The Los Angeles Rams have won five consecutive games. Their fifth win of the current streak came on their last road game of the regular season as the Rams beat the Baltimore Ravens 20-19. It was an ugly win. But it was a comeback win in a close game at a point in the season when the remaining games should be expected to be close and come down to who can play best in the fourth quarter.
Here are the breakdowns by position and the resulting letter grade.
Matthew Stafford led a fourth quarter come from behind victory for the Rams after setting the stage with two interceptions, one for a touchdown, and a lost fumble in the pocket. It’s easier on a quarterback when the defender makes a great play on a well thrown pass which happens for a good degree of picks but unfortunately wasn’t entirely the case on these two. On the first pick with two out routes in combination to the left, Stafford threw to Tyler Higbee without seeing that Safety Chuck Clark was playing OBJ inside and reading the play before he made the jump and the catch. On the second interception Stafford threw deep to OBJ with three defenders on him while Van Jefferson crossed underneath where it would have been a wide open catch for 10 yards without a run after and maybe 20 with. On the bright side, Stafford came out in the second half and threw a perfect 14 for 14 including a fourth and five to Odell Beckham Jr to keep the game alive and then a touchdown to take the lead with 61 seconds left in the game.
Sony Michel had 19 carries for 74 yards and a touchdown with a long of 14 yards. He also added three catches for 25 yards but also dropped one. With a 3.9 yard average, Michel was again a reliable runner showing poise and strength running against the defense ranked first in stopping the run.
Cooper Kupp caught six passes for 95 yards and a touchdown in route to becoming the new all time single season yards leader in Rams franchise history. Van Jefferson had four catches for 63 yards but also had a drop. OBJ was mr. clutch with five catches for 39 yards but two of those catches coming on the final drive when the Rams drove to come from behind. On a fourth and five situation, Stafford threw a dart to OBJ at the line to gain, and with a strong hands catch OBJ secured the catch and reached it over the line for a first down. He also made the game winning score with the same type of athletic play but this time running toward the from pylon, making the catch, and again with great awareness reaching over the corner for the score.
Tyler Higbee had six receptions for 69 yards. His first catch came on a post where he caught the ball in the window behind the linebackers in front of the safety with some room to run but didn’t. It would have been great to see him keep his feet there to make one guy miss which would have led to open grass towards the end zone. Higbee’s blocking was again a reliable part to the run game.
In pass protection the Rams offensive line gave up only one sack but it was a big one. Rob Havenstein got beat to the inside for the resulting sack fumble. In the run game the line did a good job against the unit that allows the least amount of rushing yards in the National Football League. The Rams ran for 73 yards and a touchdown.
The defensive line gave up 107 yards rushing to the Baltimore Ravens running backs Davonta Freeman and Latavius Murray. Aaron Donald had five tackles, on tackle for a loss, one hit on the quarterback and was credited with half a sack. Ashawn Robinson also had a sack on Tyler Huntley and Greg Gaines had three tackles.
Von Miller sacked the quarterback twice with one of those coming to seal the game on the final stop. Troy Reeder had a sack along with his team leading 10 tackles. Leonard Floyd had seven tackles and assisted sack with Donald. The box unit as a group gave up an unfavorable 165 yards total rushing with 54 yards rushing coming from the back up quarterback not named Lamar Jackson.
The Ravens passing game was limited to a 62% completion rate and 197 yards. Tight end Mark Andrews was the leading receiver for Baltimore 89 yards. Jalen Ramsey had two tackles and one pass break up. Darious Williams five tackles and one pass deflected but also seemed to play too soft at times leaving passes in front of him uncontested.
Jordan Fuller may have made the play of the day for the defense along with Miller’s game ending sack. At the end of the second half with the Rams looking at being shut out in the first half, fuller spotted and took advantage of a bad throw by Huntley and grabbed his first interception of the season. The Rams offense would capitalize on the turnover with a touchdown that swung the game in LA’s favor before the half.
Matt Gay missed his first field goal after making 23 straight. It was a 56 yard attempt that had the distance but missed to the right. Brandon Powell had a kick return and a punt return both for 18 yards each. Johnny Hekker booted two punts inside the twenty.
Defense kept the Rams in the game so credit has to be given to the efforts and decisions of defensive coordinator Raheem Morris for keeping the Ravens offense out of the end zone for all four quarters. Sacks and takeaways gave the offense a chance to win with 20 points. On the offense, it seems again that play calling may be the first contributor to the turnovers. On the first interception, a third and two, throwing a quick pass to the middle zone on hook routes, usually to Kupp, may have been too predictable in this case. While the throw was to Higbee, the spot and timing proved too much of a theme for the Ravens defense who jumped it with confidence. Also, on the outside of the double outs, Ben Skowronek ran a hook route instead of a go which is often the case, which put OBJ, the number two receiver, and Skowronek in the same location which is never a good thing and almost dictates the throw go to Higbee. More confidence and creativity in the run package might have reduced the probability of the resulting interception to the house. On the sack fumble lost, it happened in the red zone, 11 yards from the goal line, on a first and ten. That’s a great situation to stick with the run with Michel and set up a second and short with the mind to run it in without a higher risk pass play. The previous two plays were both runs for seven yards each. For comparison, the Baltimore Ravens drove down the field, at one point calling seven run plays in a row. A four run play sequence from the 25 for a score would have been a great boost to the Rams offense and offensive play calling. Instead, it was an empty set with no backfield blocking help, on the first and ten from the 11 that resulted in a sack fumble.
On the upside, the fourth down punt call before the half worked out since it was followed by the Fuller interception to get it back and then a Kupp touchdown. And finally when down by two scores in the fourth quarter, when his best pass based play calling was required, McVay flexed and set up the game winning sequence. His focus on getting the ball to his best players, Kupp and OBJ, in the critical junctures was on point.