The Los Angeles Rams, on the heels of a third straight loss, have went from chasing a possible playoff berth to pursuing a Top 10 draft pick in the space of three weeks. And while the offense was in hibernation in a 20-3 loss to the Green Bay Packers, the defense is steadily wearing down.
Although the temperature on the Lake Michigan coast was mild, the predicted post-game rains came early. The Pack’s game plan was to establish the run and compliment that with a short passing game. And run they did, with 184 yards on 38 carries. The big play damage, not surprisingly, came wide outside the edges, but Green Bay found success inside the tackles as well.
As has become the alarming norm, the Rams allowed a struggling quarterback (QB) to play pitch and catch. The Packers Jordan Love came into the game completing less than 60% of his passes and proceeded to convert 80%. While the L.A. pass rush was able to chase him down for four sacks, he was able to complete short range passes with impunity. Defensive Coordinator Raheem Morris decided not to try attacking and confounding the young QB with blitzes, stunts or shifting along the defensive front.
Here’s how the drives broke down.
A good start for the Rams. With the Pack looking to establish the run and pounding away between the tackles, the L.A. interior stood up to it and the drive was squelched when Green Bay lined up offsides on a converted fourth down and were forced to punt. Packers 0, Rams 0.
After a lost fumble, L.A. is forced to defend a short field and Green Bay used the run attack to cover 41 yards and score a touchdown (TD). After a completed short pass, they used six straight runs to strike paydirt. On the TD, Defensive Tackle (DT) Jonah Williams shed his blocker and was in good position , but running back (RB) Aaron Jones made a sweet jump cut to find an opening off tackle. Cornerback (CB) DeCobie Durant didn’t appear to make much of a tackle offering. Packers 7, Rams 0.
A wide receiver (WR) reverse on the first play gained 21 into L.A. territory. Edge (E) Byron Young was sealed off inside and the pursuit angles of linebacker (LB) Christian Rozeboom and safety (S) Russ Yeast were poor. Again CB DeCobie Durant didn’t make a big effort to get in on the action. But the big gain went for naught, it was followed by two incomplete passes sandwiched around a short wide run and forced the Pack to punt. The final incompletion had CB Ahkello Witherspoon beaten deep down the sideline, but the pass was woefully short and incomplete at the goal line. Packers 7, Rams 0.
Basically a three and out. Green Bay ran the ball three straight plays and on fourth and inches, the QB sneak moved the sticks. But again, the Pack was lined up offside, nulling the conversion and forcing a punt. Packers 7, Rams 0.
How often defenses have forced 3 and outs this season pic.twitter.com/rIRYLBrINp— Arjun Menon (@arjunmenon100) November 7, 2023
The Rams have had their problems with opposing teams final first half drives and so it was again. The Pack took over at their own 25 with 1:42 left. QB Love completed four of five passes against the soft coverage to march down the field, his only miss being a wide open WR dropping a substantial gain. In the end, Green Bay shot themselves in the foot, Love held the ball way too long in the pocket allowing DT Kobie Turner to notch a sack, the dropped pass, moving before the snap deep in Rams territory and finally, the placekicker missed a field goal as the half expired. Packers 7, Rams 3.
A long kick return to open second half sets up Green Bay near midfield. QB Love hits an out in front of soft man coverage by CB Witherspoon for 11 yards and when the receiver reaches out for an extra yard, the ball hops loose and takes a perfect carom to ‘Spoon. Turn over to L.A. Packers 7, Rams 3.
I know this will totally jinx it and I'm so sorry, but...— Zach Kruse (@zachkruse2) November 1, 2023
The Green Bay Packers are the only NFL team that hasn't lost a fumble entering Week 9
Again, I'm sorry
The Packers stumble again. Starting at their own 16, a short run and pass to RB A.J. Dillon are bookends around a holding penalty and bring up third and 12 from the Green Bay 14. RB Aaron Jones turns a quick flat pass into 13 and a first down. The Packers went right back to RB Jones off tackle and while he broke through for nine yards, S Jordan Fuller stripped him as he went down and CB Duke Shelley recovered for L.A. Packers 7, Rams 3.
After a missed long field goal, Green Bay has good starting position at their own 39. QB Love hits three straight passes to wide open receivers for 49 yards to the Rams 12. After two short runs, the Pack runs a play action rollout, Love looks like he has plenty of room to convert the third and two, but DT Aaron Donald hustles after him and just gets a paw on his foot, just enough to bring the QB down short and earn a sack. The Packers settle for a field goal. Packers 10, Rams 3.
Rams continue to hold the score close and force a three and out. After a short run, L.A. lines up with five on the line and sends them all in one of their few blitzes. DT Larell Murchison breaks through to hit the QB, but doesn’t wrap up. The QB squirms and while being hit by E Byron Young throws a lateral/backwards pass out of bounds. It is ruled a sack for Young and a fumble. On third and long, DT Aaron Donald pressures the QB, who slips away, but E Michael Hoecht is right there to clean up the sack. Packers 10, Rams 3.
Drive # 10
The Pack takes over at midfield on an interception. After an opening 11 yard out pattern gain, Green Bay goes to the ground on five straight plays. On third and inches, DT Larell Murchison and E Michael Hoecht wrap up an off tackle run for a loss and the Pack settles for a field goal. Packers 13, Rams 3.
No running out the clock, Green Bay puts the pedal to the metal and goes 72 yards for a touchdown. QB Love hits four of four passes totaling 67 yards on the drive. The biggest was a deep lollipop throw that was poorly tracked and covered even worse by S Russ Yeast for 37 yards. The touchdown pass was well-designed, a pair of fake swing passes with the tight end releasing wide open down the middle of the field and another poor tackling effort by Yeast. Packers 20, Rams 3.
It’s all over but the cryin’. Green Bay holds the ball for the final 2:32 of the game. Packers 20, Rams 3.
Defense by the numbers
72 - The percentage of drives against the Rams defense that move the chains
How consistent each defense is at preventing the opponent from moving the chains— Computer Cowboy (@benbbaldwin) November 7, 2023
The Browns have been insanely lucky with opposing QBs (sorry Clayton Tune) so grain of salt here, but still very impressive pic.twitter.com/2ZZwp3quQi
29 - QB Jordan Love’s ranking against the blitz
It would seem logical with a ranking like this that the defensive game plan should include aggressive blitz packages, both true and simulated. Love has eight NFL starts and a fairly high interception rate of 3.3%. Giving him a lot of attack angles to navigate through is asking a lot of a inexperienced player, Yet...
4 - Times the Rams blitzed Jordan
Two were half-assed attempts by safeties Quentin Lake and John Johnson within the first plays of the games opening drive, neither looked aggressive or came within five yards of the quarterback. A third came on the last drive of the first half, it was a delayed blitz by LB Christian Rozeboom and the ball was easily out before he crossed the line of scrimmage. The fourth worked for a sack early in the fourth quarter, with all five front line coming in and shutting down the pocket.
0 - The amount of stunts and/or simulated blitzes the L.A. used
LB Ernest Jones, the primary simulated and true blitzer was out with injury. Does a huge part of any aggressiveness this year’s defense has shown stay on the bench with him. Troy Reeder has blitzed in his past Rams history and Rozeboom is a hair-on-fire type player. Jake Hummel is an athletic guy, played in four plays on the first drive but wasn’t seen again. Was he hurt?
43 - The YAC given up by L.A.
Although the tackling was better in a sense of missed attempts, the Packers running backs did a very good job of keeping their legs churning and falling forward of bonus yardage,
2 - How often the Rams offense used play action
Yes, I do a weekly series on the defense, not the offense, but this just stood out like a sore thumb. Green Bay packed up the box or shot the linebackers through the run gaps so often in run situations and with the compressed pass routes there was often 9 players within five yards of the line of scrimmage. Never checked out it once. The two play action reps were cursory, not hard fakes. Both on first down, one in the first half and the other in the second.
I think that many fans want to hang their hats on how the defense has been playing pretty well and let down by the offense, but this is not the game to do it. Most certainly, the L.A. offense didn’t do them any favors, but Green Bay is not a very good offensive team and still rolled up 400 total yards. The score could/should have easily been worse if not for a few Pack mistakes.
Of the Packers 12 drives, they scored on four, missed a makable field goal, had two converted fourth downs in Rams territory nullified due to poor interior alignment, had a unforced fumble on the L.A. side of the field, and ran out the final seconds kneeling inside the Rams 15. That’s nine of 12 drives within spitting distance of the goal line.
The Rams defense has now dropped into the bottom 10 of the majority of statistical categories, this defense needs a reset over the bye week and maybe just as importantly, to make some tough decisions as how to approach the second half of the season.