The Los Angeles Rams are coming off of two consecutive losses, including one against the Dallas Cowboys that is one of the worst in the Sean McVay era. The Week 9 game against the Green Bay Packers is an opportunity to grab some momentum heading into the bye week. Here are five keys to victory.
1. Lean on the Run Game on Offense
The last time the Rams had a quarterback with a thumb injury, they leaned on the run game and came away with a playoff win against the Seattle Seahawks. That’s exactly what they’re going to have to do on Sunday when the Rams will likely be playing for their season.
The focus on Jordan Love obscures how poor the Packers defense is playing. Can't get off the field and can't make big plays. 28th in DVOA and no defense gives up more plays-per-drive.— Gregg Rosenthal (@greggrosenthal) November 1, 2023
So far in 2023, the Packers rank 25th in run defense EPA and 24th in run defense DVOA. They’re allowing five yards per carry and 130 yard per game on the ground. This is a team that can be run on, especially if you stick with it. They invite you to run the ball and it will be up to McVay to commit to it. Having a healthy Stafford is crucial to this as he gives the Rams offense the threat of being able to throw the ball. The Rams shouldn’t need a lot from Stafford in this game, but they need him on the field.
2. Send blitz packages at Jordan Love
While Love hasn’t necessarily crumbled against the blitz this season, he hasn’t performed well against it either. Prior to last week’s game against the Minnesota Vikings, Love ranked 29th in the NFL in completion percentage against the blitz. Even in last year’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Love completed just 7 of 18 passes for 40 yards when blitzed.
Defensive blitz rate by week this season. I like this way to visualize who varies the amount they blitz by week depending on factors like who they play or who they have healthy in the secondary/DL that week pic.twitter.com/Zl1Zj7NUqu— Arjun Menon (@arjunmenon100) November 2, 2023
The Rams will need to pick their spots as heading into last week, Love and the Packers ranked fourth in offensive pass EPA per dropback when blitzed. Love has struggled at times under pressure. While he doesn’t necessarily turn the ball over or take sacks, he struggles to complete passes. Los Angeles isn’t necessarily a blitz heavy team, but Morris has done a good job picking his spots at times this season.
3. Limit Explosives on Defense
Over the past few seasons, the mantra of the Rams defense has been to limit explosive plays. However, right now, the Rams have allowed the fifth-most explosive plays as they’ve give up 6.1 explosiveness plays per game this season. The Packers, meanwhile, have generated the third-fewest explosive plays on offense.
Explosive plays allowed through 8 weeks of the season pic.twitter.com/Fie2LsVvew— Arjun Menon (@arjunmenon100) October 31, 2023
Much of the Rams’ defensive issues have come over the last five quarters. Explosive plays are what hurt them in the fourth quarter against the Steelers. The Cowboys really hurt the Rams with explosives on a consistent basis. Defensively, the Rams need to get back to who they are which is limited explosive plays and making offenses work for points.
4. Be Smart But Aggressive on Offense
There’s no reason for the Rams to spread out on offense and run out of empty in this game, despite the Packers trading away Rasul Douglas at the trade deadline. They don’t need to put Matthew Stafford in a situation where he's throwing the ball 40 times. As mentioned earlier, the Packers have one of the worst run defenses and they give up the most plays per drive. This game can be won with a similar formula as Week 1 where the Rams played ball control with the run game.
The Packers offense is ranked higher on third downs than the Packers defense. Let that sink in. And the Packers defense has allowed 9 fourth-down conversions, the second-most in football.— Zach Kruse (@zachkruse2) October 30, 2023
When I mention aggressiveness here, it’s more about aggressiveness on fourth down. The Rams need to play to win this game and that’s not settling for field goals when the defensive has struggled like it has and when the offense is limited. McVay needs to get into favorable fourth down situations that allows the offense to go for it. The Packers have allowed the second-most fourth down conversions in the NFL and are tied for the worst conversion rate at 75 percent. That isn’t necessarily asking Stafford or Brett Rypien to do a lot. It’s something that can be accomplished by just remaining efficient.
5. Don’t Allow Last Week to Effect Performance
Last week is a “toss it, and forget it” type of game. Following two consecutive losses, Sunday’s game against the Packers is an opportunity to grab some momentum heading into the bye week. The Rams outlook changes if they go into the bye week at 4-5 instead of 3-6.
The worst thing that the Rams can do is allow last week’s performance to drag into Week 9. It’s pretty clear that Los Angeles wasn’t at its best against the Cowboys and allowed mistakes to snowball. This is a chance to go into the bye week on a high note as the Rams enter the second-half of the schedule.