Jason Wilde breaks down what he thinks the Green Bay Packers need to accomplish to bounce back from their loss last week when they host the Los Angeles Rams in a Week 12 battle Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.
1. MARQUEE MATCHUP … OR NOTUpdated
Pitting one of the NFL’s top cover corners in the Rams’ Jalen Ramsey against arguably the NFL’s best wide receiver in the Packers’ Davante Adams (above) sounds like a fascinating, get-your-popcorn-ready kind of matchup. And it would be — if it were actually going to happen on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
But barring a major philosophical shift from the Rams defense — something that the Packers have seen other opponents do in an effort to throw Aaron Rodgers & Co. off from the film they’d watched in preparation for games — there will be very few if any mano-a-mano matchups between Ramsey and Adams, just as there wasn’t when the teams met in the NFC Divisional Playoffs last year and the Packers won at Lambeau Field, 32-18.
That’s because the Rams play predominantly zone coverage in their secondary, so it’s not like a man-to-man defense which would likely have Ramsey follow Adams all over the field all game long.
“I’m not really looking at it as the heavyweight bout that everybody did last year,” Adams said at midweek. “In that (playoff) game, we had a limited amount of opportunities where we were even going one-on-one.
“Their idea of stopping me definitely wasn’t to just go one-on-one clearly because that didn’t happen a whole lot in the game. It’s not going to be the Davante/Jalen Ramsey show. I would love if it was, but that’s just not the way defenses have shown that they’re going to play us. Until that happens, then we can talk about it as much as we want. But for now, we’re just going to focus on going trying to get a win.”
The reason Adams would welcome a direct matchup with Ramsey is because that would mean single coverage — something he rarely gets these days, as he enters the game having caught 72 passes for 979 yards and five touchdowns, despite missing one game after contracting COVID-19. But there will be times when Adams is in Ramsey’s zone, and Adams understands what he’ll be up against.
“Jalen Ramsey is obviously a very talented player. I’ve got a lot of respect for what he’s doing and he plays into his strengths really well,” Adams said. “Obviously, (he’s) not going to follow me. He may pre-align to that side, but … we didn’t get a whole lot of one-on-one matchups that I wanted (in the playoff game). Like I said, he’s a great player. As far as his one-on-one ability, I can’t gauge that because my sample size is not what I would like it to be from that game. So, we’ll see.”
2. BOUNCING BACKUpdated
The Packers entered last Sunday’s loss to Minnesota ranked third in the NFL in both fewest yards per game allowed and fewest points allowed. They exited that 34-31 loss seventh in yards (318.8 per game) and fifth in scoring (19.5 points per game).
For all the talk about being a championship-level defense — as Rodgers put it after the shutout win over Seattle the week before — the Packers didn’t look the part at U.S. Bank Stadium against the Vikings. And they knew it.
“We’ve just got to move past that quickly. Look where they did things that gave us problems, look at problems that we had within ourselves that we can fix quickly,” veteran safety and defensive co-captain Adrian Amos said. “That's just how it is over the course of the season. But don't let that one game beat us twice, and don't let repeat things beat us. We’ve just got to regroup this week … hopefully rebound and be a lot better this week.”
While the pass defense was among the issues — Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns, with 169 yards and two touchdowns going to Justin Jefferson — the Packers did have their chances at takeaways. Both Amos and fellow safety Darnell Savage (above) had chances for interceptions, with Savage’s pick with 2 minutes to play in the game actually having been initially ruled an interception before replays showed that he failed to control the ball all the way to the ground, resulting in an incompletion that set up the Vikings’ game-winning walk-off field goal.
“For sure, that's one thing we’ve got to do. We’ve got to take advantage of opportunities,” Amos admitted. “But if early on in that game we played a little bit better, made less mistakes early, I feel like everything got magnified later on. If we had corrected a couple things that we did early on in the first half, I feel like it wouldn't have come down to a few plays at the end.”
3. THIS IS NOT DETROIT, MANUpdated
Amos and the rest of the Packers' defensive players are well-acquainted with Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (above), with Stafford having spent his first 12 NFL seasons with NFC North rival Detroit. Amos has faced Stafford seven times, having played for the Chicago Bears before joining the Packers as a free agent in 2019.
And while Stafford’s career has been an uphill battle — his teams are a combined 81-93-1 in regular-season games he’s started, and he’s only played in just three career playoff games, in 2011, 2014 and 2016, losing them all — Amos has a pretty good idea why.
“Matt Stafford always been good. He just played for the Lions,” Amos said, a line he delivered with a straight face and no obvious sign of trying to be funny. “Sometimes when you're not playing for a team that's winning, you don't get praise for a lot of things that you can do. He's been a great thrower of the football. He always had a great deep ball. He always could do the tricks and make all those throws, and I remember him being able to scramble and get yards when needed. So I feel like he's the same person. He's just on a new team in a different spotlight.”
So far in the Rams offense, Stafford has what would be career highs in passer rating (106.1) and completion percentage (67.7%) going, and with the help of a 17th game, he’s on pace to break his single-season touchdown pass (41) and yardage (5,038) marks, too. It’s why Rams head coach Sean McVay was more than happy to ship former No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff to Detroit for the 33-year-old Stafford.
That said, Stafford did struggle in the Rams’ back-to-back losses before the bye week, completing 57 of 89 passes (64.0%) for 537 yards with four interceptions, two touchdowns and seven sacks (69.4 passer rating) in losses to the Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers. But perhaps a week off was just what he needed.
“There’s not a throw that he can’t make,” Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said. “They’re the most explosive offense in the National Football League, so it’s not only him but it’s the cumulative effect of all the players they have. They’ve got a lot of great players. I think Sean does as good as anybody of scheming you up and getting guys open, and they’ve got a guy (in Stafford) that, when it’s open, it’s pretty much automatic. ... They take a lot of shots, and they’ve done a nice job protecting him and when guys are open down the field, he makes you pay.”
Jason Wilde covers the Packers for ESPN Wisconsin. Listen to him with former Packers and Badgers offensive lineman Mark Tauscher weekdays from 9 a.m. until noon on “Wilde & Tausch” on 100.5 FM ESPN Madison.
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