The Los Angeles Rams saw their season come to an end this past weekend, falling to the Green Bay Packers, 32-18, at Lambeau Field in the divisional round.
It’s impossible not to look at this Rams season as a success as one year after missing the postseason and seeming to be trending downward, the Rams rebounded to finish 10-6. Not only did they get back to the playoffs, but they even won a game, defeating the Seattle Seahawks on Wild Card Weekend to finish as the last team standing from the NFC West.
Unfortunately, the Rams ran into the buzzsaw that was Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, who were healthy and coming off a bye.
L.A., on the other hand, came in battered and bruised, and their top-ranked defense simply had no answer for Rodgers and the top-ranked Packers offense. That is where I will start for my final observations and analysis for the 2020 season…
Aaron Rodgers and Matt LaFluer are awesome
As previously mentioned, this game was a matchup of the best offense against the best defense, and Green Bay got the better of this matchup.
Sean McVay’s protege, Matt LaFleur, came in with a brilliant gameplan, constantly using presnap motion to confuse the Rams defense. The result was a comfortable pocket for Rodgers all day long as he was not sacked and only hit once. Whether it was quick throws or Rodgers’ ability to move around inside and outside the pocket, he was able to make plays whenever his team needed it.
Additionally, the Packers were also able to establish the run early, so they dominated time of possession and kept the Rams’ defense on the field and tired the whole game. That was the exact gameplan they needed to beat the Rams, and they executed it to perfection and are moving on to the next round because of it.
Rams weren’t healthy
Now, while the Packers absolutely deserve all the credit in the world for winning, it is absolutely worth noting how banged up the Rams were coming in.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Rams were essentially without the likely NFL Defensive Player of the Year in Aaron Donald as he was dealing with torn cartilage in his ribs.
Donald played in the game but was limited to 55% of the snaps, which was a season-low for him, and even when he was on the field, he was clearly limited, finishing with just one tackle and no quarterback pressures.
As if not having Donald wasn’t enough, the Rams also were without their top receiver in Cooper Kupp, who missed the game with a knee injury. And with John Wolford also ruled out due to a neck injury, Jared Goff was forced to play quarterback less than three weeks after undergoing surgery on a broken thumb.
The Rams offense wasn’t awful, but they went just 2-of-8 on third down, which was a clear indication that they missed Kupp.
Cam Akers is a star
If there was one silver lining for the Rams’ offense in this game and the season of a whole, it’s that it looks like they have a star at running back in Cam Akers.
Akers carried the ball 18 times for 90 yards and a touchdown, and that was with Green Bay knowing that L.A. would do everything they could to establish the run with a limited Goff and no Kupp.
It took some time for Akers to get going in his rookie season, but in his final seven games (postseason included), he rushed for 645 yards and four touchdowns on 141 carries, averaging 4.57 yards per carry while also adding 147 receiving yards.
That is superstar production at the running back position, and it is now clear that the organization is very him on Akers, making him the clear candidate to be the team’s workhorse in 2021.
Questions going into offseason
Now that the season has come to an end, the Rams have a ton of question marks that will need to be answered this offseason.
First, they will have to find a new defensive coordinator after Brandon Staley was recently hired to be the head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers.
Staley was incredible in his first and only season with the Rams and will not be easy to replace. There are plenty of qualified candidates out there, both inside and outside the organization, so now it will be up to McVay to find the next Staley to keep the Rams’ defense as one of the best in the league again in 2021.
Next, what will the Rams do at the quarterback position?
McVay recently talked about Goff and his future with the Rams and although he was noncommital, there really isn’t a reasonable solution for the Rams to improve at quarterback in 2021.
Goff’s cap hit is incredibly high, whether he’s on the team or not, so a trade is not likely. The Rams also don’t have a first-round pick, so if they want to draft a quarterback it will have to come in the second round or later.
The most likely scenario is Goff and Wolford being the team’s two quarterbacks again in 2021, and now that the Rams know the latter can play a little bit, it may push the former to work even harder to improve.
Finally, the Rams will likely have to replace some key players on the defensive side of the ball with John Johnson III, Leonard Floyd and Troy Hill all hitting free agency. With the team’s lack of cap space, it is possible that all three are gone.
Thank you all for following along and reading this column all season. This season was an absolute blast and I look forward to doing it again next year!