The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The Packers played well, but the Rams are just too good (and lucky)

Todd Gurley and the Rams improved their record to 8-0 (Jake Roth / USA Today Sports)
Placeholder while article actions load

It was all set up for another dramatic finish involving Aaron Rodgers. The Green Bay Packers were getting the football back with about two minutes left Sunday in L.A., trailing by two points. Rodgers would have a chance to summon yet another dose of quarterbacking magic, this time with the opportunity to hand the Rams their first defeat of the season. If Rodgers succeeded, the NFL would be without an unbeaten team.

Then Ty Montgomery happened.

Montgomery, fielding a kickoff a few yards deep in the end zone after a go-ahead field goal by the Rams, should have stayed put. A touchback would have given the Packers the ball at their 25-yard line with 1:56 to play. The game would have been in Rodgers’s oh-so-capable hands.

The Steelers are in first place with James Conner. What happens if Le’Veon Bell returns?

Instead, Rodgers didn’t leave the Packers’ sideline until time expired. Montgomery chose to return the kickoff. He barely reached the 20-yard line, then lost a fumble. The Rams took possession, ran out the clock on a wise and unselfish choice by tailback Todd Gurley and upped their record to 8-0 by beating the Packers, 29-27.

“It was a tough win,” Gurley told Fox after the game. “We put ourselves in a lot of tough situations. That’s why I love this team. We found out how to win."

The Packers returned from a bye week to play a game at what amounted to Lambeau Field West, with a stunningly large and vocal contingent of their fans on hand in Los Angeles. Rodgers did not shed the brace on his injured left knee for the first post-bye game, as he’d hoped. He played in a knee brace.

It was the Green Bay defense, not Rodgers’s knee, that healed during the bye, as the Packers kept L.A.’s powerful offense bottled up in the first half. The Packers had three first-half sacks of Rams quarterback Jared Goff. Young cornerbacks Kevin King and Jaire Alexander were covering well. Green Bay jumped to a 10-0 lead before the Rams, buoyed by a safety, got back into contention. Green Bay had a 10-8 lead at the half and extended it to 13-8 in the third quarter.

The Rams finally got the offense revved up in the third quarter with a pair of touchdown passes by Goff — one of them to Gurley, who scored a touchdown in an 11th straight game. The Rams seized a 10-point advantage. But the Packers didn’t wilt. They moved in front, 27-26, on a 40-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers to speedy wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling with just less than nine minutes remaining.

The Jaguars were supposed to be the next AFC powerhouse. Instead, they’re a mess.

A fantastic finish seemed in the offing. The Rams had to punt after a third-down sack by the Packers’ Clay Matthews. Green Bay had its chance to take late control but Rams defensive standout Aaron Donald provided his second sack of the game, and Green Bay punted.

Sean McVay, the Rams’ superb coach, made a questionable decision down the stretch by playing for a field goal. The Rams reached the Green Bay 13-yard line but were pushed back by a holding penalty on guard Rodger Saffold. McVay opted to run the football on second-and-20 and third-and-16 plays before kicker Greg Zuerlein’s go-ahead field goal from 34 yards.

Surely the Rams would regret that, right? Trusting your defense is one thing. But this was Aaron Rodgers on the other side of the field.

For the 2018 Rams, though, it seems even questionable decisions turn to gold.

Montgomery lost his fumble. The Rams ended up facing a third-and-10 play, needing a first down to be able to run out the clock. Gurley provided just that, breaking into the clear on his third-down carry. He could have cruised into the end zone. Instead, he held up, with the first down and the victory ensured, and went down in bounds at the 4-yard line. One kneel-down by Goff later, the Rams were celebrating victory No. 8.

L.A. is halfway to a perfect regular season. The Packers are back to being a .500 team, at 3-3-1, and must play another demanding road game next weekend at New England.

It’s nice to be as good as the Rams are.

It’s even better to be as good as they are — and as fortunate as they were Sunday.

More NFL coverage:

Cam Newton may be overlooked, but he’s still one of the NFL’s best

For JuJu Smith-Schuster, video games are a hobby — and maybe a post-NFL career

In unprecedented midseason move, NFL fires official who missed key false start

Loading...