Don't get distracted: Packers must do what got them this far

Playing to their strengths can carry the day vs. Rams

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QB Aaron Rodgers

GREEN BAY – At this stage, it's easy to get distracted.

Distracted by who's going to play quarterback for the Rams (it's officially Jared Goff now), by Aaron Donald's rib injury, by who's going to win the matchup between the league's best receiver (Davante Adams) and best cornerback (Jalen Ramsey), by how cold it might or might not be at Lambeau Field, and the list goes on.

But don't get thrown off course. The key for the Packers on Saturday against the Rams in the NFC Divisional playoff (3:35 p.m. CT kickoff) is simply to be who they are.

"Anytime you're in a game with a team as talented and well-coached as we're going against," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said, "I think it always comes back to you."

That means the Packers must play their strengths, which on offense has comprised three main elements: protecting the football, converting on third down, and scoring touchdowns in the red (or gold) zone.

None of those is a given against LA's No. 1 scoring defense, but it's important to note where the Packers could have a decided edge.

It's probably not on third down, where the Packers ranked second in the league in efficiency (49.4%) while the Rams defensively ranked third (35.4%). That one might be hard to win in any significant way.

But regarding turnovers and the red zone, the Packers are better and must play to that advantage. Green Bay's 11 giveaways this season were the lowest total in the league, while LA's 22 takeaways were a middle-of-the-pack number (tied for 10th).

There's no discounting the factor turnovers were in LA's wild-card victory at Seattle. The Rams, whose regular-season margin of minus-3 was a rarity for a 10-win team, won the turnover battle with the Seahawks, 2-0, converting one into their fourth pick-six of the season.

In short, the Packers protected the ball better than any team in the league and must continue doing so.

Similarly, the Packers were the best at turning red-zone opportunities into touchdowns, doing so at an 80% clip. They were even better in their six-game winning streak to end the season, going 20-for-22, with one of the failures and end-of-game kneel-down. Meanwhile, the Rams' red-zone defense has been just a shade above average, ranking 12th at 58.7%.

This is another area the Packers have an edge, and they must keep it. They may not get as many chances as they're used to against a defense as tough as LA's, but when they get in close, they have to find the end zone.

"In the playoffs, there's an even heightened level of urgency to score, not just settle for field goals because the points, it's so much more competitive," center Corey Linsley said.

"The games are that much tighter. Everything just tightens down into inches and single points and everything matters."

There's a red-zone argument to be made on the other side of the ball, too. Percentage-wise, the Packers' defense (57.7%) and the Rams' offense (57.9%) are almost identical, which works in Green Bay's favor because defensively that number ranks eighth while offensively it's just 19th. Again, it's another edge that must be maintained.

The defense can play its part in the turnover battle, too, having generated nine takeaways over the last six games – doubling the team's season total, which stood at nine after the first 10 contests.

Big picture, the Packers have to do what got them here.

"When it comes to situational football, we have to be playing like we have all season," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said.

The Rams QB, Donald's injury, the Adams-Ramsey matchup and the weather will all play a part, but those are small parts compared to the biggest part, which is doing what the Packers do best.

"At this moment, we know the world is watching," linebacker Za'Darius Smith said. "This is the playoffs. Win or go home.

"Finish. Gotta finish."

And be who you are.

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