To say that that things didn’t work out in the Los Angeles Rams’ favor is an understatement. And if we’re being honest, I’m still playing slow Bruce Springsteen songs when I think about it. But what happened can’t be ignored: the Rams took it on the chin to the Minnesota Vikings and will hopefully be a better team for it.
Let’s look at the expected and unexpected aspects to the Rams-Vikings game:
Expected: Minnesota’s home field advantage is one hell of an advantage
The two-year-old Vikings U.S. Bank Stadium is beautiful, state-of-the-art, and incredibly loud. It almost seems as significant as Arrowhead Stadium or even the industrial warehouse that the Seahawks play in. QB Jared Goff was struggling all game to communicate to his coaches and his offense, causing a delay of game penalty and several unnecessary time-outs in the first half. I feel that this experience of playing in a hostile environment is a baptism by fire moment that the team could grow from. It wasn’t fun to watch, but you know Coach McVay and his staff are going to use this game as a prime example of what it will be like once they make it to the playoffs.
Unexpected: You can now blame all your problems in life on Cooper Kupp
Did Cooper Kupp commit a disastrous turnover at the worst possible moment of the game as well as dropping a pass that hit his hands? Yes and yes. Does he deserve all of the online scorn he’s been getting online? Nope. Cooper Kupp is not a top ten pick that the Rams invested heavily in, so maybe we should stop acting like it. He’s not Julio Jones, or even Sammy Watkins. He’s a 24-year-old 3rd round pick that is going to make mistakes. This team is going to have growing pains. We knew that in the preseason and promply forgot when they won four straight games. Blaming the loss on Kupp is unfair and not worth your time. The kid is going to bounce back and contribute to the team just like he has all year.
Expected: Todd Gurley was shut down by the Vikings defensive line
This seemed like a forgone conclusion, given the reputation of the Vikings defense. Coach McVay’s play calling early on in the game seemed to drive home that idea. It’s as if McBae knew that if the Rams were going to win this game, Jared Goff was going to have to throw the ball. To his credit, Gurley had a handful of decent 5-yard gains and the only Rams touchdown of the game.
Unexpected: The Rams finally fell victim to the injury bug
The healthiest team in the NFL might be able to keep their crown, given that they were so far ahead of every other team, but the Rams did feel the pinch when CB Kayvon Webster went out of the game with a concussion. Rookie Dominque Hatfeld was outmatched, allowing a 65-yard touchdown catch-and-run by Adam Thielen in the fourth quarter. CB Nickell Robey-Coleman had a thigh injury and had to leave the game as well. And not helping matters, WR Robert Woods also left the game with a shoulder injury. It was bound of happen, Ramily. And these injuries aren’t season-ending ones (although it looks like Robert Woods will miss a couple of games), so continue to cross your fingers that the Rams can still remain relatively healthy.
So, the big issues for the Los Angeles Rams remain: Jared Goff gets rattled with he’s pressured, the Rams edge rushers need a serious upgrade, and in a broad sense… they’re still green. My big takeaway from this game was still a positive one. They’re didn’t get blown out. They showed up and got outplayed on that particular Sunday.
Can the Los Angeles Rams beat the Minnesota Vikings if they face each other in the playoffs? Well, if McVay makes some clever adjustments and key players step up at the right time, sure. That’s the great thing about the future of this team. Whatever major accomplishments come their way, it won’t be unexpected any longer.