a safety replace him in the middle. Here, Green Bay was able to run it inside against another light box. The result was a 60-yard gain.

Steele also explains how the Packers gained advantages for Davante Adams.

Ramsey had to fight through his own defense and never caught up with Adams. The motion was so quick that it was difficult for L.A. to make adjustments on the fly and have a defensive back at the bottom of the screen kick out to take Adams.

Below, you can again see the Packers use motion to stretch the defense horizontally. This time, the motion led to 4 receivers to the left and Davante Adams to the right. The underneath coverage of the Rams had to honor the 4-receiver side, and this left Adams with a ton of room to work with on the backside.

Green Bay’s gameplan led to them getting the play fake result they wanted on Allen Lazard’s 58-yard Rams-killer touchdown.

Focus on wide receiver Allen Lazard and tight end Marcedes Lewis to the left of the formation. Lewis stayed in to block, and Lazard initially took a few steps inside towards safety Jordan Fuller like he was going to block him. This sold the run and got Fuller and cornerback Troy Hill to bite. The result was a wide-open Lazard, and the game was broken wide open.

The Rams lost Brandon Staley to the LA Chargers this week and that leaves the defensive coordinator position open for the time being. The next person in charge will not only have to figure out who his starters will be in 2021, but how they can beat teams like the Packers in the playoffs next year because most likely these are the teams they’ll face in the playoffs next year.

When it’s not just about stopping Aaron Rodgers, but also about stopping the men behind Aaron Rodgers.