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The Good, the Bad and the Difference

What was the difference for the Rams this week? Let’s “backup” and think about that for a moment

Arizona Cardinals v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

When a team makes the playoffs, people tend to forget or forgive the who, what, why and how that team got there. The same principle applies to when a team wins the Super Bowl; people tend to move on from the question of “Why” or “How” Eli Manning has two championship rings. Instead, they accept it and are happy to root against the Patriots.

The LA Rams are in the postseason again. That’s what matters right now.

Though some would like answers from Sean McVay and Jared Goff that explain why the season didn’t go better for the Rams, coaches like Mike McCarthy, Doug Pederson, Mike Zimmer, Jon Gruden, Bill O’Brien, Matt Patricia, Dan Quinn and Adam Gase are among those who must feel a lot worse about their campaigns. The Dolphins posted the same 10-6 record as the Rams and won’t be in the playoffs at all.

Goff may have wanted to prove himself as the long-term solution at quarterback for LA, but there’s no point in focusing in what he didn’t become. Goff has still won two games in Seattle over his relatively brief career (and was a 44-yard field goal away from a third) and the Rams are headed back to the face the Seahawks for the wild card round.

But will Goff be the quarterback who leads them in Seattle, even if he wasn’t the Rams quarterback who helped led them to Seattle in Week 17?

Backup John Wolford made his debut and though he wasn’t spectacular, he was some-tacular. Wolford struck the fear of Kendall Hinton into Rams fans with his first career throw (Hinton was the practice squad WR to start at QB for the Broncos this season, but also Wolford’s backup at Wake Forest) but eventually he did begin to resemble a quality NFL backup player who was making first downs happen.

In Seattle, the offense will need to make touchdowns happen.

Here is the good, bad and the difference from Sunday’s 18-7 win over the Arizona Cardinals, including Wolford, McVay and the penalties.

The Good

Morgan Fox sacks Kyler Murray

It was good to see Fox get the sack early, but bad to see that it forced Murray out of the game. We didn’t get to see Arizona’s strength against LA’s strength. Instead we saw LA’s strength against Chris Streveler for most of the game.

Fox finished the season with six sacks and he will now become a free agent in a pretty good position to convince teams he’s worthy of a long-term (two to three realistically guaranteed years) contract.

John Wolford 27-yard pass to Robert Woods

This is the moment that Wolford looked like a quarterback who might be able to make some of the necessary throws. Woods finished with four catches for 36 yards on seven targets.

John Wolford first down run

Wolford had 56 rushing yards on six carries and he allowed McVay to show what types of runs he’d dial up if he had a mobile QB.

Cardinals G Justin Pugh holding in the end zone results in a safety

It’s interesting to me that there are rare moments in football when offensive linemen can directly put two points on the scoreboard.

Leonard Floyd strip-sacks Chris Streveler

If you stopped me in the street (from a safe distance) and asked me to name 20 current Rams off the top of my head, I don’t think I would immediately remember that Leonard Floyd is on the team. That seems rare for a player who had 10.5 sacks. Maybe it’s a good thing — that LA has a talented roster. Maybe it’s because half of Floyd’s sacks came against the Seahawks, which could also be a good thing. But Floyd’s one-year stop with the Rams, if that’s what it turns out to be, seemed to show up in spurts.

Troy Hill 84-yard interception return for a touchdown

This is the only touchdown that the Rams have scored in the last two games. I think it says all you need to know about what LA’s greatest strength is as they head into the playoffs. Hill also had a pick-six against the Cardinals in their first meeting of the season and he finished with three defensive touchdowns in 2020.

Hill entered 2020 with zero career touchdowns over five seasons. He will be a free agent after the season and the Rams have some difficult decisions to make.

Samson Ebukam sacks Chris Streveler

Ebukam finished with two sacks on the day and 4.5 on the season. He also had 4.5 sacks last season. Ebukam only played in 13 defensive snaps on Sunday.

DeAndre Hopkins meltdown

Hopkins turned what would have been first-and-20 into first-and-35, making it extraordinarily unlikely that the Cardinals could have made up the difference at a time when they were down eight points.

John Wolford completes fourth-and-2 pass to Tyler Higbee

I think McVay trusts Goff to make this play also, but it’s interesting that he already put that faith into Wolford and that he also came through.

Blocked field goal by A’Shawn Robinson

Robinson kept it a two-possession game by blocking this attempt in the fourth quarter. Here he is blocking a kick while he was at Alabama — and not at all looking like how you’d expect A’Shawn Robinson to look while doing it.

The Bad

John Wolford’s first career pass is intercepted

Bad formation, bad read, bad pass, bad everything. If not for this throw, the Cardinals might not have scored any points on Sunday.

Cardinals backup Chris Streveler throws touchdown to Jonathan Ward

But they did.

Consecutive false starts push Rams back away from goal line

At the end of the first quarter, the Rams had first-and-Goal from the Arizona 1 after a defensive pass interference penalty on the Cardinals. Following a zero-yard run by Wolford, Van Jefferson and Austin Corbett drew consecutive false start penalties to push LA back to second-and-Goal from the 11.

The Rams had to settle for three points.

Cam Akers fumbles at the 1

Akers had his worst day as a pro who was also a number one back, finishing with 34 yards on 21 carries and this fumble. These days happen to every running back though and LA will sorely need Akers against the Seahawks.

Austin Corbett false start, Wolford sack pushes Rams out of red zone

LA had first-and-10 at the Cardinals 13, but a false start by Corbett, then Wolford being sacked by Markus Golden, immediately put the Rams at second-and-23 at the 26. For the third time, the Rams were in a position to get a touchdown and came away with zero or three points.

The Difference

The LA Rams came into Week 17’s game against the Arizona Cardinals as a dirty reflection of the offense that Sean McVay had planned to bring to the postseason party at the beginning of the season. No Jared Goff, no Cooper Kupp, no Andrew Whitworth, no Darrell Henderson. Despite this, the Rams were a few red zone mishaps, mistakes and missed opportunities away from four touchdown drives with a quarterback who had zero career snaps and zero preseason games this year to get somewhat comfortable.

Sometimes mistakes are correctable and sometimes they’re unavoidable bad luck. On the other hand, these were the same concessions being made for Goff at times and ultimately the Rams can only worry about what their odds are of outscoring the next opponent on the schedule. Whether it is Goff or Wolford, McVay knows that he hasn’t been getting enough out of his quarterback position this season and that Los Angeles is mostly alive right now because of their defense.

Despite not registering a sack, Aaron Donald was a terror again. Jalen Ramsey flabbergasted another elite receiver, albeit one without his starting quarterback for most of the game. Troy Hill made another Troy Hill play. Another opponent was held to under 20 points and the Rams finish 2020 with the top-ranked scoring defense in the NFL.


What was the main DIFFERENCE in the Rams’ 18-7 win over the Cardinals on Sunday?

This poll is closed

  • 24%
    John Wolford
    (148 votes)
  • 8%
    Jalen Ramsey on DeAndre Hopkins
    (49 votes)
  • 38%
    Aaron Donald’s defensive line with 4 sacks, blocked FG
    (233 votes)
  • 26%
    Kyler Murray’s injury
    (163 votes)
  • 1%
    Matt Gay
    (11 votes)
  • 0%
    Rams LBs
    (5 votes)
609 votes total Vote Now