GREEN BAY, Wis. —
He worked magic with less than two days of preparation.
What might Rams quarterback Baker Mayfield do with 10?
Mayfield and Rams coach Sean McVay will answer that question Monday night when the Rams play the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.
The defending Super Bowl champion Rams (4-9) and the Packers (5-8) are on the brink of official elimination from the playoffs, but the suddenly resurgent Mayfield squaring off against Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers adds excitement to the matchup.
Mayfield, claimed off waivers by the Rams. on Dec. 6, came off the bench against the Las Vegas Raiders and engineered two-fourth quarter scoring drives — including a 98-yard game-winner with no timeouts left — to lead the Rams to a 17-16 victory.
Now Mayfield returns to Lambeau Field, where the Packers intercepted four passes in a 24-22 victory over Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns last Dec. 25.
Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander did not play in that game because of an injury but Mayfield’s performance apparently left a lasting impression on the 2020 Pro Bowl selection as the Packers prepared for the Rams.
“I think with the right game plan and preparation,” Alexander told Green Bay reporters, “we should get like seven interceptions.”
Mayfield did not commit a turnover against the Raiders — an interception was nullified because of a pass-interference penalty — so McVay is expected to give him more of the playbook against a Packers defense coordinated by former Rams assistant Joe Barry.
This is the third time in three seasons the Rams will play at Lambeau Field.
In 2020, the Packers defeated the Rams 32-18 in an NFC divisional-round playoff game. That loss started a chain-reaction of offseason moves by the Rams, beginning with the trade of quarterback Jared Goff, two-first round draft picks and a third-round pick to the Detroit Lions for quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Last season, the Rams lost to the Packers 36-28, the final defeat in a three-game losing streak from which the Rams recovered to win Super Bowl LVI.
Rodgers, 39, has played through thumb and rib injuries this season. He has passed for 22 touchdowns, with nine interceptions.
“He looks like the amazing player that he’s always been,” McVay said, adding, “I know he’s working through that thumb injury, but in a lot of instances you don’t see any difference in the way that that ball jumps out of his hand and his ability to be able to recognize defensive structures.
“If you get out of position, he’s making you pay.”
Rodgers lost his favorite target when receiver Davante Adams was traded to the Raiders after last season. Younger receivers struggled to fill the void, but they have improved their timing with Rodgers.
“You have to believe that everybody’s open because he sees them,” linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “Most quarterbacks you can kind of follow their eyes, they’ll take you to the ball, but he’ll look to his left and then throw a pinpoint pass to the right and most quarterbacks can’t do that.”
Rodgers’ quick release makes him especially difficult to disrupt, lineman Greg Gaines said.
“You try and put your hands up to block passes and he’ll just sit there and flick the ball out there,” Gaines said. “No windup, nothing. It’s just out.”
Controlling Rodgers will not be the only challenge for the Rams. Temperatures during the game are expected to be in the teens.
“I’ve played in a couple games that are pretty cold, maybe snow, a little bit rainy, or windy,” Mayfield said. “But temperature-wise, I think this will be coldest one for me.”
Rams lineman Rob Havenstein played in college at Wisconsin. The eighth-year pro said that along with adopting a positive mindset about the cold, a key for players is making sure they put their helmets in front of a heater before placing it on their heads.
“Otherwise,” he said, “it’s an ice block putting it on.”
The cold also is a motivating factor for production, Wagner said.
“The faster you make the play, the faster you get to the heaters,” he said. “If you’re cold, then make a play so we can get to the heaters.”
McVay has not donned a beanie or hood to keep his head warm in previous visits to Lambeau Field with the Rams, when temperatures were in the 30s. But that could change Monday night.
“It might be one of those deals where I feel like my ears are going to fall off and you throw it on there,” he said, “so we’ll see about that.”
Mayfield also will take a wait-and-see approach.
“Everybody has to deal with it,” he said. “I might have to go with a ski mask or something to keep myself warm, so we’ll see.”