GREEN BAY – The Packers posted a 36-28 triumph over the Rams on Sunday at Lambeau Field to improve to 9-3.
Here are five takeaways from the valuable victory.
1. The Packers got to their long-awaited bye week in strong position.
Green Bay regained its 3½-game lead over 5-6 Minnesota in the NFC North and is just a half-game back of 9-2 Arizona for the top spot in the conference.
It was a hard, tough slog to play 12 games without a week off, and the Packers have lost guys due to injury practically every single week, but they're in a good spot with a chance to rest, heal and recharge.
"This was an important one," said quarterback Aaron Rodgers after a 307-yard, two-TD performance on his fractured pinky toe. "I like where we're at. I like our football team. This is shaping up … we've got some more home games down the stretch."
Regarding the Cardinals, the Packers also are "right on their heels," Rodgers said, knowing they own the head-to-head tiebreaker if they can at least match their record by season's end. Green Bay also handed the Rams a fourth loss, while the Buccaneers are a half-game back of the Packers at 8-3.
"Everything is right in front of us," defensive lineman Kenny Clark said.
2. The story of the game was the points scored off turnovers, even though it could've been more.
Rashan Gary, back from his elbow injury, and Preston Smith combined on an early sack-fumble that set up a touchdown. A turnover on downs and fumbled punt return, both in LA territory, led to a pair of Green Bay field goals.
And then the biggest highlight was cornerback Rasul Douglas' 33-yard pick-six of Matthew Stafford (302 yards, three TDs) late in the third quarter that made it a three-score game for the first time, 36-17.
"I just love how he competes. You see it play in and play out," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said of Douglas. "The guy is so competitive. You see it in practice every day. Obviously he's made two plays that have made major impacts on games this year."
LaFleur was referring to the game-ending interception in Arizona in Week 8 as the other big play, and Douglas had a couple other INT opportunities get away from him Sunday. All this from a guy on another practice squad less than two months ago.
The Packers also turned it over once, on a muffed punt by Randall Cobb, but after the Rams' trick pass play to the end zone was ruled out of bounds, Green Bay's defense held LA to a field goal to keep the early lead.
3. Pounding AJ Dillon provided a late-game, cold-weather running game that could become a staple of the stretch run.
Aaron Jones did play after missing just one game due to his knee sprain, and it was tough sledding for both Jones and Dillon trying to run the ball against the Rams' stout front.
But late in the game, Dillon became the pounder the Packers needed. With Green Bay up 36-25 and 6½ minutes on the clock, Dillon carried the ball five times in a span of six plays for 22 yards to kill more than three minutes and put Mason Crosby in field-goal range.
"It's amazing, the dude finds a way to get 4 yards every single play," said receiver Davante Adams, who had eight catches for 104 yards. "It's no secret, guys don't want to tackle when it's cold like that, so when you've got a 250-pound frame of just pure muscle, maybe 3% body fat, it makes it tough … literally steamrolling over dudes."
Adams compared Dillon's power and mentality to Eddie Lacy's, especially for this time of year, and seeing how Dillon churned his way to 69 yards on 20 carries stood out more than the final stats.
Lambeau Field hosted a Week 12 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021.
4. The kicking game almost had an error-free day, and the defense would want two plays back.
Crosby ended up missing that final field-goal try, clanking the upright from 42 yards out, to end what had been a good day on a sour note. He had made seven straight kicks to that point – three field goals and four PATs – before yet another miss on a day the winds were swirling inside Lambeau.
Defensively, the Packers' effort against one of the top offenses in the league featured two regrets, as Stafford connected with Van Jefferson on a 79-yard TD and with Odell Beckham Jr. on a 54-yard score. Chandon Sullivan was the victim in coverage vs. Jefferson, while Beckham beat Douglas and safety Adrian Amos.
The first came after the Packers had grabbed an early 10-0 lead, and the second occurred early in the fourth quarter. Those two plays kept the Rams in the game and gave the otherwise erratic Stafford a chance.
But Green Bay's defense hung tough, not allowing LA to make it a one-score game until just 18 seconds remained. That's when the Rams kicked a field goal to pull within eight points and get a try at the onside kick, which Amos recovered.
5. It's time to rest up.
Week 13 is the latest bye the Packers have ever had, and even though several players still need to get healthy for Green Bay to be at its best, chalking up another win sure beat the alternative.
"It's huge, man," Adams said. "It's going to make this bye week that much more enjoyable."
The only addition to the injury list from Sunday was Cobb, who caught four passes for 95 yards and a TD in the first half before departing with a groin injury.
Otherwise, all eyes in the coming weeks will be on whether David Bakhtiari, Jaire Alexander, Josh Myers, and/or Za'Darius Smith, among others, can return to action sometime in December or January as the finish line approaches.
But the immediate thought is 9-3 feels a heck of a lot better than 8-4.
"We talked about emptying the tank and I think we're at a point where everybody's pretty exhausted," LaFleur said. "But it definitely feels good going into the bye week on a win."