Trailing by two with 2:02 left in the game, the best quarterback in the NFL was ready to lead the Green Bay Packers on their third go-ahead drive of the season and hand the LA Rams their first loss of the year.
At least that’s how it looked before Ty Montgomery inexplicably took the kick return out of the end zone after reportedly being told not to and immediately fumbled it away.
The Packers blew their chance at being over .500 for the first time since week 1 and fans missed the opportunity to witness an instant classic of a chess match between Aaron Rodgers and Wade Phillips with the game on the line. A win would have put them on top of the NFC North, but they couldn’t capitalize. However, a heart broken Green Bay team left Los Angles knowing they should have beaten the best team in football.
The Packers much-maligned defense turned in their most impressive performance of the year thanks in large part to rookie defensive back, Jaire Alexander. After missing the past two games with a groin injury, Alexander wrecked LA’s passing game with five deflections.
The most impressive sequence came in the second quarter where he chased down speedy receiver Brandin Cooks step-for-step to break up a 40-yard pass in the endzone. Green Bay’s solid secondary performance allowed defensive coordinator, Mike Pettine to dial up more blitzes which frustrated Goff and the Rams offense for portions of the game.
Offensively, the Packers offensive line held their own against the best interior d-line in the NFL. Rodgers had time throughout the game to stand in the pocket and wait for his receivers to get open. Guard Lane Taylor did gave up two key sacks to Aaron Donald but when going head-to-head with the reigning defensive player of the year, you’re simply going to get beat a couple of times.
The line also did a good job opening holes for Green Bay’s rushers which only makes their lack of commitment to the run more irritating.
Aaron Jones averaged 7.2 yards per carry but still was only handed the ball 12 times. It’s a good sign that he finally dominated the workload with Montgomery and Jamaal Williams only combining for six carries, but Jones still needs more usage going forward. I’m not clamoring for him because he’s on my fantasy team (okay, maybe that’s part of it), he’s clearly been the best running back in the room all season and it makes me wonder how Mike McCarthy isn’t seeing what the rest of us are. For the Packers to have sustained success on offense that doesn’t solely rely on Rodgers doing magic tricks, they need a more prominent rushing attack and it starts with unleashing Jones.
There’s no denying that the Packers have flaws, with coaching and defensive depth, but besides the Rams and Saints, who in the NFC doesn’t? Just look at their division. As someone who picked the Vikings to win the Super Bowl this year, it pains me to watch them limp through the first half of the season. They’re bruised, their offensive line is nonexistent, and they looked absolutely helpless at times against the Saints on Sunday Night Football. The Lions can’t seem to find a consistent winning formula and the Bears are going through a painful process of evaluating QB Mitchell Trubisky.
If Aaron Rodgers got the ball at the end of the game, Green Bay would have won. Every fan, player, and coach in the LA Coliseum can at least acknowledge that was a strong possibility. They don’t have the Rams collective talent or New Orleans explosiveness, but they have the best player in the NFL and there’s just enough around him to give the Packers an edge in a crowded postseason race.