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Will Sean McVay get the run game going against the Packers?

Will we see a heavy dose of the run game in Lambeau?

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Rams are vying for their first win at Lambeau Field since 2006. In that game the St. Louis Rams took down the Packers with the help of Steven Jackson’s 23 carries for 98 yards and Marc Bulger’s two touchdowns to Kevin Curtis and Torry Holt a piece.

That’s how long it has been since the Rams have gotten the win on the road versus the Packers. Obviously that is not ideal. This time around the Rams will be facing the Packers without Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers. It doesn’t necessarily make it an easy match up though because there is a chance Matthew Stafford does not play and even if he does play he might be severely limited.

This isn’t the first time that Sean McVay has gone against the Packers on the road with a quarterback who was dealing with a finger injury. Actually, it was 2021 and Jared Goff played his final game for the Rams in the cold at Lambeau Field not long after dislocating his finger. The Rams in that game lost 32-18 in the divisional round of the playoffs and that was the end of the Goff era.

Fast forward to now though, the L.A. Rams are 3-5 and are facing a weaker Packers team regardless of the injury to Stafford or a potential start of Brett Rypien. It truly begs the question, just how much are the Rams going to run the ball against the Packers this Sunday?

For reference sake, McVay has faced the Packers four times in his career including one playoff game and only one home game. He beat Mike McCarthy at the Coliseum but lost three-straight to his former colleague Matt LaFleur. In those games, the Rams lost 32-18 as previously mentioned, 36-28 in the Super Bowl season and last year 24-12 in primetime.

What have you done for me recently?

In those last three games, McVay had not run the ball at least 20 times once. As a matter of fact, Cam Akers was averaging 5.4 yards per carry last year on 12 carries and he abandoned the run game entirely. So, could we see the most carries versus the LaFleur Packers we have seen to this point? I would say yes. It’s the only way the Rams are going to win this game.

This year L.A. has run the ball less than 20 times in two games and those resulted in close losses to the Eagles and Bengals. The Rams when rushing against a bottom tier run defense have had plenty success as they went over 130 yards in three games this season on the ground. The Packers are currently the 7th-worst run defense in terms of rushing yards allowed per game at 132 yards. Recently, they have cut that number down to an average of 101 yards. Still, there is no reason for the Rams not to pound the rock in Green Bay this time around.

Over the last three games the Rams are currently sixth in the league in rushing yards per game. Darrell Henderson and Royce Freeman have had success on the ground. Both can be utilized in the passing game as well as a pass protector and receiving back which adds to their value and keeps the Packers honest. It’s important to know that McVay has never ran more than 41 times in a game and that goes back to week 15 against the Seattle Seahawks in 2017. To be fair, he had Todd Gurley who at the time was the best offensive weapon in the game.

The problem with the Rams should they decide to try and make this a drop back passing style of game is that the Packers are actually very stout in the passing game. They did just trade away talented cornerback Rasual Douglas to the Bills but there is plenty of talent still in that secondary headlined by Jaire Alexander and Keisean Nixon. They have a pass rush to go with it in the form of Preston Smith and Rashan Gary. Stafford won’t have all day to throw against this secondary and so I expect McVay to run the ball and have a similar approach as he did against the Pittsburgh Steelers run defense.

Why Rams must run ball

I’m predicting that McVay considering the current circumstance of playing a very banged up Stafford or downgraded backup in Rypien will force him to break his record for most carries in a game he’s coached. I think we will see potentially 20 carries from Henderson 15 from Freeman, a few from Myles Gaskin and some jet sweeps and end arounds like we saw them try to re-integrate into their offense last week against Dallas. McVay will run the ball more than 41 times and the Rams will win this football game.

Now, if McVay decides to abandon the run in this game and not protect his quarterback, it could be a very long day in Lambeau. The Packers are 2-5 and are desperate for a win to stay relatively alive in the playoff race. The Rams are 3-5 and are desperate for a win to hop into the bye on a positive note at 4-5. I don’t love the term “must win” but this feels like a very must-win type of game heading into the bye for a beat up Rams team that could very well be the inverse of their 3-5 record right now.