Matthew Stafford adds new storyline to Rams-Packers playoff rematch

Where do we start with storylines for Sunday’s game between the Rams and Packers?

Green Bay (8-3) is coming off a loss to Minnesota and hasn’t lost consecutive games since 2018. The Rams (7-3) are coming off two consecutive losses and their bye week. It is a Lambeau Field rematch of last season’s NFC Divisional playoff game, won by Green Bay 32-18.

But the big story, of course, is the pinky toe on the left foot of Packers lightning-rod quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who conducted a bizarre Zoom call interview with reporters this past week that featured him raising his foot up to the camera to prove that he doesn’t have “COVID toe’’ — a condition one publication reported he might have after landing on the reserve/COVID-19 list and quarantining for 10 days.

Rodgers’ show-and-tell session, which cannot be unseen once witnessed, was meant to show reporters he has a broken toe, not “COVID toe.’’

So, now that “Toegate’’ has been cleared up, Rodgers needs to worry about his offensive line, which will be without Pro Bowlers David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins. With center Josh Myers on injured reserve, that leaves three starting offensive linemen out — to the delight of Rams ferocious pass rushers Aaron Donald, Leonard Floyd and Von Miller.

Another cool storyline is Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford, in his first season in L.A., returning to Lambeau Field for the first time after playing there 10 games with Detroit. Stafford is 3-7 at Green Bay in his career.

Stafford, who has an overall 7-13 record against the Packers, is having a terrific 2021, having thrown 24 touchdowns and just eight interceptions.

He called Lambeau “one of my favorite places to play” in the NFL.

Stafford played at Lambeau for the first time in 2011, passing for 520 yards with five TDs and two INTs in a 45-41 loss, saying, “I remember 2011 like it was yesterday.”

“I love playing in the snow there,’’ Stafford said. “That’s what you dream about as a kid is getting to play the Packers at Lambeau Field in the snow. [I] don’t think it’s going to snow this week, but it will be nice and chilly, which is always fun.”

Stafford — who’s thrown four INTs in the past two games, two of which were returned for TDs — is trying to regain the form he had before the two-game losing streak.

aaron rodgers, green bay packers, los angeles rams, Mark's Big Game, matthew stafford, nfl

Matthew Stafford has a 3-7 career record at Lambeau Field.

USA TODAY Sports

“He’s familiar with the venue, he knows their personnel,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “He also realizes what a special venue it is, how difficult it is to go there and to compete to try to be able to get a win. But I know he’s excited about that.”

Stafford will be a lot more excited if he gets more contribution from Odell Beckham Jr., whom the Rams recently signed as a free agent. Beckham played in the last game, a 31-10 loss to the 49ers, and quietly caught two passes. The Rams are coming off a bye week, so Beckham presumably is more familiar with the system entering this game.

The Rams and Packers have played each other 96 times (including playoffs) with the series tied at 47-47-2. McVay is 16-6 in games after which his team lost. McVay is coaching against Packers coach Matt LaFleur — McVay’s offensive coordinator in 2017, his first year as a head coach.

Rams receiver Cooper Kupp, who leads the NFL with 85 receptions and yards with 1,141 yards, is 165 yards away from breaking the NFL record for most receiving yards through Week 12. Julio Jones had 1,305 yards in 11 games in 2018. Kupp leads the league in receiving TDs with 10, tied with Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans.

Rams running back Darrell Henderson has scored six TDs (four rushing, two receiving) in five road games this season. Since 2017, the Rams are 43-0 when leading at halftime, best in the NFL. The Packers are second best at 28-1. The Rams have allowed the second-fewest passing TDs with 12.

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