clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Aaron Donald nearly willed the Rams to a 25-point comeback win all by himself

Donald’s sack of Josh Allen could be one of the most valuable of the season

Los Angeles Rams v Buffalo Bills Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

Personally I don’t want to spend much time trying to understand comebacks or giving credit to intangibles like “resiliency.” As far as I’m concerned there are times when teams go down by 25 points because they’re unambiguously bad and often they lose by a score not too distant from that, but then other times good teams go down by 25 because the order of points scored that day just happened to create a comeback.

I don’t think it really differs that much from a bad beat poker hand: by randomness and inevitabilities of all outcomes, eventually you’ll see a straight flush beat a full house.

The LA Rams scored 32 points and the Buffalo Bills scored 35 points and that’s what happened. When the Bills went up 28-3 in the third quarter they had a 99-percent win probability and that’s another fancy number that makes people feel warm inside to know about during a game, but the Rams scored 29 unanswered points and nearly made that cozy feeling queasy for Buffalo.

There are many Rams who share responsibility for taking a 32-28 lead in the fourth quarter, but as is often the case nobody on the roster made as big of an impact as Aaron Donald. This is not disrespectful to the play of Jared Goff, Darrell Henderson, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Andrew Whitworth and a catch by Gerald Everett that just now hit me in the memory bank. Nor is it a sign that Donald is the only player worth talking positively about on the defense, even if LA did have lapses that they’ll hope to clean up in the future.

It is only a testament to witnessing the greatest defensive player of his generation.

Down 28-25 in the fourth quarter with 8:47 remaining, the Rams were on defense and facing Josh Allen, who had spent most of the day proving why people love talking about Josh Allen right now. We may look back on this game in a few months or few years and really appreciate the rare opportunity to have seen Donald face off against Allen based on the season the Bills quarterback is having so far.

But Donald nearly stripped the spotlight and the win right out of Allen’s hands during what was otherwise one of his best career days.

Allen dropped deep only because Donald had immediately sidestepped left tackle Daryl Williams and then he shuttled the Allen backwards like a hurricane that turned into a tornado until he let go of the barn.

The charge-sack-strip-fumble-recovery came on 1st and 10 and with Buffalo at the Rams 30. They seemed destined to score and while getting the Bills out of field goal range on its own would have been great, Donald took probable points away from the Bills and then gained possession at the Buffalo 37 after a 15-yard penalty was tacked on.

According to NextGen Stats, the brought the Rams probability at the time from 25% to 59% and had a +39% win probability added. On his own, Donald made it unlikely LA win to being in good position to win and he did it on a single play. I mean, Aaron Donald is as good as he is because he’s always the biggest threat on the field but in this case, he made good on his threat.

This is supported by Estimated Points Added also as the play had a -3.120 EPA for the Bills according to Pro-Football-Reference. It was by far the most devastating defensive play of the game, if not the season.