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One and Done - FFL: Week 2 | NFL: Divisional

Rams' defense struggles with injury hindering Donald

Sat Jan 16 10:00pm ET
By STEVE MEGARGEE
AP Sports Writer

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) throws a pass while being chased by Los Angeles Rams' Aaron Donald (99) during the first half of an NFL divisional playoff football game Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)


Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson walks off the field after an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Green Bay Packers Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis. The Packers defeated the Rams 32-18 to advance to the NFC championship game. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)


Green Bay Packers' Allen Lazard breaks away from Los Angeles Rams' Jordan Fuller (32) to score on a 58-yard touchdown run during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)


GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) As the Los Angeles Rams' fate became distressingly clear in the final minutes of Saturday's game, cameras showed a tearful Aaron Donald on the sideline.

The unanimous All-Pro defensive tackle had worked tirelessly to play after a rib injury knocked him out of a playoff victory at Seattle a week earlier, but he clearly wasn't himself and had just one assisted tackle.

Without Donald in peak form, the NFL's top defense simply couldn't slow down the league's highest-scoring offense. The Green Bay Packers scored on their first five series and beat the Rams 32-18 in the NFC divisional playoffs.

''I love Aaron Donald,'' Rams coach Sean McVay said. ''It means a lot to him. It's unfortunate that he wasn't at full strength today.''

Green Bay scored an NFL-leading 31.8 points per game during the regular season, while the Rams ranked atop the league in most defensive categories. This marked the first time the No. 1 scoring offense and No. 1 scoring defense from the regular season matched up in the postseason since New England's defense stifled Atlanta's high-powered offense down the stretch in the Super Bowl on Feb. 5, 2017.

Yet this heavyweight matchup between the Packers' offense and the Rams' defense was more like a mismatch for much of the day.

Los Angeles had produced an NFL-leading 53 sacks during the regular season and produced five more at Seattle last week, but the Rams couldn't sack Aaron Rodgers a single time Saturday. Green Bay's pass rush produced the highlights instead, with the Packers sacking Jared Goff four times.

The Rams hadn't allowed a single run from scrimmage of over 27 yards all season. Green Bay's Aaron Jones burst through the middle for a 60-yard gain on the first play of the second half.

Los Angeles hadn't given up more than 390 total yards or 136 yards rushing all season. The Packers gained 484 yards overall and ran for 188.

''You have one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play this game, one of the greatest receivers to play this game, a great running back in Aaron Jones,'' Rams defensive tackle Michael Brockers said. ''They just use all their guys. They made the field super big. You have to defend every inch as far as laterally.''

The Rams also had some uncharacteristic mistakes on defense to help Green Bay out.

Green Bay's first touchdown drive included a personal foul on Donald, who grabbed left guard Elgton Jenkins' face mask as the two of them tangled after the whistle. Troy Hill couldn't hang onto a potential interception in the end zone that would have prevented the Packers from adding a field goal just before halftime.

Those errors proved costly on a day when the Rams had no margin for error.

''I feel like it was a perfect storm,'' Rams safety John Johnson said. ''Every week, you have a plan. You trust in it. You believe in it 100% by the time you get to Saturday or Sunday. And sometimes it just doesn't work out. We didn't execute to a high enough level that we needed to.''

The Rams needed a big day from their defense because their offense was missing injured receiver Cooper Kupp and left guard David Edwards. Goff went 21 of 27 for 174 yards and a touchdown less than three weeks after undergoing thumb surgery, while Cam Akers closed his productive rookie season by rushing for 90 yards and a touchdown.

Los Angeles' defense did settle down enough to give the Rams a chance to tie it late. The Rams got the ball at their own 6-yard line trailing 25-18 early in the fourth quarter, but they couldn't move it beyond their 32 before punting.

The Rams forced a potential game-changing fumble by A.J. Dillon in Packers territory, but Rodgers recovered. Three plays later, Rodgers hit Allen Lazard for a clinching 58-yard touchdown with 6:52 left.

That touchdown made it clear the Rams' bid for a second Super Bowl appearance in three seasons would fall short. The disappointment was apparent from Donald's tearful reaction.

''I promise you with this injury, he'll be working out next week,'' Brockers said. ''I promise you he'll be doing something next week. But for him to just feel like he gave everything he had, and he almost felt like he was hindered a little bit with the injury and stuff like that.

''I've just got to talk to him and let him know, `Man, that's not on you. That's not on you. There's no reason why you have to feel that way, like you failed us or anything like that. You gave us everything you had. You are the reason why we're here.'''

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Player Notes
Aaron Jones Jan 16 8:20pm ET

Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones carried the ball 14 times for 99 yards with one touchdown and 14 receiving yards in the team's 32-18 win over the Rams in the NFC Divisional Round. Jones went up against a stingy Rams Defense and ran hard between the tackles. The free-agent-to-be cashed in with a one-yard run for a touchdown in the second half and averaged a robust 7.1 yards per carry. The Packers offense didn't miss a beat against the Rams and will be favorites at home next week in the NFC Championship. Jones will continue to handle the bulk of carries out of the backfield heading into the team's next matchup.

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Jamaal Williams Jan 16 8:10pm ET

Green Bay Packers running back Jamaal Williams carried the ball 12 times for 65 yards in the Packers 32-18 playoff victory over the Rams. Williams' opportunities expanded after some hard early runs picked up some substantial gains. Few question that teammate Aaron Jones is the lead runner in the Packers offense but Williams provides an intriguing change-of-pace to the attack. Jones is the preferable fantasy choice for the forthcoming NFC Championship Game. But fantasy teams could find excellent value in a player like Williams, who could easily steal a touchdown in the red zone next week.

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Marquez Valdes-Scantling Jan 16 8:10pm ET

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Allen Lazard Jan 16 8:00pm ET

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard caught four passes for a team-high 96 yards with one touchdown in the Packers 32-18 triumph over the Rams in the NFC Divisional Round. Lazard was targeted eight times in the game but finally exploded in the fourth quarter, catching a bomb from quarterback Aaron Rodgers and sprinting to the end zone for a 58-yard score. The Rams did all they could to take star receiver Davante Adams out of the offensive game plan but Rodgers hit big with his secondary receivers. Adams will continue to get the headlines but receivers like Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling will carry fantasy sleeper appeal in tournaments for the NFC Championship Game next week.

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Robert Tonyan Jan 16 8:00pm ET

Green Bay Packers tight end Robert Tonyan caught four passes for 60 yards in the team's 32-18 win over the Rams in the NFC Divisional Round. Tonyan has been known this season for his ability to score touchdowns but contributed in other ways to help the Packers take down the Rams. The talented tight end was a safety valve for quarterback Aaron Rodgers in crucial situations and did a nice job picking up some extra yards after the catch. Tonyan led all tight ends this season with 11 touchdowns and should see a healthy amount of targets in the NFC Championship Game next week.

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Travis Kelce Jan 16 7:50pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce should be in line for a top performance on Sunday's Divisional Round slate when the Chiefs take on the Cleveland Browns. The Browns allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per game to tight ends this season and Kelce last caught fewer than seven passes way back in Week 7. He's far-and-away the best tight end play on this slate and DFS players who stack Kelce with quarterback Patrick Mahomes could find themselves having a lot of success on Sunday.

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Aaron Rodgers Jan 16 7:50pm ET

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Davante Adams Jan 16 7:50pm ET

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams caught nine passes for 66 yards with one touchdown in the team's 32-18 victory over the Rams in the NFC Divisional Round. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers found Adams in a familiar place, the end zone, in the first quarter for a one-yard touchdown and a 10-3 lead at the time. Adams was targeted 10 times in the game but did his damage in the intermediary passing game. Even in games when opponents focus intently on bottling up Adams, his connection with Rodgers in the red zone is undeniable. Adams will be a top choice among wide receivers next week in the NFC Championship Game.

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Patrick Mahomes Jan 16 7:40pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is the top fantasy quarterback option on Sunday's Divisional Round slate when he faces off against the Cleveland Browns. Of all the teams left in the playoffs, no one allows more fantasy points per game to quarterbacks than Cleveland. Mahomes should have no trouble exploiting this Browns secondary, and while his high DFS salary might make it tough to build lineups with him, he's still by far the best play on the slate.

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Tyreek Hill Jan 16 7:40pm ET

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T.J. Yeldon Jan 16 7:20pm ET

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Tre'Quan Smith Jan 16 6:20pm ET

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Ben Roethlisberger Jan 16 6:10pm ET

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Lamar Jackson Jan 16 6:00pm ET

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