Dealing with torn rib cartilage, Donald played 39 of 72 snaps, 54.2 percent, well below his normal amount. After playing 27 snaps in the first half, the perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate played just 12 in the second half as the Packers pulled away.
Donald stood on the sideline to open the third quarter despite McVay telling FOX that the club wasn't monitoring the defensive tackle's snaps.
After the loss, McVay was asked about Donald being limited in the game.
"Really, Aaron is able to sub himself," the coach said. "And so, we'll have to really see, but he was going to do everything in his power to be out there with his teammates. This guy's the epitome of a warrior. I love him. The plan going in was seeing how he feels. He's kind of always got the ability to be able to tell us how he's feeling. So as far as the exact snap counts, there's a lot of things going on during the course of the game that we have to be in tune with."
It is evident to anyone watching that Donald wasn't close to 100 percent. Normally a game-dominator who sets up camp in the backfield, the All-Pro was stuffed repeatedly by Packers guard Elgton Jenkins. Donald compiled just a single tackle and a solo QB pressure. A player who usually crunches the signal-caller didn't record even a single quarterback hit.
Frustrated by his inability to win 1-on-1s, where he usually dominates, Donald got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the second quarter.
Despite McVay and Donald both insisting all week that the DT would be fine, it was clear that the injury had diminished the best defensive player in the game. Without Donald dominating, the Rams defense gave up 484 yards, nearly 100 more than they gave up in any game all season.
After the game, Donald was emotional on the sideline. McVay admitted dealing with the injury all week played a role.
"It has an effect," McVay said. "Aaron cares so much about this team. He's such a great competitor. What he also understands is how difficult it is to even put yourself in a position to be one of the final eight teams. That's the thing, you talk to the team about, is that, don't take this for granted, let this fuel you, let this drive you, but understand you still have to start over, you just don't show up in the playoffs and get a chance to win or show up in the Divisional Round.
"It's very difficult. I think Aaron knows that. We've been able to go to the playoffs three of the last four years. You don't minimize and that perspective is something you cherish.
"I love Aaron Donald, it means a lot to him. It's unfortunate that he wasn't at full-strength today. But I just think the accountability, the ownership that he has, the expectations and the standards. He wants to be able to really make a big difference week in and week out and I think in some instances, he felt like with the way that he feels like he can contribute, that's where I think he was upset. But, I love him and, you know, very thankful to work with players like him."