“He usually doesn’t talk to me,” Suh said about Rodgers, whom he faced regularly in the NFC North as a member of the Detroit Lions. “But I don’t really need a response. My response is when he’s getting up from the ground. That’s what I’m excited for, or giving him a nice L.”
The Los Angeles Rams are undefeated through seven games for the first time since 1985 and, as they hit the halfway mark of the season, are preparing to face a gauntlet of Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks, starting with Rodgers and the 3-2 Green Bay Packers.
Suh, who played five seasons in Detroit, has sacked Rodgers 2.5 times and has defeated him twice in their seven meetings. The Rams, however, are 0-4 against the two-time MVP, though Rodgers has never faced a Sean McVay-coached team.
“The great ones, you try to slow them down,” defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. “Certainly, you don’t shut them out, but we’ve got to play really good pass defense, got to have a rush and all the things it takes.”
Rodgers is coming off a bye week after back-to-back performances in which he passed for 400 yards with no interceptions in a loss to the Detroit Lions and a victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
Rams players said they were plenty familiar with Rodgers before studying him on film this week.
“It’s A-Rod,” said cornerback Marcus Peters, who keenly remembered losing to the All-Pro quarterback as a rookie with the Kansas City Chiefs. “C’mon now. We all know what he’s going to do.”
Said Aaron Donald, whom Rodgers defeated in 2015: “He’s a great quarterback. Just from watching him, from growing up and watching him since I’ve been in the league.”
This season, Rodgers is ranked 10th in passing yards with 1,997. He has thrown 12 touchdowns and only one interception, despite playing through a knee injury.
“He’s an elite quarterback,” said Suh, who has three sacks and two fumble recoveries. “Very smart, cadence-wise as well as situation-wise, tries to keep you always guessing.”
For the Rams’ part, their 13th-ranked total defense appeared to hit its stride last Sunday in a 39-10 victory over the 49ers.
After a fast start through the first two games of the season, which included six consecutive shutout quarters, the defense struggled to keep teams out of the end zone, giving up 31 points to the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks and was unable to put together a complete performance between the pass and the run. Now, the Rams’ pass and run defense both rank 12th in the league, giving up 227 and 100.1 yards per game, respectively.
Part of the issue, players said, was building chemistry.
“We’re learning each other,” safety John Johnson III said. “We’re learning what our strengths and weaknesses are and we’re going from there.”
The Rams added Suh and Peters in the offseason, along with Aqib Talib, who was put on injured reserve after Week 3 and has been replaced by Troy Hill and Sam Shields. At times, players tried to do too much, especially in the run game and broke from assignments in an effort to make plays.
“I think we had to hit a little adversity, teams scoring the ball, moving the ball on us,” said Johnson, who has a team-high three interceptions. “But I think we’re still growing and as long as we keep going up, I think we’ll be in good shape.”
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Against the 49ers, the Rams forced four takeaways that resulted in 24 points and sacked quarterback C.J. Beathard seven times.
“Definitely feel like it’s a positive coming off that performance,” linebacker Mark Barron said. “It wasn’t perfect, but we most definitely played a great game. It was definitely something we can build on.”
Like Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, whom the Rams have defeated in two of their past three meetings, the key will be keeping Rodgers from extending plays.
“He can move around in the pocket, he can do a lot of different things with his feet,” said Donald, who had a career-high four sacks last Sunday but has never taken down Rodgers. “Got to get to him and bottle him up.”
And the Rams’ secondary, which intercepted two passes last Sunday, must keep track of the Packers’ receivers for a prolonged period.
“You just going to have to cover for a little bit longer than three seconds,” said Peters, who has one interception this season. “But I think we got the perfect D-line to add some pressure to him, to try to get him to stay in the pocket and do exactly what we want for him to do.”
Said Phillips: “It’s obviously a big task. The guy’s a great player and unfortunately for us, he got a week to rest.”