The Green Bay Packers used their nickel personnel group almost exclusively when the Los Angeles Rams had the football on Sunday afternoon. The Rams are notorious for using 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end, and three wide receivers) on nearly every snap, and that was the case once again on Sunday as the trio of Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson, and Odell Beckham, Jr. took a combined two snaps off in the contest.
That meant that the Packers stuck to five or more defensive backs for the entire game, with five secondary players on the field for every snap. Joe Barry was in nickel for most of the game, either in their three-tackle/one-linebacker look or a more conventional 4-2 with a pair of tackles and linebackers De’Vondre Campbell and Krys Barnes on the field. The only notable exceptions were on 19 of the 62 defensive snaps, when Henry Black came on for Barnes as the team went to dime instead.
And despite a few explosive passing plays from the Rams, the plan largely worked! Green Bay forced two turnovers on defense and limited the Los Angeles game plan, effectively shutting down the run game and not allowing much in the way of sustained drives. Here’s how the playing time broke down on both sides of the football.
OFFENSE (82 total plays)
Aaron Rodgers 82
It was not a particularly efficient day for Rodgers on Sunday, but he was able to be effective enough, going 28-for-45 for 307 yards and two touchdowns. Rodgers also added the opening score of the game on the ground, when he pump-faked Jalen Ramsey before sprinting to the right front pylon of the end zone. That performance was good for a passer rating of 97.2, though his advanced metrics were a bit better, at +0.18 EPA per play.
AJ Dillon 42, Aaron Jones 40
Jones returned and started after missing one game with a sprained MCL, but Dillon was the workhorse back in this game, particularly in the fourth quarter as Matt LaFleur decided to pound the Rams’ defense. Dillon picked up 69 yards on 20 carried and added another 21 yards and a score on four catches. Jones, meanwhile, had no receptions and just 23 yards on 10 carries in his return.
Davante Adams 80, Marquez Valdes-Scantling 57, Allen Lazard 53, Equanimeous St. Brown 26, Randall Cobb 19, Amari Rodgers 2
The first half of this contest was a Randall Cobb game, as he had four catches for 95 yards and a score before being ruled out at halftime with a groin injury. In his stead, Adams crossed the 100-yard threshold for the fifth time this season with an eight-catch performance.
Josiah Deguara 35, Marcedes Lewis 33, Dominique Dafney 20, Tyler Davis 3
Dafney and Lewis actually got the formal start in this game, as the Packers opened up in 12 personnel. Deguara would lead the way, however, working his way more and more into the Robert Tonyan role. He would have two catches, but one of them was a huge 4th-down conversion early in the third quarter that would eventually lead to a touchdown.
Yosh Nijman 82, Jon Runyan, Jr., 82, Lucas Patrick 82, Royce Newman 82, Billy Turner 82
The Packers’ pass protection was likely helped out in part by their offensive game plan on Sunday, as the team kept Aaron Rodgers in shotgun throughout the game and did not move him around in the pocket:
The Packers designed a game plan to protect Aaron Rodgers today...— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) November 29, 2021
96% of dropbacks inside tackle box (2nd-highest since 2016)
4.4 scramble yards/dropback (2nd-lowest)
79% shotgun rate (2nd-highest under LaFleur)#LARvsGB | #GoPackGo pic.twitter.com/BbXUBquCEV
All told, Rodgers was hit five times and sacked just once, with that sack coming on a scramble up the middle that went for no gain.
DEFENSE (62 total plays)
Kenny Clark 52, Kingsley Keke 32, Dean Lowry 29, Tyler Lancaster 6, T.J. Slaton 5
What more can you say about Kenny Clark? He and Rashan Gary were responsible for most of the pass rushing production in this game, and he picked up his fourth sack of the season in the contest along with another bonus QB hit. He also tied his season-high in tackles with six and played over 80 percent of the defensive snaps for the 10th time in 12 games this season.
Next to him, the Packers primarily rotated Keke and Lowry when in 4-2 nickel looks. None of the other linemen had a standout day, though Keke had a couple of pressures as a pass-rusher.
Preston Smith 46, Rashan Gary 33, Tipa Galeai 28, La’Darius Hamilton 17
As mentioned above, Gary’s return was a welcome one, as he landed a pair of hits on Matthew Stafford, including a strip-sack that Preston Smith recovered (then Preston fumbled on the return, and recovered his own fumble). Smith was hardly silent, however, despite recording no sacks or hits in the game.
De’Vondre Campbell 62, Krys Barnes 38, Oren Burks 5
It was Barnes, not Campbell, leading the way in tackles in this game with nine. Both were active in pass coverage throughout the game, with Barnes seemingly matched up with Cooper Kupp on several occasions. He had a pass breakup on one of those routes, though he was beaten a few times on those matchups.
Adrian Amos 62, Darnell Savage 62, Henry Black 19
Amos had a bit of a rough game in coverage on Sunday, biting on underneath routes on both of the Rams’ explosive touchdown plays. He and Savage had quiet days from a tackling perspective, however, with just six total tackles between the two of them, while Black had four on his own.
Rasul Douglas 62, Eric Stokes 62, Chandon Sullivan 62
It was all Rasul Douglas in this game, even though he was in coverage on Odell Beckham, Jr.’s long touchdown to start the fourth quarter. He had a total of four pass breakups, including his pick-six and a dropped interception shortly before that touchdown, and generally was everywhere on the right side of the defense. He even played 13 special teams snaps!
Each of the corners had their share of rough plays, with Sullivan losing Van Jefferson for a 79-yard score early and Stokes misplaying the football on a couple of occasions. But in total, the unit did enough to keep the Rams’ offense from getting into a great rhythm.
One other note goes to Shemar Jean-Charles, who did not see action on defense but who forced a key fumble on special teams that Barnes would recover deep in Rams territory.
SPECIAL TEAMS SNAP LEADERS
Davis 29, Burks 28, Ty Summers 28, Isaac Yiadom 27, Black 23, Dafney 23, Shemar Jean-Charles 22, St. Brown 22, Isaiah McDuffie 18