There may be no better measuring stick for the Rams roster changes than Sunday’s game in Green Bay compared to last years visit which was the NFC divisional playoff game against the Packers at Lambeau Field. The Rams lost both games and it’s even hard to say that Sunday’s Ram’s team was any type of improvement over last year’s. The Packers controlled the game after capitalizing on an early turnover and then won 36-28 sending the Rams to 7-4.
Here are the breakdowns by position and the resulting letter grade.
Matthew Stafford completed 21 of 38 passes for 302 yards and three touchdowns to one interception. On the good end, he threw two deep pass touchdowns of 79 yards and 54 yards to Van Jefferson and Odell Beckham Jr. On the bad end, all other elements of his game starting with losing his footing on the first two run plays and barely getting the handoff to throwing another interception touchdown. Stafford had a few throws hit hands of the Packers defenders outside of the one that was caught and also missed wide open throws that his counterpart Aaron Rodgers made look absolutely routine all day. After the game, Stafford remarked that while it’s true that he is playing through some aches or injuries that are normal, they are not affecting his play. I would hope that’s actually not the case and that somehow, whatever is causing his throw ability to appear defunct can be fixed. He certainly looked sharper in the earlier part of the season and no matter the opponents, open targets are open targets, and to be a contender, those need connected.
Darrell Henderson had 16 carries for 55 yards and one touchdown catch. His rushing average was 3.5 yards per carry. Henderson got more than nine carries this game which meant he was given a bit more of a balanced opportunity to contribute, and while the offensive line also struggled to proved any push or openings, Henderson seemed to achieve the minimum gain and didn’t add a lot of yards after contact or broken tackles which resulted in a lower than normal rush average for the Rams RB1. He did make an impressive catch in tight coverage for a touchdown.
Van Jefferson had a beautiful 79 yard touchdown catch that had him executing an excellent route, using his body leverage to make a catch with a man on, and then keeping his feet to take it in for the score. Odell Beckham Jr also had a highlight 54 yard score for his first touchdown as a Ram. Beckham showed off his veteran route running skill and his elite athleticism, getting an inside release from the wide split, working back straight and upfield to avoid the safety and then was just faster than everyone to snatch the deep pass for a palm the ball skip in touchdown. Those two plays were pretty much the highlights of the entire game.
As the Green Bay Packers were getting contributions from all of their pass catchers, Rams tight end Tyler Higbee failed to make an impact in this game when all hands were needed. He was targeted five times and came through with one catch that produced three yards and could’ve been more with a one on one broken tackle that didn't happen.
The Packers offensive line was playing their third string tackle to make a up the patchwork of blocker for Rodgers and they were yet the better offensive line in this game. Stafford was sacked twice, one of which resulted in a first quarter fumble that set the game on a downward trajectory. Only 68 yards for rushing was produced by the line and that won’t get it done against any playoff bound opponent.
The defensive line surrendered 92 yards of rushing and achieved only one sack. The Packers ran with their number two running back for most of the game and the Rams defensive line was pushed around by both the blockers and the physical run from AJ Dillon. The absence of traded Michael Brockers, and injured Sebastian Joseph-Day seems to be hurting this defense in a game like this when Greg Gaines and A’Shawn Robinson failed to close the middle of the line. Aaron Donald unfortunately also failed to impact the game.
Yikes. Could Kenny Young have helped in this game had the Rams not traded him? Maybe. Seemed like the inside linebacker play could not have been much worse. Troy Reeder was the target of much of the interior pass plays and was the nearest defender when attempting to cover zones and missing open field tackles that we saw Baltimore Ravens linebackers making to help seal their win against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday Night. On the outsides, Von Miller was the highlight creating what pressure was made on Rodgers and also getting a tackle for a loss that created some short lived momentum. However, the combined impact of Von Miller and Leonard Floyd was underwhelming.
The talent gap here is being exposed and is becoming a season long problem that remains unsolved. Darious Williams isn’t better or the same as last season when he was excellent under Brandon Staley. David Long Jr was not it. Robert Rochelle isn’t ready. Donte Deayon is probably a standout on the practice squad but is a liability when elevated to the roster. When playoff bound teams are lining up with three capable receivers, this lack of ability in the cornerback department will result in mismatches that get worse when offenses schemes catch the best receiver on the worst of our defenders, like Deayon vs Adams. Defensive scheme is not helping these players. Jalen Ramsey can only do so much to help this group.
Taylor Rapp is being targeted in the same way as Reeder at linebacker. Rapp demonstrates an opportunity for offenses with his lack of ability in open space and his poor judgement with coverage and tackle angles. John Johnson III who the Rams decided to dump in free agency had an interception for the Browns on Sunday night and would have likely continued to be a pillar for the Rams defense if he were still on the roster. Suppose that falls more on the general manager than the safety position group. Nonetheless, Rapp and Jordan Fuller failed to make an impact.
It’s a severe failure now in week 12 to have not found a reliable return man. Not necessarily a dangerous or productive one, just a reliable one. Cooper Kupp shouldn’t have to be out there just to secure the rock. The Sony Michel experiment shouldn’t be necessary in week 12. The JJ Koski fumble was coming and the Packers knew it. The preseason decision to keep Punter Johnny Hekker instead of Corey Bojorquez was a mistake proven by the punt inside the five from Bojorquez and the 30 yard flounder by Hekker.
By popular demand, we add the coaching category to this column and hope it goes up from here because that’s the only direction available at this point. Scheme, management, play calling, motivation, personnel, all three units, all comes into question after the third consecutive loss that occurs in the same fashion with the same mistakes and failures. The league has literally learned from McVay given the coaching tree. But the Rams coach has also seemed to regress in a way. Is he leaning on talent that he’s also misjudging? Is he stuck on fresh ideas for his offense? What will he do as a head coach to help his defense and special teams? Six regular season games left to find out.