Say what you will about the 2018 Los Angeles Rams: they’re certainly not boring. In another heart-stopper, the home team overcame uncharacteristic penalties, sloppy tackling, and some questionable playcalling to all but clinch the NFC West. Exhale, friends, it’s all over but the cryin’, and of course, the report card.
Los Angeles Rams QB Jared Goff was once again super solid on the afternoon, going 28/39/318 with 2 TDs against no INTs. I’m sure he’d like a few throws back, but on the whole he was accurate and decisive as he has been most of the season. You’d like to see him execute a little bit better in the red zone, but I’d probably argue the playcalling had more to due with his efficiency down there today than his play. He continues to take good care of the football and exhibit poise and command. Mom, can we keep him?
RB Todd Gurley had another outstanding day with 120 yards rushing and a TD on just 16 carries for a 7.5 average YPC. Which begs the question: why didn’t he get the ball 30 times? He tacked on 40 yards receiving on 3 catches, which begs the question... you feel me. It was a day when the McVay offense was effective by land, air, and sea, but certainly we’d be in A+ territory had LA put the game on #30s shoulders a bit more.
Another stellar afternoon, as Rams WRs were targeted 25 times and hauled in 19 catches for 228 yards. Robert Woods added 3 carries for 17 yards, and Brandin Cooks scored the game-winning TD on the ground as well. Suppose the minus here is due to the group failing to score a receiving TD, and considering the Rams’ iffy red zone execution on the day, it sure would have been nice. Robert Woods’ 35-yard catch on 3rd down late was a critical drive extender, and Cooks’ 10 grabs were a season high.
Cooper Kupp’s knee injury doesn’t have any bearing on this unit’s grade, but sure could down the line. Hoping for the best.
Hey! You know those guys who are kind of like receivers and kind of like linemen? The Rams have TWO of them. And guess what? They both caught TDs today. Finally, Sean McVay found a way to utilize his TEs in the red zone, and the results were glorious. Or B+ glorious, anyway, as Gerald Everett’s early TD was a peach, and Tyler Higbee’s adjustment on a back shoulder throw from Goff was also a hell of a grab. Nice to see these guys get involved, and provide another headache for opposing DCs to gameplan for.
Based on pass protection and run-blocking alone, the Rams OL would probably be a little closer to an A- here. Goff was sacked just twice (one on a broken play, one credited to T Andrew Whitworth), and Gurley ran for 7.5 yards a pop — no issue with the actual play. The downgrade comes from penalties, as C John Sullivan was credited with two false starts and Whitworth with another. One came on the Rams’ last offensive possession of the game on 3rd and 9, effectively killing the drive.
Yes, Aaron Donald is the most unblockable force in the NFL. His 2.5 sacks helped him establish a career high (with 6 games to go), and he was credited with 5 QB hits on the day. Even more important, the timeliness of Donald’s big plays — the late-game stuff he shared with Ndamukong Suh held Seattle to a field goal, which made a huge difference in terms of the final defensive stand. Still, Seattle ran the ball for 273 yards, and while 92 of those were by Seattle QB Russell Wilson, this defensive line was soundly manhandled in both games against the Seahawks this year. Tack on a personal foul on Suh for roughing the passer and this unit continues to underwhelm.
This grade is probably a D if EDGE Dante Fowler doesn’t get the strip sack and recovery that gave the Rams a two score advantage late in the 4th quarter. The D grade would have also been due in large part to Fowler, who had two personal fouls on the day on a facemask and for getting lippy with the HZIC (that’s head zebra in charge, and no, no one else calls the referee this — I mine these gold nuggets for you guys). Rollercoaster second game for Fowler, but the splash play was huge. Ditto for Cory Littleton, who also had a personal foul at Russell Wilson’s ankles, and looked to be out of position semi-regularly. Samson Ebukam couldn’t set the edge if his life depended on it, and Matt Longacre should be on probation at Chili’s for wearing an inappropriate amount of flair. Mark Barron looks slow and isn’t offsetting his cement shoes with the type of physicality you’d expect from him. Also: would have been nice to see someone play contain against Russell Wilson on Seattle’s final drive. He may as well have have been walking a chihuahua while licking an ice cream cone out there.
Solid B here, if a slightly incomplete grade. Seattle’s gameplan was to pound the rock all day long, and pound it they did. Despite one hold against WR Doug Baldwin, beleaguered CB Marcus Peters was generally sound. As many fans have been begging him to do, Peters appeared to focus on coverage and limited the unsubstantiated risks he’s been taking of late and the result was a much better performance. Troy Hill gave up a long TD to WR Tyler Lockett, but he was in decent position — and let’s face it, any time a Rams CB isn’t straight torched, we’re like “that wasn’t TOO bad!” — and had one very nice wrap-up tackle. Safeties John Johnson III and Lamarcus Joyner each had 4 solo tackles, primarily in run support. Nothing flashy, nothing horrendous from the LA DBs on the day.
Coverage units were solid. Return units were fine (but would be better if KR Blake Countess would learn to take a knee more often). WR Josh Reynolds recovered a surprise onside kick. K Greg Zuerlein was perfect on the day, with a long of 37, and Mr. Johnny Hekker was solid as usual. Bones’ crew was steady on the day.
Unless it’s a pattern (hello: Jeff Fisher), you can’t really blame a head coach for penalties or personal foul calls. I’m sure HC Sean McVay did everything in his power to settle his team down and attempt to regain their composure, but damage was done via a handful of drive-extending penalties. The Seattle rivalry tends to bring out the worst in the Rams, and this game was chippy from the jump.
Offensively, the Rams once again had no trouble moving the ball. Could the Rams have played a little more ball control with Gurley averaging 7.5 yards a carry? Yes. Could we have not run Robert Woods on a jet sweep on a potential game-winning, clock-killing drive? Damn straight. Could we have stretched the field with a deep toss or two? Absolutely. On the whole, the offense was great, but some key lapses in the red zone and a few conservative calls when the Rams could have closed Seattle out were head-scratchers.
Defensively, DC Wade Phillips appeared to make some solid adjustments prior to and at half, but this team continues to come out flat, and that has to change. We continually find ourselves in the position of having to wrest momentum back from our opponents, and you can’t play that game all season and expect to make a deep playoff run. At some point, we need to take the lead and keep it, box to wire, against quality opponents, with some consistency.
But hey, we’re 9-1! Bring on the tacos and tequila!