Dream Matchup: Rodgers-Brady at Lambeau in NFC Championship

FOX Football Insider
Dream Matchup: Rodgers-Brady at Lambeau in NFC Championship

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – The Green Bay-LA Rams divisional game fittingly ended with the Packers in victory formation after the 2-minute warning, with Aaron Rodgers taking three consecutive kneel-downs to chants of “MVP, MVP” at Lambeau Field.

Never was Rodgers’ value to his team more apparent facing the NFL’s best defense.

The Packers tore it apart, scoring 32 points and racking up 484 total yards, including 188 on the ground, behind an offensive line that dominated Los Angeles in a 32-18 victory Saturday evening.  All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald, who played sparingly due to a rib injury, was a non-factor when he was in the game.

At 2 p.m. Sunday, the Packers will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tom Brady in the NFC Championship Game.  The game will be televised exclusively in Western Wisconsin on FOX 25/48.

In a contest Green Bay never trailed Saturday and led 19-19 at intermission, Rodgers completed 23 of 36 passes to six targets for 296 yards and two touchdown for a 108.1 quarterback rating.  He also scored on a 1-yard run, pump-faking linebacker Leonard Floyd into the air to create an alley to the pylon.

“Oh man, talk about just pure joy running down that tunnel,” Rodgers said after the game in his post-game Zoom press conference.  “You know we’ve had a few hundred (fans) for a couple games, but it felt like 50,000 when we ran out of the tunnel, it really did. It was such a special moment.

“I forgot how much I truly, truly miss having a crowd there, and obviously that wasn’t a normal crowd like last year with a Seattle type of crowd.  It felt like 50, 60,000, it really did.  It’s hard to put into words how special that feeling is, but you can feel it.  It’s just so palpable.  You can feel the energy in the stadium.  It’s different playing in front of a crowd, it really is.”

Rodgers had plenty of support from his running mates, as Aaron Jones ripped off a 60-yard burst to start the second half and totaled 99 yards on 14 rushes for a lofty 7.1-yard average.  Jamaal Williams added 65 on 12 carries and AJ Dillon 27 yards before leaving the game with a leg injury.

After two drops of potential long touchdown passes in the third quarter, Rodgers hit a wide-open Allen Lazard with the 58-yard back-breaking touchdown pass with 6:52 remaining in the game.

In a game that the Green Bay defense outperformed its top-ranked counterpart, Clark and Gary were the main disrupters with three total tackles and 1.5 sacks each.  Rookie linebacker Krys Barnes continued his solid play and led the Packers with 10 total tackles and one pass defense and cornerback Jaire Alexander and Adrian Amos anchored the secondary.

Clark and Gary met at quarterback Jared Goff for a 9-yard sack early in the third quarter.  Clark dumped Goff for a 6-yard sack in the fourth quarter, and Gary extinguished the Rams’ last hope by sacking Goff on 4th-and-13 at midfield for a 4-yard loss with just over five minutes left.   

Green Bay got the fast start they wanted and needed in this matchup of the NFL’s best offense versus the league’s best defense.

The game was tied 3-3 after one quarter, but Rodgers hit Davante Adams (9 catches, 66 yards) with a 1-yard touchdown pass for a 10-3 cushion and extended it to 16-3 with a 1-yard touchdown run.  The first rushing TD by a Green Bay quarterback since the Ice Bowl.

Rodgers made the play, faking a handoff and rolling right looking for a receiver.  Linebacker Leonard Floyd rushed up to press Rodgers, whose pump fake made Floyd jump up, taking himself out of the play.  Rodgers sprinted for the corner pylon and scored standing up.  He celebrated by launching the football in the second deck for a lucky fan.

Los Angeles did not fold, responding with a 9-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in just three minutes to make it 16-10 with 29 seconds before halftime.  Goff threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Van Jefferson.

The Packers and Rodgers were not done.  In less than half a minute, they advanced 54 yards in five plays, with Rodgers passing 21 yards to Adams and then evading the rush to hit tight end Robert Tonyan for 33 more.  Two passes in the end zone were incomplete—and could have been intercepted—but Mason Crosby made it 19-10 with a 39-yard field goal as time expired on the first half.

Then came the double-dip.

After the second-half kickoff, Jones burst up the middle for 60 yards, fending off tackles as he angled out of bounds at the Los Angeles 15-yard line.

A nagging concern is drops by Green Bay receivers.  The Packers could have scored twice on their next possession, but Alan Lazard short-armed a perfect Rodgers pass at the Rams’ 35-yard line, and two plays later Rodgers accurate bomb to MVS fell incomplete.  It appeared Darious Williams got away with a grapping MVS’s left arm and the defender leaped for the ball that fell incomplete.  MVS’s plea to the officials fell on deaf ears, but television replays showed he was held.

The Rams again responded as Goff riddled the Packers defense with passes at the start of an 11-play 79-yard drive, and Akers ran the final four plays and scored on a 7-yard burst.  He then added the two-point conversion on a nifty Hook and Ladder play to make it 25-18.

Kenny Clark recorded his second sack of the game to force a 3rd-down-and-16 and the Packers forced a Rams punt to set up the Green Bay offense at the Packers 26-yard line with 9:46 left in the game.

Rodgers then took over, hitting Allen Lazard with a perfect strike for a 32-18 lead with 6:52 remaining.

The Green Bay defense held the Rams on downs, as Clark and Gary teamed to sack Goff for a 4-yard loss on 4th and 13 from the 50-yard line with 5:04 left.

The Packers ten did what great teams do.

They ran the ball down the throats of the NFL’s No. 1-ranked defense.  The game fittingly ended with the Packers in victory formation as 7,439 fans roared in approval.

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