Monday, February 6, 2023

Packers show why the road to Super Bowl 2021 passes through Lambeau Field

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Aaron Rodgers will play his fifth NFC Championship game next weekend, but it will be his first at Lambeau Field.

And that’s not even the biggest advantage he and the Packers – who beat the Rams 32-18 in Saturday’s NFC Division Round at Green Bay – will have.

Flap provides an advantage. Rodgers (23 passes for 36, 296 yards, two touchdowns) plays as an NFL MVP three times. Davante Adams had nine catches for 66 yards and one touchdown in his highly anticipated game with Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey. The Packers offense has just destroyed the best defense in the league for a total of 484 yards.

VIDEO: Rams-Packers Divisional Highlights

But the biggest X factor in the Packers reaching the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2011 game, a win over the Steelers, will be their three-headed attack from Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams and AJ Dillon. helped set up Green Bay to make that comeback, and they’ll have to continue that production next Sunday against divisional game winner Buccaneers-Saints.

The Rams allowed just 91.3 rushing yards per game in the regular season, which placed third in the NFL. The Bucs (80.6 yards per game) led the league and the Saints (93.9 yards per game) were fourth.

Green Bay, however, took advantage of a Los Angeles front led by a shadowy Aaron Donald, who suffered a rib injury in the wildcard round against the Seahawks. Jones, Williams and Dillon had 17 carries and 73 yards in the first half, and Rodgers had 169 yards and a TD. The Packers were leading 19-10 at the time.

IYER: How the Packers made Donald and Ramsey irrelevant

The running game then made the difference in the second half.

Jones broke a 60-yard run on the first scrimmage play, which set up his 1-yard touchdown. Still, the Rams were able to drag and even reduce the lead to 25-18.

Green Bay’s defense alternated between forcing the punters and allowing the scoring shots. Rams quarterback Jared Goff (21 of 27, 174 yards, one touchdown) played well despite a broken thumb, and Cam Akers (18 carries, 90 yards, one touchdown) did well on the field.

The Packers took over with 9:46 left in the fourth and one lead. It was then that the threat of the race made the biggest difference.

Rodgers hit Allen Lazard for a 58-yard touchdown on a play-action pass where the running action really worked. Rodgers put in a nice shot and a wide open Lazard atoned for a drop earlier in the half.

The racing game has set up the closing time.

Also mention the Green Bay offensive line, who controlled the game even without injured tackle David Bakthiari. Jones (14 carries, 99 yards), Williams (12 carries, 65 yards) and Dillon (six carries, 27 yards) hit the Rams with a quick, physical offense. The Packers finished with 188 rushing yards, and they have averaged 191.5 yards in four home games since December.

The threat of the race will also make a difference in the next lap. In Rodgers’ last three NFC championship appearances – losses to the Seahawks, Falcons and 49ers – Green Bay averaged 98.6 rushing yards and scored just one touchdown. Rodgers’ magical act was not enough against strong race defenses, and the Saints or Bucs will present such a challenge. The Packers average 96 rushing yards in a division against these teams in the regular season.

These games were on the road, however. Next weekend’s game will take place at Lambeau, where the Green Bay running game has marked championship races since Vince Lombardi’s heyday. If the current full-backs have the same level of success, Rodgers will be able to do the rest.

That’s the biggest benefit of all for the Packers right now.

The road to the Super Bowl really goes through Lambeau Field.

It’s up to the saints or the buccaneers to go through there.


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