Next Monday night’s tilt with the Arizona Cardinals should be viewed as a defining game for Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams.
Not because a win will make a great difference in the standings—the Cards are effectively three games ahead of the Rams, with five to play and LA has the same lead over their #5 wild card slot competitors—But rather, they desperately need to play a good game and win against a playoff-caliber team to build confidence for a tough closing stretch of regular season games and life on the road in the playoffs.
It’s been 10 weeks since the Rams beat a team with a winning record, knocking off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, defending Super Bowl champions and current NFL South leaders. No individual player needs a good showing, this Monday night, more than LA quarterback Matthew Stafford. He has shared the Rams struggles against tougher competition.
In the teams eight wins, Stafford has completed almost 70 percent of his passes, averaged 312 yards, with 23 touchdowns and only two interceptions. He’s gained 9.23 yards per passing attempt and thrown TD’s at a clip of 8.52 percent of attempts. His QB rating over this span was 123.6. Through October, Staff was considered a front-runner for NFL MVP.
During a November stretch of tough games, of which the Rams lost three in a row, Stafford’s performance dropped markedly. He completed 62 percent of his passes, averaged 278 yards per game and tossed seven TD’s. Not bad at all, standing alone. The problem began at six interceptions, three that were returned for opposing scores, that gave him a INT percentage of 3.5 of attempts. His passes gained 2.5 yards less and his QB rating was 80.3.
A lot of rumors about Stafford’s ability to win tough games came with him from Detroit. He replaced Jared Goff, who also struggled in losses, although not necessarily always in tough games. Certainly, the stretches where the Rams have struggled can’t all be blamed on any one positional player, but the NFL is a QB-driven league and in almost every case, a team’s success is dependent on on the field general’s production.
The Rams NEED this win, fan’s NEED this win, and most of all, Matthew Stafford NEEDS this win. Just not for the standings.