A feeling that Los Angeles Rams fans haven’t felt in over decade has to be the idea “playoff football” in a regular season game. Sure, the Rams have played meaningful games in the past couple weeks, but there was something different about this matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles. It was a game with several endings and a narrative that seemed to eclipse the actual outcome of the game.
Let’s break down the expected and unexpected aspects of the game:
Expected: the Rams proved that they could hang with the top team in the NFC
When the Rams were down 21 to 7 to the Eagles, I started to feel sick. The Rams’ defense were getting man-handled in the first half and it was embarrassing. However, WR Cooper Kupp changed the momentum in the 2nd quarter with a fantastic after the catch reception that eventually led to a touchdown, RB Todd Gurley was solid with only 13 carries, and WR Michael Thomas blocked a punt that led to a Blake Countess touchdown. It was a scrappy performance that ultimately fell short, but the Rams didn’t lay down. This is the type of gritty determination that I expect from this team.
Unexpected: season ending injuries eclipsed the outcome of the game
When people talk about this game, it won’t remembered as the game where the Rams gave up a lead in the 4th quarter, it will be the game where Carson Wentz tore his ACL and was out for the rest of the season, possibly squandering the hopes of the Eagles winning the Super Bowl. Eagles fans came out of this game feeling worse than Rams fans, because while losing CB Kayvon Webster to an achilles injury is a big loss, it’s not as tragic as being without the services of a possible MVP in Carson Wentz.
Expected: Philly fans outnumbered Rams fans at the LA Coliseum
I can understand the frustration of Rams fans that don’t live in Los Angeles -- you’re watching the Rams play a home game that feels like an away game. That sucks. It’s not fair. However, it’s reality. Los Angeles is a transplant city that hasn’t had the Rams play in their city since 1980 (Anaheim is not LA). I know at least 10 people that are die-hard Eagles fans that live in LA — they have felt the pain of being an Eagles fan their entire lives; they’re maniacs for the Eagles. Yes, there are a bunch of old school Rams fans that remember the Rams when they played in LA, but they aren’t 70k strong. Yet, the Rams fans were rocking the place on Sunday, so let’s give some credit to Rams fans. Every time I’ve been to a Rams game this season, Rams fans have been loud and fun.
Unexpected: Coach McVay leaned on Jared Goff more than Todd Gurley
The Eagles’ defense was all over the place, and could have made Jared Goff’s stat line look pretty terrible, but LB Nigel Bradham did us a favor by dropping two possible INTs that could have changed the trajectory of the game. Simply put, Goff didn’t have a strong game. And strangely, McVay still only called 13 running plays for Todd Gurley. And he was playing great! To be fair, the Rams only had the ball for 20 minutes, so they weren’t calling too many plays, but with the way Gurley was slashing the Eagles defensive line, it was surprising his number wasn’t called more.
Expected: the Rams were exposed on defense, staying on the field too long
The Eagles were able to run the ball, but not in a dominating fashion that broke the game wide open. Instead, they were able to stay on the field with their ability to pass the ball at will. LB Alec Ogletree struggled mightily, and the Eagles were throwing the ball in his direction with great success. The biggest issue for the Rams was time of possession -- allowing the Eagles to have the ball for nearly 40 minutes is unacceptable. The next time these two teams play (hopefully in the playoffs), I believe that the Rams will correct this problem.
Unexpected: Nickell-Robey Coleman was solid in the backup role
Your new starting cornerback for the Los Angeles Rams for the rest of the season? Most likely it will be: Nickell-Robey Coleman. And while I was skeptical of his play at times earlier in the season, he proved me wrong on Sunday. He was targeted 10 times, allowing 7 catches for 81 yards. According to Pro Football Focus, Robey-Coleman’s performance clocked in with a 85.2 overall grade, seventh among Week 14 cornerbacks.
For me, the biggest surprise was how brutal the game was, especially with the season ending injuries. The Eagles came out of the game much weaker than they when they started, while the Rams showed that they have a lot of messy habits on defense that they need to clean up. Fortunately for the Rams, this game provided something that has long eluded the team: a playoff atmosphere they can build on.