The Los Angeles Rams walked away with a 20-19 victory over the Baltimore Ravens in a back-and-forth nail-biter. Despite the win, there continues to be questions about the teams ability to make a playoff push.
They will have an opportunity to answer some of those question this week as they are set to take on the San Francisco 49ers for the last game of the season. If Stafford and company can fix their mistakes and play clean football against a defense that stifled them last time around, they will be going into the playoffs with a six game winning streak and all the confidence in the world as the NFC West champions and the second seed in the NFC.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, however, let’s take a look back at Week 17—here are the things I learned in a victory against the Ravens.
The Matthew Stafford corner
The level of concern about Stafford’s play in recent weeks has very quickly blossomed into an outright panic after another multi-turnover day from the veteran quarterback. For at least the second game in a row the defense had to bail him out of his mistakes, but this time around Stafford made up for them by the end of the game. He was perfect in the second half, connecting on all 14 of his pass attempts for 162 yards.
Stafford’s second half performance was a clear indication of what he can be on gameday. Yes, he did dig the hole that he had to climbed out of, but that is something LA could not do before his arrival. Despite a fumble on the first drive of the third quarter that should be attributed to a missed block by Rob Havenstein, he came back from the first half with the confidence that he was going to win that game for his team—and he did just that. He is, and continues to be, one of the best fourth quarter quarterbacks in the league.
This week the Rams will have chance to win the NFC West and the second seed of the playoffs against the 49ers. Stafford has a chance to quell some of the panic with a clean game against LA’s biggest rival and go in to the playoffs with a hot hand and Cam Akers by his side.
Rams newest players show up in biggest moments
General Manager Les Snead must have had a grin on his face as he watched LA’s newest stars make impactful plays when they needed them most. Both Odell Beckham Jr. and Von Miller had crucial opportunities to help seal the victory on Sunday, and they cashed in on them in a big way.
On the offensive side of the ball, Beckham was the go to receiver on the final drive of the game. On a fourth-and-5 attempt that would have ended the game had it not been converted, Stafford fired a quick spiral to Beckham’s vicinity and the sure-handed receiver plucked it out of the air with ease to just get enough yards for the first down.
All hands from @obj on a key fourth down grab on the Rams game winning drive pic.twitter.com/3i2h97j4n5— x - (@TL_LARams) January 2, 2022
On the next play, McVay put Kupp in motion to the left side as eye-candy for the Ravens defense. On the snap the entire offense moved to the right of the field and Stafford went once again to Beckham. As he did before, the receiver secured the pass but this time took it all the way in for the game winning score. Beckham is still young in this offense, but it appears he is near fully being integrated into the offense.
.@obj reaches out and gives us the lead!— x - Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) January 2, 2022
: @nflonfox pic.twitter.com/Kn63saUaAS
On the defensive side of the ball, Miller had his marquee game in a Rams uniform. He finished with two sacks and three tackles for loss, along with five combined tackles that helped the defense hold the Ravens to just 12 points on offense. His biggest play of the game came on Baltimore’s final drive. With just 14 seconds left and the Ravens moving the ball efficiently down the field, Von Miller ducked under his defender and sacked Tyler Huntley before the play even had a chance to develop. The tackle was crucial, as it kept Justin Tucker from getting anywhere near his range for a field goal in a one point game.
Von Miller manifesting that 2015 energy. That is elite quickness off the edge. Dude still has it. pic.twitter.com/uAAYD2YZ98— x-Wes (@Sleyson80) January 3, 2022
Up to this point of the season, many were beginning to question what type of impact the Rams biggest signings would have this season. It finally came to fruition against Baltimore, as the some of the biggest names in football came away with some of the biggest plays on Sunday.
This offense is much more diverse than we thought
Throughout the season it has been no secret the offense runs through Cooper Kupp, but on Sunday the Ravens did a decent job covering one of the best receivers in football. Kupp was targeted a season-low seven times, but made the most of them, brining in six of those attempts for 95 yards and a touchdown, his 15th of the season. With Kupp covered well, Stafford connected with five other receivers for positive gains.
Tyler Higbee lead the team in targets with nine, which was good for 69 yards. Van Jefferson had 63 yards on four receptions, Beckham with seven targets for 39 yards, Sony Michel with five opportunities that went for 25 yards, and Ben Skowronek had two receptions for 18 yards—including a 15-yard gain on the Rams final drive of the game.
Los Angeles will face some of the best defenses in football in the post-season that will find ways to take away their number one option. Against the Ravens, McVay proved that his offense could adapt and rely on other playmakers to get the job done. The play-caller utilized the attention that Kupp garners to his advantage by putting his receiver in routes that opened up holes for other pass catchers. The game winning touchdown to Beckham was just one example of how Kupp can create havoc even without the ball in his hands.
The defensive line is scary
It may have taken some time, but the Rams defense is finally firing on all cylinders. Though the Ravens were able to move the ball efficiently against LA, the bend-but-not-break mentality was effective and only allowed the Huntley and company 12 points on offense. On the Ravens second-to-last drive of the game, the defense made a critical goal line stand to give their offense a chance to have a game-winning drive in the final minutes of the match. The defensive line deserves a lot of the credit, sacking Huntely five times, two of which came from Miller. A part from a 32 yard scamper from Devonta Freeman, the defensive line was a run-stuffing force lead by Aaron Donald and Greg Gaines.
First sack of the year for @AshawnRobinson!— x - Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) January 2, 2022
The line has become one of the best in football and have really hit their stride late in the season. Donald is making a case for Defensive Player of the Year after wrecking yet another game, and Miller has began to flourish. Leonard Floyd was a disruptive force of his own right Sunday and constantly made life difficult for Huntley while A’Shawn Robinson earned his first sack of the season. Though there seems to be some disfunction in the Rams secondary after Jalen Ramsey and Taylor Rapp got into it early, it may not matter much with a front line playing as good as it is right now. Playoff quarterbacks beware, this unit is a force to be reckoned with.
What did you learn in Week 17? Let’s discuss below!