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Packers Say Hello to Bye; Bye-Bye to Rams

Aaron Rodgers contributed three touchdowns and the Green Bay Packers beat the Los Angeles Rams 36-28 on Sunday.

GREEN BAY, Wis. – To say the odds were stacked against the Green Bay Packers would be stating the obvious.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has a broken toe. Two of the best offensive linemen in the NFL, David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins, are out with knee injuries. Their best two defenders, cornerback Jaire Alexander and outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith, have been out for weeks. They were a bruised, battered and worn-down bunch heading into their 12th consecutive game.

The Los Angeles Rams, on the other hand, were coming off their bye. Their injury list was practically nonexistent. Mastermind coach Sean McVay had an extra week to dissect the schemes of his good friend, Packers coach Matt LaFleur. And they were motivated to avenge last year's 32-18 playoff loss at Lambeau Field.

None of that mattered. The Packers (9-3) improved to 9-0 under LaFleur following an in-season loss. For the first time in those instances, Green Bay played a good team – and largely dismantled the Rams.

Rodgers was 28-of-45 passing for 307 yards and two touchdowns (plus one touchdown run). Davante Adams caught 8-of-9 passes for 104 yards. And AJ Dillon thundered away for 90 total yards, including a 5-yard touchdown catch that put the Packers in front 27-17 midway through the third quarter.

The defense contributed two massive plays. In the first quarter, Rashan Gary’s sack-strip was recovered by Preston Smith and turned into a 1-yard touchdown run by Rodgers. In the third quarter, Matthew Stafford served up a pick-six to Rasul Douglas that put the Packers in control at 36-17.

Outside of Stafford’s touchdown passes of 79 yards to Van Jefferson and 54 yards to Odell Beckham Jr., Green Bay’s defense was magnificent after getting torched last week in Minnesota. Through the first 57 minutes, the Rams’ other 49 plays gained 178 yards – an average of 3.63 yards per snap. The Rams entered the game average a league-best 6.20 yards per play.

Stafford was 21-of-38 passing for 302 yards and three touchdowns but his two turnovers were killer for the Rams, who have lost three straight.

What’s next: Finally, for the injury-plagued Packers, they’re get their long-awaited bye week. It will give quarterback Aaron Rodgers (toe), running back Aaron Jones (knee) and outside linebacker Rashon Gary (elbow) a chance to mend, and perhaps get left tackle David Bakhtiari (knee) back on the practice field. The arrow is pointed straight up for a team that’s 9-3 despite being the hardest-hit in the league by injuries.

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Game ball: The biggest mismatch seemed to be the Rams’ defensive front, featuring all-decade performers Aaron Donald and Von Miller, facing a Packers offensive line down starters David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins and Josh Myers. Rodgers, though, mostly had ample time; the only sack was a 0-yard scramble. And the running game was consistent, even though the longest of the 30 carries by running backs went for only 8 yards.

Key play: After an exchange of punts to start the game, the Rams had a second-and-4 from the 21. Rashan Gary, who was questionable with an elbow injury, beat stud left tackle Andrew Whitworth. Whitworth tackled Gary and Gary knocked the ball loose from Matthew Stafford. Preston Smith scooped up the loose ball and returned it 5 yards to the 6. Two plays later, Aaron Rodgers and his wounded toe beat All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey for a 1-yard touchdown run.

Key stat: The Rams were 0-3 when losing the turnover battle this season. The Packers were 8-0 when winning it. It’s something that Rams coach Sean McVay noted earlier in the week.

“That’s something that every single team in this league emphasizes, but we’ve got tangible evidence to show how important it is to us through these 10 games. And I also think that’s one of the reasons why the Packers have been so successful under Matt (LaFleur), but really since Aaron (Rodgers) has been there, is because they do a great job of taking care of the football and not turning it over. And they’re doing a nice job being able to take it away, as well.”

The Packers finished plus-2 on the day. Rashan Gary’s sack-strip set up one touchdown and Rasul Douglas’ interception provided another.

Also of note, Green Bay hogged the ball for 39 minuets, 40 seconds - and that's with losing a possessions because of the pick-six. A key to that was limiting the Rams to 4-of-13 on third down.

What it means: The Packers (9-3) pulled within a half-game of the Arizona Cardinals (9-2) for first place in the NFC. While the Packers will get to kick up their heels, Arizona will play at Chicago.

Here are the final stretches. For Green Bay, it’s home vs. Chicago, at Baltimore, home vs. Cleveland and Minnesota, and at Detroit. For Arizona, it’s at Chicago, home vs. the Rams, at Detroit, home vs. Indianapolis, at Dallas and home vs. Seattle. On paper, that would be an advantage for Green Bay.

As for the NFC North, the Packers have as many wins as the Vikings (5-6), Bears (4-7) and Lions (0-10-1) combined.