After settling his nerves in his first playoff game, Jared Goff looked very solid. There were a handful of tight-windowed throws early in the game that didn’t convert, though as the game went on, his receivers continued to create more separation with Jared Goff finding them. Goff’s pocket presence and ability to maneuver within the pocket was absolutely marvelous, as he escaped multiple rushes and danced his way to open throwing lanes. He also had a handful of throws with pressure bearing down on him that were brilliant.
Even though the Rams continued to stray away from the running game, Todd Gurley was extremely effective on the ground. On only 14 carries, he managed 101 yards, with his longest run being 33 yards. Malcolm Brown also had two carries for 14 yards. In what seems to be a theme this season, the Rams should have run much more than they did, as they couldn’t find much momentum on offense. The grade gets knocked down a peg because of two or three dropped passes by Todd Gurley. Also, the lack of runs can sort of be attributed to a lack of offensive plays as well.
Robert Woods, what a game. As it has been all season, Robert Woods stepped up when needed most, and pulled down a nine reception and 142 yard performance. Converting multiple third downs, and grabbing one of the nicest catches you’ll ever see during the two minute warning down the seam, Woods is the defacto top guy of the group and Goff’s best WR. Cooper Kupp also contributed in a big way with eight receptions and 69 yards, as well as the Rams lone touchdown. Sammy Watkins as usual was a non-factor with one catch for 23 yards, as well as a TD drop and a vertical pass that went through his hands.
Like always, this group did next to nothing in the receiving department. Tyler Higbee had a reception for 11 yards, though he also dropped a touchdown in the fourth quarter on good coverage by SS Keanu Neal. Gerald Everett caught a dump-off for 4 yards. As irrelevant as he was in the passing game, Higbee sparked a key run or two with some very solid blocks.
The Rams rushed for a total of 115 yards, and that came on 7.2 YPC, which is incredibly impressive. The Rams running game has been terrific all season, but as always, the Rams continued to stray away from what worked. As pass blockers, Jared Goff was sacked three times, though one was an untouched slip from the beat up turf. The lack of plays and time of possession killed the offense.
This group essentially kept the Rams in the game throughout the entire game. At this point, there are actually no words left to describe how good Aaron Donald is. He impacted nearly every single play of the first half, and was absolutely unblockable. Donald only finished with four tackles and 0.5 sacks, but his impact was well felt all game. He’s the best player in the NFL regardless of position. The loss of Michael Brockers killed the Rams, as they struggled to stop the run afterwards. Brockers, as well as his backup Morgan Fox, chipped in with 0.5 sacks.
This was more of a tale of two parts here. First, the outside linebackers had a solid performance. Robert Quinn was extremely active and violent and registered a sack of his own, but had multiple “clean up” tackles right past the LOS after initial penetration from Aaron Donald. Connor Barwin also had 0.5 sacks. That was the good, but here comes the bad. Alec Ogletree and Mark Barron have pretty much been the achilles heel of the Rams defense all season, and it was almost all bad yesterday. On a 3rd and extremely long, Ogletree missed a gimme tackle that turned out to be one of the Rams biggest mistakes of the day. Then, in the fourth quarter, Barron had an awful effort on a Sanu screen that ended up gaining 52 yards afterwards. Not good.
This group as a whole was pretty impressive as well. Since stepping in for an injured Kayvon Webster, Troy Hill has been outstanding. He had a terrific game on Saturday night, and rarely allowed anything to come his way. Trumaine Johnson for the most part managed to limit stud WR Julio Jones too. Lamarcus Joyner lead the team with 10 tackles, and Blake Countess had a terrific tackle in the redzone on a screen.
Johnny Hekker had a terrific day, and Sam Ficken looked much more comfortable kicking, but this grade comes down with the nightmare game from Pharoh Cooper. I wouldn't solely blame him for the loss, but two fumbles within your own 30-yard line as well as multiple bad returns (specifically on kickoffs) doesn’t help.
Wade Phillips deserves a great grade, because he had his defense playing strong and fast the entire game. Outside of a drive that the Falcons had major success running the ball, they were pretty great. The motto of the year was strong on Saturday: “bend but don’t break”. McVay’s lack of running may have hurt, but I thought the passing game was called well, just didn’t execute on certain occasions. You need to score more than 13 points in a playoff game, though.