Aaron Rodgers, Packers Advance to NFC Championship with Win vs. Jared Goff, Rams

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorJanuary 17, 2021

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)
Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

The Green Bay Packers are back in the NFC Championship Game for the second straight year after taking down the Los Angeles Rams 32-18 at Lambeau Field on Saturday.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers rushed for one touchdown and threw for two more, including a 58-yard toss to Allen Lazard to give Green Bay a 31-18 edge with seven minutes left:

The Rams hung tough for all four quarters and got as close as 25-18 late in the third quarter after running back Cam Akers followed up his seven-yard touchdown run with a successful two-point conversion on a trick play:

Akers finished with 96 scrimmage yards and a touchdown for the Rams, but the Packers ultimately prevailed and moved on.

Green Bay will host the NFC title game for the first time since Rodgers became the team's starting quarterback in 2008. The signal-caller has started four NFC Championship Games, but all of them were on the road.

The Rams entered the game short-handed sans leading receiver Cooper Kupp (knee injury). Quarterback Jared Goff, who underwent surgery on his dislocated and broken right thumb three weeks ago, continued to play through his injury. Defensive lineman Aaron Donald played despite suffering a rib injury during the Rams' playoff win over the Seattle Seahawks last week.

                   

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Notable Performances

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers: 23-of-36, 296 passing yards, 2 TD; 1 rushing TD

Packers WR Davante Adams: 9 catches, 66 receiving yards, 1 TD

Packers WR Allen Lazard: 4 catches, 96 receiving yards, 1 TD

Packers RB Aaron Jones: 14 carries, 99 rushing yards, 1 TD; 1 catch, 14 receiving yards

Rams QB Jared Goff: 21-of-27, 174 passing yards, 1 TD; 1 carry, 6 rushing yards

Rams RB Cam Akers: 18 carries, 90 rushing yards, 1 TD; 1 catch, 6 receiving yards

Rams WR Robert Woods: 8 catches, 48 receiving yards

Rams WR Van Jefferson: 6 catches, 46 receiving yards, 1 TD

    

Packers Dominate Rams Everywhere Except for Scoreboard

Green Bay finished the NFC Divisional Round four yards shy of doubling the Rams up from the line of scrimmage, ultimately finishing with 484 yards to the Rams' 244.

The Packers held the ball for 36:12, earned 28 first downs and went off for 6.7 yards per play. On the ground, the three-headed monster of Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams and A.J. Dillon combined for 32 rushes and 191 yards.

Through the air, Davante Adams got yards in small chunks by catching nine of his 10 targets for 66 yards and a one-yard touchdown to give the Packers a 9-3 lead it would not relinquish:

Next Gen Stats broke that one down:

Adams got the better of shutdown corner Jalen Ramsey, notably turning 2nd-and-14 into a manageable third down after creating space at the line:

Rodgers did the rest, using a pump fake to score on a one-yard rush:

The ground game took center stage in the second half, with Jones getting the Pack on the right foot with a 60-yard run on their first third-quarter drive:

Jones finished the job himself, plunging into the end zone from one yard out:

The Rams refused to go away, pulling within seven on the aforementioned Akers touchdown and two-point conversion. But the Packers offense simply could not be stopped, as Rodgers found Lazard to effectively seal the deal.

The Packers defense then forced the Rams to turn the ball over on downs in response before running out the clock and earning their first home NFC title game matchup since the 2007 season.

           

Short-Handed, Injured Rams Hang Tough Despite Uphill Battle

The Rams entered Saturday without their top wide receiver and with a starting quarterback healing from a broken thumb on his right throwing hand.

Somehow, the Rams offense was able to account for a pair of touchdowns and three long scoring drives overall.

The Rams wideouts stepped up in Kupp's absence. Van Jefferson notably came through with six receptions, 46 yards and a touchdown that pulled L.A. within 16-9 in the second quarter:

The rookie caught six of seven targets thrown his way, and he was accompanied by pair of solid efforts from Robert Woods (eight catches for 48 yards on 10 targets) and Josh Reynolds (three catches for 65 yards on four targets).

Woods never broke off an explosive play, but he helped move the chains and made a great play by catching a Goff jump pass:

Reynolds caught the Rams' longest pass for 28 yards to help L.A. eventually earn a field goal for a 3-3 tie:

The Rams were efficient on offense, but they ultimately could not match the Packers' explosive plays. Still, it was a valiant effort from L.A.

In addition, presumptive Defensive Player of the Year (and surefire future Pro Football Hall of Famer) Aaron Donald was playing with torn rib cartilage that forced him out of his team's 30-20 Wild Card Round win over the Seattle Seahawks last week.

Donald said he felt no pain Wednesday and that he was healthy, but he was not his old self Saturday. Liam McKeone of the Big Lead noted that Donald played just 39 of 72 snaps, and he also finished with just one tackle.

Frankly, it was incredible that Donald was even out there fighting for his team given the severity of the injury suffered just six days prior. Any contribution on top of that would have been a massive bonus.

Donald represented the heart and resolve all the Rams showed in their divisional-round performance. The game did not go the Rams' way, but they can all hold their heads high knowing they put forth an excellent effort in defeat.

                

What's Next?

The Packers will host the winner of the NFC Divisional Round matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints, who will host the game Sunday at 6:40 p.m. ET in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The NFC Championship Game will be Sunday, Jan. 24, at 3:05 p.m.