Packers must run the ball effectively against Rams

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Running the football will be a major key for the Green Bay Packers when they take on the Los Angeles Rams this Sunday. Getting the run game going would help alleviate some of the pressure on quarterback Aaron Rodgers and also provide a nice counter to the Rams’ premier pass rush.

Most importantly, the Packers must run the ball well when the Rams play light boxes and commit resources to defending the pass, especially with two-deep safeties.

Last week, the Packers were without their top running back in Aaron Jones in a 34-31 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. A.J. Dillon made his first career start after showing last season that he is more than capable of being the main ball carrier. However, Dillon only received 11 rushing attempts against a 27th ranked run defense. Green Bay trailed for most of the game against Minnesota, but there were plenty of opportunities to run the ball.

Instead, Matt LaFleur went with the hot hand of Aaron Rodgers, who passed for a season-high 385 yards, four touchdowns, and a passer rating of 148.4.

The game basically came down to whoever had the ball last. Neither defense could stop the opposing offense in the second half. Green Bay scored a touchdown on all three of their second-half possessions, including a one-play 75-yard drive in the fourth quarter. Rodgers found Marquez Valdes-Scantling deep over the middle for a go-ahead score with just over two minutes remaining.

The Vikings used up the remaining clock before kicking a game-winning field goal as time expired.

Saying the Packers scored too early is probably being greedy. However, had a bit more time run off the clock, maybe the end result would have been different.

This week, Green Bay could use another win heading into the bye. They have yet to lose two games in a row during the LaFleur era, and they certainly don’t want to break the streak against his close friend Sean McVay.

The Rams will be hungry and rested coming off two straight losses and a bye week. Dillon is expected to make his second straight start in Week 12, but there is a chance for Jones to play after he returned to practice in a limited capacity on Wednesday.

Either way, it doesn’t matter who gets the ball as long as the Packers are committed to the run.

Rodgers is still dealing with a toe injury that caused him to experience a lot of pain during last week’s game. While Rodgers’ mobility looked fine against the Vikings, it wouldn’t hurt to have him hand the ball off a little more. Rodgers will also be dealing with a pass rush led by Aaron Donald and Leonard Floyd. An effective run game could go a long way towards mitigating pressure behind an offensive line without its two best players.

Even though running the ball will be a key ingredient, unfortunately, it won’t be as easy as it should have been last week. The Los Angeles defense is 11th in rushing yards allowed per game, which is one spot ahead of Green Bay. In terms of ESPN’s Run Stop Win Rate, the Rams rank first in the NFL. However, in two of their three losses, the Rams have surrendered their largest rushing totals in 2021.

The winning recipe is there, the Packers just have to execute.

During last season’s NFC Divisional Round win over the Rams, the Packers rushed for 188 yards, and all three running backs were effective running the ball when the Rams played with fewer players in the box.

The path forward looks clear. Can the Packers run the ball effectively behind a patchwork offensive line, especially when the situation dictates a run play? Beating the Rams on Sunday may depend on the Packers answering affirmatively.

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