The Los Angeles Rams spent the last week in crisis mode, with as many as 25 players added to the NFL’s COVID-19 reserve list at one point. LA is in the heat of the NFC West divisional race and Tuesday night’s game was a box the Rams had to check in order to remain competitive. In the face of adversity Los Angeles overcame to defeat the Seattle Seahawks 20-10.
The big divisional win was driven by strong individual performances by the usual suspects, but there were also some surprise contributors sprinkled in.
Cooper Kupp, WR
It was a historic night for Cooper Kupp, who is on pace for what could end up being the best season by a Rams receiver in the history of the franchise. Kupp’s 120th reception, which scored LA’s first touchdown, set a new single-season record for the team - and he still has three games remaining to set the bar even higher.
The star receiver finished with 9 catches on 13 targets for 136 yards and 2 touchdowns. Kupp was by far the most productive offensive player on Tuesday night for Los Angeles, but really this performance seemed fairly routine for the veteran.
COOPER KUPP. UNSTOPPABLE.— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) December 22, 2021
Aaron Donald, DT
Aaron Donald has been a thorn in the side of the Seahawks for years, and Tuesday night was no exception. The defensive tackle set the tone early in the game and was disruptive through all four quarters. Though it wasn’t his most productive night on the stat sheet - he finished with 2 tackles for loss and a sack - Donald continually caused chaos in the Seattle backfield and was a headache for quarterback Russell Wilson.
Sony Michel, RB
Veteran Sony Michel has taken the reigns as the Rams’ primary running back, and the former New England Patriot helped Los Angeles establish a physical presence and kept the offense on schedule. The Seahawks started the second half with a physical run-first drive that resulted in a 10-3 lead, but Michel and the Rams responded with a gritty possession of their own.
Michel finished the evening with 18 attempts for 92 yards (5.1 average) and contributed another 2 receptions for 23 yards. His longest carry was a punishing run for 39 yards, and the veteran also recorded a 24-yard catch.
Michel should continue to be the lead back moving forward, but there is still room for Darrell Henderson to play a significant complementary role.
Greg Gaines, DT
Over the last month Greg Gaines has rushed the passer as well as any Rams not named “Aaron Donald” - and the big man continued his strong play against Seattle. Gaines did not record a sack, but he did pressure Wilson at key moments. This included the final offensive play of the game for the Seahawks, where Wilson had to get rid of the ball way earlier than he wanted to - the result was an incomplete pass that effectively ended Seattle’s hopes of winning the game.
Fourth and 6. On this odd Tuesday, the crowd is on its feet and screaming. Greg Gaines comes free up the gut like a barrel rolling down a hill, and Wilson's throw is incomplete. Rams will take over on downs.— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) December 22, 2021
The Rams have Greg Gaines signed for cheap for one more year, but it might be time to start negotiations.— Joe Baccamazzi (@JoeMazziFB) December 22, 2021
One important piece of context when analyzing the performance of the secondary on Tuesday is that the Rams were without their defensive signal caller, second-year safety Jordan Fuller. LA had to rely on Taylor Rapp and Nick Scott at deep safety for most the game, as the team was also without Terrell Burgess.
Even without Fuller Los Angeles held Wilson to just 156 yards passing, and a fair portion of these yards came after Seattle’s chances to win the game were effectively gone. Sure, the Seahawks were without star receiver Tyler Lockett but the team still had a dangerous threat in DK Metcalf.
This is the third straight week that the Rams have not allowed a touchdown to the opposing quarterback - keeping Trevor Lawrence, Kyler Murray, and Wilson out of the end zone.
Matt Gay, K
Matt Gay has been a dependable presence for the Rams this season - and he continues to be one of the few bright spots on a struggling special teams unit. Gay extended his strong play against the Seahawks, converting two field goal attempts (long of 55) and both of his extra point attempts. His second field goal extended the Rams’ lead to 10 points in the fourth quarter and put the game out of reach for Wilson and Seattle.
20 in a row now for Matt Gay, who only joined the Rams midseason in 2020 after a hell of a journey by them to get there. https://t.co/R7wjK7R4Le— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) December 22, 2021
Offensive Line - Pass Blocking
The Seahawks have largely struggled to rush the passer this season, but the Rams surrendered four sacks on Matthew Stafford - 3 sacks alone were recorded by Carlos Dunlap.
It is hard to be too tough on Bobby Evans, who replaced the dependable Rob Havenstein at right tackle. Evans was activated from the COVID reserve list as recently as Monday, so the young player did not receive much, if any, practice time with the starting offensive line.
The Rams will face teams that are much more effective at rushing the passer than the Seahawks later this season, so it is important that the team corrects Tuesday’s issues and keeps Matthew Stafford upright as much as possible.
Complaining about the officiating
The Seahawks had plenty of chances to win this game, but missed opportunities at key moments showed that Seattle’s record of 5-9 is no fluke - this is a losing team.
Wilson missed Metcalf for what would have likely been a deep touchdown on at least one occasion, and the Seahawks had some head scratching play calls on offense that put them behind the 8-ball in the game’s final moments.
It is reasonable to debate the officials’ determination that Ernest Jones did not interfere with DeeJay Dallas at the end of the game; however, it is not reasonable to boil down four quarters worth of missed opportunities by the Seahawks into what is being emphasized as a game-changing call.
Don’t ask the referees to decide the game: make the play yourself.
This could be the end of an era for Seattle, as they have little left to play for this season. Pete Carroll has been an incredibly successful coach over the last decade, but it is fair to wonder if he will return in 2022. Will Wilson be a Seahawk next season, especially considering he demanded a trade last year? Seattle could look much different sooner than later, but this was largely an inevitable outcome heading into the season. The potential missed call at the end of the game was mostly inconsequential in the grand scheme of it all, as Seattle’s season was never going to come down to a single moment in time.