After dropping their last three games, the Los Angeles Rams defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars 37-7 to move to an 8-4 record on the 2021 season. LA has stopped its mid-season slide and came away with a much needed victory over a struggling Jags team - but it remains to be seen whether the rams have truly righted the ship.
There were a number of bounce-back individual performances that led Los Angeles to victory Sunday afternoon.
Sony Michel, RB
It’s no secret that the Rams’ running game has struggled in recent weeks. LA was notably stuffed in multiple short yardage situations last week against the Green Bay Packers, and running back Darrell Henderson has not been able to create much yardage after contact.
But LA’s performance on the ground versus Jacksonville was a revelation, and Sony Michel gave the team a much needed boost in this facet of the offense. Michel not only took the yards afforded to him by the offensive line, but he also kept his legs churning to produce through initial contact.
The veteran runner notched 121 yards on 24 carries and added a touchdown. Michel also had 8 receiving yards on 3 catches.
Post-Todd Gurley's incredible run for the Rams, the only rushing performance more thorough than Sony Michel's 24-121-1 line today was Cam Akers' 29-171-0 last year versus NE.— J.B. Long (@JB_Long) December 6, 2021
Love the all-hands-on-deck identity established today. LA just became a more complex prep for ARI.
It will be worth following how the running attack evolves moving forward, and how Michel and Henderson share the load as the remainder of the season unfolds.
Aaron Donald, DT
Star defensive tackle Aaron Donald set the tone Sunday at SoFi Stadium when he forced a fumble by James Robinson on the Jaguars’ first offensive possession. Donald tossed Robinson and simultaneously ripped the ball loose for an incredibly impressive play.
Donald also added a sack towards the end of the game in what may be his best overall performance so far in 2021.
Aaron Donald threw James Robinson like a rag doll pic.twitter.com/im7VE8LPPr— PFF (@PFF) December 5, 2021
Greg Gaines, DT
Aside from Donald, the next best defensive lineman for the Rams on Sunday afternoon seemed to be Greg Gaines. Gaines has filled in admirably since Sebastian Joseph-Day has been injured, and the third-year player asserted himself in both the run and pass game versus Jacksonville.
Been cool to see Greg Gaines’ development. Has become more than a solid contributor for Rams DL in his 3rd year— Omar Ruiz (@OmarDRuiz) December 5, 2021
Brandon Powell, KR
Brandon Powell was activated from the Rams’ practice squad for the Week 13 contest, and he made a strong first impression by taking the opening kickoff 65 yards to give Matthew Stafford and the offense great starting field position. This was the Rams’ longest return to date on the 2021 season. LA did not have an opportunity to return a punt, but Powell did handle multiple fair catches.
After injuries have created a turnstile at both the kick and punt return roles, Los Angeles may have found a dependable returner and special teams ace in Powell.
Rams (-14) must have loved seeing this Brandon Powell return #JAXvsLARpic.twitter.com/y4xzUC801E— Nitrogen Sports (@NitrogenSports) December 5, 2021
Cooper Kupp, WR
While Michel dominated on the ground, Cooper Kupp was the catalyst for the passing attack - and the star receiver accumulated 8 receptions for 129 yards and a touchdown. While Kupp got off to a slow start, once he got rolling the offense went along with him. Van Jefferson and Odell Beckham, Jr. contributed touchdowns late in the game, but Kupp clearly remains the number one option for LA’s aerial attack.
Kupp also surpassed 100 receptions on the season, which marks only the fourth time a Rams receiver has crossed this threshold. The veteran receiver is in good company, as it is good news anytime your name is mentioned amongst Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. If Kupp notches another 20 receptions over the next 5 games, he would break the franchise record for most catches in a single season.
That's Cooper Kupp's 100th catch this season, becoming the third Rams receiver to achieve the feat in franchise history:— Stu Jackson (@StuJRams) December 5, 2021
Isaac Bruce - 119 (1995)
Torry Holt - 117 (2003)
Torry Holt - 102 (2005)
Kupp - 100 (2021)
Matt Gay, K
While the special teams unit in general has struggled throughout the 2021 season, kicker Matt Gay has been a steady and reliable presence for Los Angeles. Gay finished the Week 13 victory 3 for 3 on field goal attempts (long of 44 yards) which moves him to 20-21 on the season (long of 54 yards). Gay also converted all 4 of his extra point attempts against Jacksonville.
Robert Rochell, CB
Even though the Rams had an insurmountable lead (37-3) at the time, Robert Rochell made a high effort play to down a Johnny Hekker punt at the 1-yard line. Sean McVay ran down the sideline afterwards to give praise to the rookie.
Robert Rochell got hit by the returner but still ended up making a ridiculous play to stop the ball going for a touchback pic.twitter.com/XBoUvUV2Au— - ℝ (@TL_LARams) December 6, 2021
Darious Williams, CB
The Rams desperately need another key contributor to emerge in the secondary, and cornerback Darious Williams has not lived up to the expectations he set for himself a season ago.
Williams did make multiple impressive open field tackles, but he was also called for holding twice on third down that gave Trevor Lawrence and the Jags offense a new set of downs. With Williams in a contract year, it is becoming more and more unlikely that LA will be willing to invest in a significant new contract for the corner.
Troy Reeder, ILB
Rookie Ernest Jones started the game and played the majority of the defensive snaps, which could be a sign that linebacker Troy Reeder is falling out of favor. Reeder struggled mightily last week in Green Bay, and Aaron Rodgers looked in his direction in a number of key moments - and it was a fairly successful approach.
Even if Reeder’s role on defense is minimized, he is still an important contributor on special teams - and he figures to be a key player down the stretch for the Rams.
Ben Skowronek, WR
Rookie receiver Ben Skowronek caught an impressive 35-yard pass from Stafford, but he had two mental lapses that earned him a spot on the “losers” list:
1 - Early in the game with the passing game struggling, Stafford put a ball where only Skowronek could get it. Sure, it was a difficult catch, but this pass would have converted a third down in the red zone and was essentially the difference between a field goal attempt and a touchdown.
2 - Skowronek also interfered with a fair catch on a Jaguars punt return that gave the Jacksonville offense solid starting field position. This was just another example of the struggles on special teams.
Skowronek is just a rookie and will have up and down moments throughout the season, but he is a bigger body that provides a different skillset the the other Rams receivers bring to the table. The team will need him to contribute at times down the stretch, but there will also be growing pains.
David Long, Jr.
David Long, Jr. was a healthy gameday inactive and is now solidly behind Donte’ Deayon and rookie Robert Rochell on the depth chart. The team was expecting Long to be a starter coming into the season, but he has been one of the biggest individual disappointments so far.
The Rams will travel in Week 14 to play the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football for a much anticipated division rematch.