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Winners & Losers as Rams escape Baltimore with win

It was a tale of two halves for Matthew Stafford, but ultimately the QB made the plays that won the game

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Baltimore Ravens

The Los Angeles Rams extended their winning streak to five games after they narrowly defeated the Baltimore Ravens 20-19 in Week 17. It was a tale of two halves for quarterback Matthew Stafford, but ultimately the Rams’ signal caller made the necessary plays to lead his team to victory on the road. There were several individuals that also stepped up alongside Stafford in crucial moments.

Winners

The Defense

The Rams defense had trouble getting off the field at times Sunday afternoon, which lead to the Ravens being able to control the clock and keeping Stafford and the LA offense off the field. With that said, keeping the opposing team out of the end zone and limiting them to 12 points will result in a victory most days. The defense also deserves credit for getting key stops towards the end of the game, especially in the red zone, to set up Stafford’s game winning drive.

In four of the games from LA’s five-game win streak, the defense has held the opposing quarterback out of the end zone. This list includes Trevor Lawrence, Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson, and now Tyler Huntley.

Odell Beckham, Jr., WR

Odell Beckham, Jr. scored his fifth touchdown in seven games with Los Angeles, and the mid-season pickup is playing dividends for the Rams at key moments. Beckham made multiple catches on the game winning drive and built on his strong play in the red zone.

The veteran finished with 5 receptions for 39 yards and the touchdown that gave LA the lead. While those numbers don’t seem overly impressive on the surface, OBJ made plays to convert third downs and made an impact when his team needed him the most.

Von Miller, OLB

Von Miller joined the team around the same time as OBJ, and he was also a difference maker in this road victory. Miller’s athleticism stood out at times, which is important versus a scrambling quarterback like Huntley.

Miller finished with two sacks with one coming on the final drive of the game with the Ravens approaching field goal range. The sack backed Baltimore up and kept the clock running, which meant their focus had to shift from a potential field goal try to a touchdown.

General manager Les Snead has to be pleased with the impact of OBJ and Miller so far in the regular season, but the success of these moves will ultimately be judged by how far this team goes in the playoffs.

Troy Reeder, ILB

The Ravens leaned heavily on the running game and did not try to push the ball down the field often - which is a game script that is favorable to linebacker Troy Reeder. This outing was one of Reeder’s best performances this season, as he finished with 10 tackles and a sack.

While Reeder is a often a lightning rod for fan criticism, he does play an important role and is a significant chess piece against certain styles of teams.

Sony Michel, RB

The Rams’ five-game winning streak coincides with the emergence of veteran Sony Michel as the team’s lead back. Sunday afternoon in Baltimore was another strong performance by Michel, and he was also used heavily as a check down option in the passing game. Even when the passing game is on shaky ground, Michel’s physical presence gives the Rams consistency and another way to stretch defenses in short yardage situations.

Michel finished Week 17 with 19 carries for 74 yards (3.9 average) and a touchdown. He also added 3 catches for 25 yards through the air.

Tyler Higbee, TE

Tyler Higbee recently missed two games due to the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols. While his absence in those games did not appear to be substantial at the time, it is clear after the last two weeks that Higbee is an important player for this offense. The Rams look to the veteran to make important plays in both the run and pass game, and he’s often the first look in short yardage scenarios.

Higbee finished the day with 6 receptions on 9 targets for 69 yards with three of his catches coming on the opening drive alone.

Losers

Rob Havenstein, RT

The Rams sorely missed the reliable Rob Havenstein in Week 15 versus the Seattle Seahawks when both he and Joseph Noteboom were ruled out of that game due to COVID-19 restrictions; however, Havenstein gave up a strip sack on Stafford that became one of the biggest plays of the game. The right tackle has been a consistent contributor for LA over the course of his career, but his outing on Sunday afternoon was not one of his best.

Matthew Stafford, QB

I went back and forth on how to include Stafford on this list. Yes, he led an impressive game winning drive to take a lead over Baltimore inside two minutes; however, his team also found itself in that situation because of his mistakes. Stafford finished the game with three turnovers - two interceptions and a fumble (fault could attributed to Havenstein), and this is particularly concerning against a ball control style of team that minimizing the chances you get to score points.

It is encouraging that the Rams did not fall victim to the unfortunate script that became all too familiar in the team’s mid-season three-game losing streak, but Stafford is included in the “loser” list for one key reason.

You should not be heralded as a hero for saving a burning building when you’re the one that started the fire. Stafford gave up the Ravens’ only touchdown on the day and put the LA defense in some tough spots - Baltimore scored 13 of their 19 points off Stafford turnovers.

As important as the plays Stafford made late in the game to turn things around are, even more important is the fact the defense held Huntley and the Ravens to four field goals and returned the ball back to the offense when it mattered the most.