The Los Angeles Rams were faced with significant adversity over the 72 hours leading up to the team’s biggest game of the year - ruling out key contributors such as Darrell Henderson, Robert Rochell, Rob Havenstein, Dont’e Deayon, Jalen Ramsey, and Tyler Higbee - but LA rose to the occasion to defeat the Arizona Cardinals 30-23. This was a must-win game for the Rams to stay alive in the NFC West divisional race, and LA narrowed the gap between them and Arizona.
While there were a number of starters unavailable for this game, other individuals stepped up under the Monday night primetime lights.
Aaron Donald, DT
The game for the Rams defense started in the same fashion it ended - with a sack by star defensive tackle Aaron Donald. With LA down to only three healthy corners, the pass rush had to be effective in order to give the defense a chance against Kyler Murray. Donald finished with 3 sacks and deflected a pass that turned into rookie Ernest Jones’s first career interception.
Iknow some people playing well this year but there is STILL NO PLAYER BETTER THAN @AaronDonald97 ❕— Jalen Ramsey (@jalenramsey) December 14, 2021
Matthew Stafford, QB
The Rams traded for Matthew Stafford this offseason for one reason only - to win a Super Bowl. The last month or so has been particularly rough for Stafford, but the bottom line is that this was a game he and the Rams had to win.
Sure, he was missing his starting tight-end and primary running back.
Okay, his defense was without one of the best defensive backs in the NFL and counting on the likes of David Long, Jr. and Kareem Orr to slow down one of the league’s top passing attacks.
Yes, there were plenty of excuses for Stafford if Monday night did not go his way - but to hell with excuses.
Awesome job by Odell Beckham to win on an in-breaker vs. 2 Man trail technique and a hell a throw from Matthew Stafford. Hell of a 3rd down conversion. pic.twitter.com/sHdzXJwywW— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) December 14, 2021
LA’s signal caller turned in his best performance as a Ram, and this seems to be a trademark victory for a quarterback with a relatively short resume in that department.
Stafford finished 23/30 for 287 yards and 3 touchdowns, but perhaps the most important feat is that Los Angeles seemed to score on almost every possession. There’s no other way to put it - Stafford turned in an impressive performance against the Cardinals’ stout passing defense.
MATTHEW STAFFORD MISSLE TO VAN JEFFERSON— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) December 14, 2021
60 air yards pic.twitter.com/Di7jU6cT8r
Coaching - Sean McVay & Raheem Morris
The Rams were missing a number of key starters for this important divisional matchup, and the most concerning aspect of these absences was their late notice. Players such as Ramsey and Havenstein took the majority of the practice reps during the week, which means there was likely very little opportunity to prepare replacements for an increased role ahead of the game.
Pressure from @AaronDonald97 forces a goal line INT for @ernestjones50! #RamsHouse— NFL (@NFL) December 14, 2021
: #LARvsAZ on ESPN
: https://t.co/Z9HeRUNm0d pic.twitter.com/URXgMXeram
The coaching staff, especially Sean McVay and Raheem Morris, deserves credit for adjusting the game plan on such short notice. It could have easily been a disaster - instead the Rams have re-inserted themselves in the divisional race and potentially the battle for the number one seed in the NFC conference.
Greg Gaines, DT
Dating back to the Week 12 game against the Green Bay Packers, defensive tackle Greg Gaines has been on a tear. The big man looks very nimble and has made impressive athletic plays to chase down quarterbacks such as Aaron Rodgers, Trevor Lawrence, and Murray.
Is Greg Gaines the fastest player in the NFL? Some are saying... pic.twitter.com/sNai74EJVy— Sosa Kremenjas (@QBsMVP) December 8, 2021
Odell Beckham, Jr.
Odell Beckham, Jr. continues to grow more comfortable in the LA offense, and he had is best performance yet on Monday night. The star receiver caught 6 receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown, which marks his third straight game with a score.
While it is impossible to fully replace the contributions of Robert Woods, OBJ has added a unique dimension to the Rams offense - serving as a deep threat, an efficient goal line option, and an effective runner after the catch.
Stafford hits @obj and the @RamsNFL take a 7-3 lead! #RamsHouse— NFL (@NFL) December 14, 2021
: #LARvsAZ on ESPN
: https://t.co/Z9HeRUNm0d pic.twitter.com/Utq89H5gDN
In order for the Rams to win this game they needed all hands on deck - and that is essentially the kind of performance they put on display in Arizona.
Leonard Floyd drops back in coverage and intercepts the pass! #RamsHouse— NFL (@NFL) December 14, 2021
: #LARvsAZ on ESPN
: https://t.co/Z9HeRUNm0d pic.twitter.com/TIiL4AFI4y
Individuals like Kareem Orr and Brycen Hopkins seemed unprepared for the moment at times, but 24 hours ago neither were expected to be playing in this game. Even David Long, Jr. had a relatively quiet night and broke up multiple passes, which could be a positive development for the team moving forward.
This was an impressive and important victory for Los Angeles, and it took a total team effort to get the job done.