The Los Angeles Rams had every excuse to lose against the Seattle Seahawks on Tuesday, but instead they walked away with 20-10 victory over their division rivals. With the Arizona Cardinals losing to the Detroit Lions on Sunday, LA has climbed their way back into the NFC West race and are only half a game behind the desert-dwellers for sole possession of first place.
After a hectic week of Covid-19 outbreaks that at one point had 31 players sitting out for the game, Los Angeles can put it behind them and look forward to a matchup with Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings this Sunday. Before we get too ahead of ourselves though, here are four things I learned in Week 15.
Cooper Kupp appreciation post
The Rams organization have had the luxury of coaching some of the finest players in NFL history. From Deacon Jones to Kurt Warner, Eric Dickerson to Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce, LA has a history that boasts elite talent throughout its years. On Tuesday, Kupp put himself in the record books when he surpassed Bruce for the most receptions in franchise history and is still on pace to break Calvin Johnson’s single season record for most yards by a receiver in NFL history. If he continues on his pace he will also be the first receiver since 2005 to be number one in receptions, yards, and touchdowns; in other words, Kupp is having one of the greatest seasons by a receiver ever in the history of the NFL.
You were part of setting the standard here for many years! Honored to even be mentioned alongside you. https://t.co/T0HxoPAXgN— Cooper Kupp (@CooperKupp) December 22, 2021
While that may not put him in consideration for MVP, which is primarily a quarterback accolade, it does mean that Kupp has been able to carry the offense through much needed wins. He did it again on Tuesday against a desperate NFC West squad vying for its playoff hopes.
If you throw it up there, odds are Cooper Kupp will go get it pic.twitter.com/QG9r8EFS7r— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) December 22, 2021
Kupp finished with nine receptions that went for 136 yards and two touchdowns; making him the first receiver in history to have 10 consecutive games with 90 or more passing yards. When LA was stalling on offense, it was the fifth year receiver and former third round pick that put his team on his back carried them to a victory. The Kupp-Stafford connection has been an amazing relationship to watch blossom over the 2021 season, and against Seattle, it proved to be one of the most dominating.
COOPER KUPP. UNSTOPPABLE.— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) December 22, 2021
Kupp will need to average 113 yards a game to surpass Johnson’s record—with Sean McVay as his head coach and a quarterback that loves to throw him the ball, there is a good chance that he does just that. Regardless of how it comes to an end with just three games left to play, it has been truly spectacular watching Kupp play this season.
Defense shows up in a big way
It took three quarters of play before any team got a touchdown on Tuesday, but it was Seattle who put together the first scoring drive of the game. The Seahawks only touchdown of the night was an impressive series of plays that highlighted their physicality on offense; the Rams defense was absolutely getting bullied in the trenches as head coach Pete Carrol called run after run with a combination of DeeJay Dallas and Rashad Penny. Sudden flashbacks came to mind as Rams fans watched Seattle man-handle their way down the field.
That would be the last score of the night for them, however, as some of the Rams biggest stars came to life. Aaron Donald finished the game with a sack, two tackles for a loss, a QB hit, and was his normal disruptive self as he commanded much of the attention during the night. Von Miller got his first sack in a Rams jersey and finished with two tackles for a loss. Leonard Floyd also earned himself a sack as the entire defensive line kept not only Russell Wilson in check, but defended against the run effectively as well. Seattle had just 80 yards total rushing from both of their backs, and only 156 passing yards from Wilson.
Behind them, the secondary played exceptionally well. Jalen Ramsey may have been the MVP of the night as he followed around the physical specimen that is DK Metcalf. Metcalf was targeted 12 times, but only came away with six of them for 52 yards—his longest reception of the day only went for 12 yards. Ramsey also had two crucial pass breakups that would have kept Seattle in the game. Week in and week out, he constantly proves that he is the best defensive back in the game of football.
The defense is hitting its stride at the perfect time going into January. Raheem Morris may have once been on the hot seat, but after three wins in a row there is real reason to believe he is the guy for the job. He has his stars playing at their best at just the right moment.
Sony Michel make the Rams offense physical
With Darrell Henderson injury-free and back from the Covid-19/reserve list, McVay had a chance on Tuesday to re-establish Henderson as the lead back against Seattle; instead, it was Michel taking the first snap of the game. After solid performances from Michel in three straight games, including the Rams only 100+ yard rusher in a game this season, he has cemented himself as the starter—at least until Cam Akers makes his way back onto the field. Michel’s physicality and determination has made the Rams offense develop from being what many thought too “soft”, into a tough, physical, power-run offense.
(22:10) “I think he’s really brought a toughness to our offense,” Sean McVay explained in his post-game press conference, “I think he made some key plays in the pass game, he’s so tough in blitz pickup—he’s really a complete back... I think more than anything he has brought toughness, he’s brought an ability to sustain possessions, you can see that time of possession has really tilted in our direction in a positive way.”
The former first round draft pick ended the game with 92 yard on 18 attempts, one of which went for 39 yards, and also had two receptions for 23 yards. His addition to the team before the start of the regular team may go down as one of their most important by the end of the year if Michel continues to deliver in big ways down the stretch.
The offensive line did not have its best performance
A usually sturdy offensive line had trouble keeping Stafford upright against the Seahawks, allowing four sacks on the night, three of which came exclusively from Carlos Dunlap. They also struggled for long stretches in run-blocking, but found some victories in the trenches during the second half. While it may have been one of their worst games as a unit this season, it should not be a cause for concern.
While LA was able to get many of its key contributors back from the Covid-19/reserve list, Joe Noteboom and Rob Havenstein were not as lucky. Their absences propelled third-string lineman Bobby Evans into the starting role and shook up their normal rotation on gameday. It is also worth noting that the unit got little to no practice time during a crazy outbreak this week.
With a game against the Minnesota Vikings right around the corner, the line should be back to normalcy against one of the best defensive fronts in the NFL. Sunday should be a true measuring stick of their ability, while their performance against Seattle should be taken with a grain of salt.
What did you learn this week? Let’s discuss in the comments below!