The numbers don’t lie. The Los Angeles Rams are heading to the NFC Conference Championship game next Sunday to battle their arch nemesis, the San Francisco 49ers. It took a walk off field goal to eliminate the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30-27, after blowing a big lead in the divisional round. In the playoff opening wild card round, LA grounded the Arizona Cardinals 34-11.
The 2022 post season’s big moments have come fast and furious, established stars stepping up, role players making a mark on the game, and narratives being changed. Here’s a capsule of some of the Rams playoff exploits.
1- First part of the Rams one-two punch, Cooper Kupp
Kupp’s production in the playoffs has taken off where the regular season ended. 14 catches for 241 yards and those two giant grabs in the last-minute, winning drive vs. Tampa Bay. Coop certainly has the numbers for the NFL MVP award, he led the NFL in catches (145), yardage ( 1947) and touchdowns (16), but in reality the award is for the best quarterback. No wide receiver has ever won the award and it has been over 20 years (Randy Moss in 1998) since a WR has been a top three vote getter.
Matthew Stafford led all quarterbacks in net passing EPA on vertical routes during the regular season (+88.2), while Cooper Kupp led all receivers in several volume and efficiency metrics on vertical routes:— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) January 23, 2022
Cooper Kupp on Vertical Routes (NFL Ranks)#LARvsTB | #RamsHouse pic.twitter.com/wRspLImuWZ
2- Playoff wins by Matthew Stafford, so far
Not a bad start for a QB whose narrative was he can’t win the big games. Stafford has completed a stellar 74.5 % of passes, 41 of 55, for 568 yards, with for TD’s passing and two rushing. When you pay a king’s ransom for a player, this is the kind of return on investment you need to receive.
Matthew Stafford has eclipsed a 120 passer rating in both playoff games.— TurfShowTimes (@TurfShowTimes) January 25, 2022
The most in NFL history is 3 (Montana, Matt Ryan) so I guess you could see Stafford is catching up quick.
3- Les Snead’s 2021 blockbuster additions
Matthew Stafford, Odell Beckham Jr. and Von Miller have all shown tremendous value in the playoffs. The Rams would have certainly been a good team without the trades, but Snead wouldn’t be satisfied with that. Snead was hell bent on adding top talent as the season played out, culminating in the Rams winning the NFC West for the first time since 2018 and now being a victory away from hosting the Super Bowl.
And then there were four. Which team will hoist the Lombardi Trophy? pic.twitter.com/gWJvTR8v1m— PFF Bet (@PFF_Bet) January 24, 2022
4- Rams fumbles lost vs. Tampa Bay
Life ain’t always peaches and cream. Cam Akers has to realize that ball control is paramount in the playoffs and the BrianAllen/Austin Corbett silent count snap snafu cannot happen again. Most likely, this pathetic effort was a one-off, LA had zero fumbles in the first playoff game vs. the Arizona Cardinals and only five lost fumbles over the entire regular season before Sunday’s four fumble debacle against the Bucs.
Cam Akers was initially ruled down by contact, but then overturned to a fumble. pic.twitter.com/aVR4PCSrNc— ESPN (@espn) January 23, 2022
5- Playoff wins for Sean McVay
The boy genius now has more playoff victories than any Rams head coach in their long history. Many NFL teams give their new hires 4-5 years to build an organization, McVay has given the Rams a 55-29 record, four trips to the playoffs and a super Bowl appearance.
Went and made himself the winningest postseason coach in franchise history to celebrate. https://t.co/XacNuW1szF— J.B. Long (@JB_Long) January 24, 2022
6-Field goal attempts by Matt Gay
Gay has put five through the uprights. An over looked story was his return to Tampa Bay and drilling the winning FG vs. the team that originally chose him in the 5th round of the 2019 draft and released him a year later. Gay has been magnificent for the Rams, converting 92 percent of FG’s (55 of 60) over his two seasons in LA.
7- Aaron Donald’s consecutive All-Pro seasons
What playoff production would you expect from a future first ballot hall of fame player? Aaron Donald will expect double and triple team blocking on most plays and he plays a lot. AD played every defensive snap vs. Tampa Bay and even racked up 75% of snaps in the blowout of Arizona. Even with all the opponents attention, Donald has stormed for 11 QB pressures, 1.5 sacks, two tackles for loss, and four QB hits.
8- Kick returns by Brandon Powell
Another stellar mid-season addition by Les Snead. Powell hasn’t broke off any big kick off runs in the playoffs yet, but has gobbled up 79 yards on five punt returns. His confident hands and ability to cut at speed make him a threat on every return. Earlier this season, the Rams return game was mediocre, at best. Now instead of clenching in dread, fans wriggle in anticipation when Powell settles under a kick.
9- Pressures for Von Miller vs. Tampa Bay
When the news broke that the Rams had acquired Miller for 2nd and 3rd round draft picks, many questioned the price paid. He’s a former Super Bowl MVP, three-time 1st team All-Pro, four-time 2nd team All-Pro, and a future hall of famer at the back end of his career. He was solid on the edge for LA in the regular season and flashed in the playoffs. Pro Football Focus gave him a 93.7 rating vs. Tampa Bay. Miller has stacked up 10 tackles, three for loss, a sack and a fumble recovery. Stats don’t tell the whole story, he sets the edge very well and sniff out screen plays.
10- Receptions by Odell Beckham Jr.
Including seven first downs, one touchdown and 123 yards. He also completed a 40 yard pass to Cam Akers vs. Arizona. OBJ signed with the Rams as free agent on the same day starting WR Robert Woods went down with a season-ending knee injury. The narrative about Beckham was that he was a locker room cancer and when he was cut by the Cleveland Browns, they would not miss him. What did he bring the Rams? To go with great hands and big play ability he chalked up 428 yards on 37 catches for 6 TD’s and 17 first downs in half a season.
Odell Beckham Jr. is the first player in NFL postseason history to have a 30-yard reception AND a 30-yard completion in the same game. pic.twitter.com/s4z1Dpdm0o— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 18, 2022
11- Trips to the NFC conference championship game
SoFi Stadium will host its first conference title tilt and the Rams their 11th outing vs. the San Francisco 49ers next Sunday. Overall, the rams are 4-6. LA’s last trip was the infamous Sean Payton choke/Nickell Robey-Coleman non-PI call game. LA went to the championship game five out of six seasons from 1974 to 1979.
The energy in this place is electric. pic.twitter.com/cPa7fFIE4X— SoFi Stadium (@SoFiStadium) January 18, 2022
12- Third down plays per playoff game
LA is converting on third down at a 41.6% clip, a little under their season average of 43.6. At home, the Rams convert 50.8%. Against the 49ers, they have moved the sticks 13 of 27 attempts, 48.1%. Being successful on third down is a must v San Francisco, particularly in the second half. Most of their 3rd down achievement opposing the the ‘Niners have been in the 1st half, the Rams must be able to move the chains late in the game to close the deal.
What are your favorite 2022 playoff moments?
Rams fans have gotten their emotional money’s worth this season and the playoffs have certainly been an extension of that roller coaster ride. Really, what could be better than beating the 49ers on the way to the Super Bowl?