In the literal sense, the Los Angeles Rams won on Sunday, beating the Arizona Cardinals 18-7. It gave LA a 10-6 record to finish the season, and booked them a spot in the playoffs, where they’ll face a divisional foe: the Seattle Seahawks.
The team win or loss is always the most important, but the individual wins and losses along the way are always worth noting.
Here are some winners and losers from Week 17.
Winner: John Wolford
By now you all know the story. John Wolford went undrafted in 2018, when 12 quarterbacks were selected. He had only taken professional snaps in the now-defunct Alliance of American Football. Then he was pressed into action on Sunday, making his NFL debut with Jared Goff sidelined with a thumb injury.
Had I told you before the game that he would finish 22-for-38 for 231 yards, with six carries for 56 yards, you would have happily lived with it.
But it was the manner in which he achieved those stats that was so impressive.
Here was Wolford’s first career pass attempt:
And then he was super strong. He made smart decisions, didn’t force issues, and put passes on the money. He used his legs to make big gains, both from broken plays and designed options. He didn’t let the early hiccup get him down.
It was a totally inspiring performance.
Wolford never found the end zone, but it was a solid performance.
Loser: Cam Akers
The Rams rookie running back has spent most of the season impressing, but Sunday was a dud of a game for him.
With a first-timer starting behind center, LA tried to turn to their run game, but Akers gathered just 34 yards on 21 attempts. Worse yet, he had a goal line fumble that spoiled what should have been the Rams only touchdown drive.
Winner: Troy Hill
The Rams offense might not have found the end zone, but their defense did. Troy Hill had the play of the day for LA, picking off rookie quarterback Chris Streveler and returning it 84 yards for a score.
But most important was the timing. Hill’s touchdown came with just 20 seconds left in the half, and Arizona leading 7-5. The Cardinals were all set to add to their lead before halftime, and instead Hill flipped the script and the score.
Losers: Van Jefferson and Austin Corbett
Akers wasn’t the only one who cost the Rams a chance to find the end zone on offense. Jefferson and Corbett both had extremely costly false starts deep in Arizona territory.
Winner: Jalen Ramsey
Ramsey was tasked with the very un-fun task of matching up with DeAndre Hopkins. He was admittedly helped out by Kyler Murray’s injury, but still dominated that matchup. Hopkins was targeted 10 times but finished with just four receptions for 35 yards.
Loser: Offensive line
The Rams finished with highly mediocre rushing stats: 30 carries for 110 yards. But more than half of those yards came on Wolford’s six rushes, some of which came on broken plays. As much as Akers didn’t impress, the Rams offensive line didn’t leave him many holes, and they weren’t great in pass protection either.
We’ve grown accustomed to saying that the Rams defense wins them games. But on Sunday it rather literally won the game.
LA’s defense ceded just 7 points, but scored 9 points, adding a safety to Hill’s pick six.
But even that underscored just how strong the defense was. The only points they gave up came on a 14-yard drive after Wolford’s interception.
The Cardinals had just two drives all game that exceeded 30 yards: A 33-yard drive that ended in the interception return, and a 56-yard drive that resulted in a blocked field goal.
Arizona had 12 drives, and 15 first downs.