The Los Angeles Rams came away with a pivotal 30-23 win against the division-leading Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football. The win has sustained an opportunity for LA to take over the NFC West and secure at least one home game during the playoffs. The victory has also catapulted Los Angeles back into contender talk after a disappointing stretch of games mid-season.
Breaking news has continued to surface as Covid-19 makes its way around the Rams facility, causing a cancellation of practice for at least the next two days. Odell Beckham Jr. is one of the newest names on the list of those effected. It will remain to be seen if the Rams can overcome some heavy setbacks two weeks in a row caused by the virus, but before we look to far forward, here are four things I learned in a Week 14 victory.
Greg Gaines just may be the fastest player in the NFL
Before you take me too seriously about the statement above, it is just a joke, but the third year defensive lineman has some quick feet under him. Greg Gaines has been terrific this season thus far with three and a half sacks and 22 solo tackles while only playing above 70% of the snaps in just five games this season.
Gaines may not get the attention that others do on the line, understandably with Aaron Donald and Von Miller lining up next to him, but against both the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Cardinals his ability to turn up the speed and tackle elusive quarterbacks has been eye-popping.
Is Greg Gaines the fastest player in the NFL? Some are saying... pic.twitter.com/sNai74EJVy— Sosa Kremenjas (@QBsMVP) December 8, 2021
Greg Gaines got up like Michael Jackson in Smooth Criminal pic.twitter.com/fdrXZhXdf4— RAMLitosWay (@ramlitosway) December 14, 2021
The NFC West is stacked with quick-footed quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray, so it comes with no surprise that Gaines has found a spot on the Rams roster. The fourth round pick in the 2019 draft may become a steal with more development alongside two future hall of famers on the current roster, but for now we can enjoy the 312lb defensive lineman tracking down quarterbacks for rest of this season.
Odell Beckham Jr. is back!
Is it too soon to say “I told you so” to all the Odell Beckham Jr. doubters out there? Justin Jefferson sure did not think so and took to twitter to voice that exact opinion.
OBJ WAS NOT THE PROBLEM!! I hope y’all see that now…CLOWNS— JJETS✈️ (@JJettas2) December 14, 2021
In just four games with Los Angeles, Beckham has scored three touchdowns in three games in a row and has been a consistent threat to defenses in Robert Woods’ absence. Against Arizona he finished with six receptions on seven targets that went for 77 yards and a touchdown, but the most impressive part of his performance will not show up on the stat sheets.
When Woods went down for the season with a torn ACL, it meant more than just receiving yards and touchdown catches—LA was losing someone that embodied Sean McVay’s offensive philosophy, which is having receivers who can catch the ball and block for other players. On Monday, watching Beckham’s ability to do the dirty work and block for his fellow playmakers has revealed not only his buy-in of McVay’s offense, it has shown a selfless side of him that so many people have failed to observe. Woods will never be replaced this season, but Beckham is truly giving it all he has.
On top of all that, he has brought some much needed swagger to the Los Angeles offense.
Odell did the Detroit Urban Survival Training— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) December 14, 2021
Unfortunately, he may not be able to bring his swag to another division bout with the Seattle Seahawks this Sunday. It was reported on Monday that he has been added to the growing list of players on the Covid-19/reserve list.
The Rams defense is finding its identity at the perfect moment
Just hours before a huge NFC West matchup headlined on Monday Night Football came the news that star corner, Jalen Ramsey, would be held out of the game due to Covid-19. Suddenly a difficult matchup became even more worrisome as the Rams would be forced to lean on the Darious Williams, David Long Jr, and Nick Scott to cover AJ Green, DeAndre Hopkins, and Zach Ertz.
The defensive line made their job a lot easier with a relentless rush that had Murray scrambling around for most of the game. On the first play of the game, Donald bull rushed his defender into Murray, knocking the speedy quarterback to the ground and setting the tone for the rest of the game. It was a subtle reminder that he is the most dominant player in all of football.
Aaron Donald runs through a blocker, draws a hold and sacks Kyler Murray on the opening play. Normal stuff right here. pic.twitter.com/An0Y6lPSoy— Field Yates (@FieldYates) December 14, 2021
Despite some off-schedule throws and some miraculous catches from the the Cardinal’s receivers, the defensive line was complimented by a solid secondary. Williams had three passes defended while the defensive line came away with two interceptions—one by rookie Ernest Jones, and the other by Leonard Floyd. Von Miller nearly had his first sack in a Rams uniform, but that quickly turned into a game-sealing tackle by Donald instead.
After being told that LA could not win against a physical team after losses to the Tennessee Titans and the San Francisco 49ers, the Rams defense has come out slugging in their last two games. With the playoffs just around the corner and a potential NFC West division championship on the line, the defense is hitting its stride at just the right moment. It will remain to be seen how recent Covid-19 positives will effect the team in the coming weeks, but for at least a game LA’s players have stepped up at the most pivotal time of the year.
LA is unbeatable when they play clean football
For the second game in a row, LA’s offense did not commit a turnover—and for the second game in a row, the Rams came away with a win. Much has been the same throughout the year—when LA plays clean football they are unbeatable. The four losses they have suffered this year have been at the detriment of their own hands; head scratching penalties and uncharacteristic turnovers have put LA in terrible situations that they just have not been able to overcome.
Against one of the best teams in the league on both sides of the ball, the Rams had every opportunity to repeat their losing-formula on Monday Night. Instead, despite losing five of their starters to Covid-19, Stafford played a near flawless game behind a makeshift offensive line. He finished with a QBR of 139.2, 287 yards, and three touchdowns. Sony Michel kept the ball off the turf as well, finishing the game with 20 attempts that went for 79 yards. The Rams also finished the game with just five penalties that set them back only 40 yards.
MATTHEW STAFFORD MISSLE TO VAN JEFFERSON— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) December 14, 2021
60 air yards pic.twitter.com/Di7jU6cT8r
Much like the defense, the offense is fixing their mistakes from mid-season and are looking to end the year on the right footing. Against teams such as the Green Bay Packers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the upcoming playoffs, it will take near perfection to end up as the victors. On Monday night, McVay’s team proved they could do just that.
What did you learn in Week 14? Let us know in the comments below!