With destiny in their own hands, the Los Angeles Rams traveled east to face the Baltimore Ravens in Week 17. The Rams were dealt another weekly twist (which has been a running theme the last four weeks). This time it was the NFL flexing their game time to 1pm EST instead of 4:25 EST.
I had the privilege of watching this one in person. For the first three quarters, all I could do was fold my arms and shrug my shoulders as the Rams found ways to kill drives. But, the Rams pressed all the right buttons in the 4th quarter. Stafford didn’t flinch, despite turnovers in the first three quarters. He led the Rams on a 9 play, 75 yard TD drive; finding Odell Beckahm on a flood right concept on the near pylon of the Ravens sideline with 0:57 remaining.
It had been awhile since I had seen McVay’s Rams come from behind in such a significant manner. The last time: in the NFC Championship against a high powered Saints team. Showing resilience going into January can be a powerful tool for this group. Critics and opponents said you could punch the Rams in the mouth and they would fall down during their winless November. Well, that doesn’t seem to be the case now in January.
The win puts the Rams at 12-4, but there are still issues to be corrected as the Rams pursue the #2 seed in the NFC. In the overview below, I’ll cover the players and position group performances including these major topics:
- Tale of two Staffords
- Rams deep passing game - 0 for 3 in last 3 weeks
- One final test for the Rams DL & run defense
- Raheem Morris - 2nd half defensive surge
This article will cover each player’s PFF grade as it fluctuates week to week. The grade next to the individual is his current PFF grade.
*The differential +/- in parenthesis reflects whether or not he improved or declined from the previous week. Lastly, based on my own study of the game, I hand out a grade to the position group based on their ability and impact on the game (as well as injuries, signings, or releases). This grade factors into the overall grade of the positional group for the season, and ultimately the trend of the unit moving forward.*
Matthew Stafford: 79.2 (+0.1), John Wolford: 40.2 (DNP)
Well I guess I jinxed that one. Stafford turned the ball over three times in back to back weeks (2 INT’s, 1 fumble). Stafford found himself giving up another pick 6, his fourth on the year. While the 4 pick 6’s are concerning. The one at San Francisco was completely Tyler Higbee’s fault. I say that, not to throw Tyler Higbee under the bus, but to say that stats can be misleading. The complete story isn’t there in the stat column. For this Sunday, Odell admitted to running the wrong route; allowing Chuck Clark to linger in the intended throwing area - a pass to Tyler Higbee. Result: 7 points for Baltimore.
Moving forward. Overall, Stafford was 26/35 for 309 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT, 1 fumble lost. Here’s a split of his performance from the first half and the second half.
1/2 : 1st half: 12/21, 119 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT,
1/2 : 2nd half: 14/14, 190 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 1 fumble
This fits right into Stafford’s 2021 season. Here are his splits for each half on the season:
1st Half: 206/312 (66%), 2296 yards, 17 TD, 12 INT
2nd Half: 177/257 (69%), 2352 yards, 21 TD, 3 INT
Stafford is significantly more efficient in the 2nd half; attempting 55 fewer passes but compiling +56 yards, +4 TD, and is way more protective of the football. Whether it’s McVay’s/Stafford’s aggressiveness early on or Stafford forcing passes that aren’t there, the Rams will need a good game manager out of Stafford here sooner than later.
Week 17 Grade: C+ (D in 1st half / A- in 2nd half) , Overall: B-, Trend: Slight Downward
Darrell Henderson: 68.7 (IR), Sony Michel: 69.2 (-1.9), Jake Funk: 58.9 (-0.3), Buddy Howell: 66.6 (DNP)
With Darrell Henderson on IR and Cam Akers still slated to return in Week 18, Sony Michel had to carry the load again. He rushed 19 times for 74 yards, 1 TD. He also added 3 rec (5 targets) for 25 yards; dropping 1 pass.
Sony’s success was predicated on finding cut back lanes. Early on he struggled to see those holes. As the game went along, he hit spots with precision.
On stretch plays, Sony wasn’t able to turn the corner against the BAL front seven. Calais Campbell and Co. did a good job of holding containment and limiting Michel to short gains.
Week 17 Grade: B-, Overall: B+, Trend: Slight Downward
Cooper Kupp: 92.0* (+0.2), Odell Beckham Jr: 67.6 (-0.8), Van Jefferson: 59.6 (+1.8), Bennett Skowronek: 58.1 (+0.3), L. Akers: 58.3 (N/A), Robert Woods: 75.7 (IR), Jacob Harris: 58.7 (IR), TuTu Atwell: 60.7 (IR)
Cooper Kupp: 6 rec (7 targets) for 95 yards, 1 TD
Odell Beckham Jr: 5 rec (7 targets) for 39 yards, 1 TD.
Van Jefferson: 4 rec (5 targets) for 63 yards.
Kupp had seen 51 targets over the last 4 games (~13/game). That number was sliced nearly in half vs. Baltimore. But, he still created YAC with his smaller target share in true Cooper Kupp fashion.
In examining these WRs, the Rams are still trying to find consistency with Stafford on vertical routes. Against Seattle, Stafford targeted Kupp on a vertical route and was intercepted by Q. Diggs. Against Minnesota, Stafford targeted Jefferson on a deep corner route and was intercepted by X. Woods. Against Baltimore, Stafford targeted Beckham on a deep fly and was intercepted by C. Clark. Three attempts in three weeks. 3 INTs. I’m not blaming the WRs for Stafford’s miscues, I’m just noting the Rams struggles in the deep passing game as of late. The Rams will probably need that Stafford deep ball to hit in the playoffs.
Van Jefferson (53% snap share): It’s pretty clear to this point that Van has “the drops”. He’s good for one per game... He dropped a 1st half shallow post from Stafford that went right through his hands. The pass may have been a little behind. But Van needs to get his eyes up out of his break quicker.
Skowronek (47% snap share) saw a significant uptick in snaps this week. He caught 2 passes (2 targets) for 18 yards.
Odell Beckham was a hero on the final drive. He made a huge 4th down grab, a true “hands” catch. To put the cherry on top, he caught the game-winning TD on the next play. OBJ’s stat line would have actually had another reception and 11 yards had the refs not called an illegal blindside block on Michel (incorrect call).
Week 17 Grade: B, Overall: A-, Trend: Neutral
Tyler Higbee: 63.8 (+1.3), Kendall Blanton: 38.6 (+0.9), Brycen Hopkins: 52.4 (DNP), Johnny Mundt: 64.7 (IR)
Higbee was off to a hot start in this game; catching 3 passes on the first drive. However, Stafford went to the well one too many times too early on his 4th pass attempt to Higbee. He finished with 6 rec (9 targets), 69 yards, 0 TD. I said Higbee would be a good 3rd option for Stafford and their connection proves to be stronger than Stafford/Jefferson.
Kendall Blanton (5% snap share) was not targeted.
Week 17 Grade: B, Overall: C+, Trend: Slight Upward
Andrew Whitworth: 84.8 (COVID), Joe Noteboom: 78.3 (COVID), David Edwards: 66.1 (+1.3), Brian Allen: 78.3 (+0.6), Coleman Shelton: 56.6 (-5.4), Austin Corbett: 69.4 (-0.7), Bobby Evans: 48.2 (+0.1), Rob Havenstein: 81.9 (+1.8), Alaric Jackson: 70.2 (+32.3)
The entire starting offensive line was back in place for the first time since the first play against Jacksonville.
Outside of 1 sack allowed by Havenstein, the OL kept Stafford clean for the most part, and with the Rams behind by 9 points going into the 4th quarter, this unit giving Stafford time to throw and go 14/14 says a lot.
Baltimore’s run defense was ranked #2 going into this game, and the Rams OL showed the ability to go toe-to-toe with this group. While 74 rushing yards for Michel isn’t earth-shattering, the Rams didn’t hold a lead until 0:57 left in the game - so take that with a grain of salt.
Week 17 Grade: A-, Overall: A-, Trend: Neutral
Aaron Donald: 94.1* (+0.2), A’Shawn Robinson: 71.9 (-1.3), Greg Gaines: 72.3 (-2.7), Bobby Brown III: 63.4 (+0.8), Marquise Copeland: 69.8 (+1.4), Mike Hoecht: 46.7 (DNP), Jonah Williams: 66.3 (DNP), Sebastian Joseph-Day: 62.4 (IR)
Aaron Donald had 5 tackles (3 solo), 0.5 sack, 1 TFL, and a FF. That’s now 5.5 sacks in his last 5 games. Aaron Donald has found a new way to stuff the stat sheet and that is with 77 tackles (his next best season was in 2015 with 69).
A’Shawn (59% snap share) collected his first career sack as a Ram. He also had 6 tackles (4 solo) and 1 TFL. Greg Gaines (97% snap share) recorded 3 tackles (2 solo). Baltimore ran 32 times for 165 yards (5.2 yards/carry). However, it was on Baltimore’s second to last drive where they accounted for 60 rushing yards. That drive only resulted in a field goal after a Los Angeles Rams redzone stand.
Copeland (10% snap share) and Brown III (1% snap share) did not record any tackles.
When the team needed the defense the most, they held strong and ultimately got the ball back in the hands of the offense to win the game.
This group will be tested one more time by a Top 10 rushing offense. The Rams have quietly climbed their way in the 2nd half of the season to be a dominant run defense. I’m not sure if this defense line has used Week 10 as a motivator, but it’s been working and now they’ll come full circle with the team that embarrassed them in the trenches on MNF.
Week 17 Grade: B+, Overall: A-, Trend: Neutral
Troy Reeder: 44.6 (-2.4), Ernest Jones: 58.6 (IR), Travin Howard: 69.2 (+0.3)
Travin Howard (28% snap share) saw a small snap share because of Baltimore’s run-heavy scheme. I expect the Rams will use a similar approach with San Francisco.
Troy Reeder wasn’t a liability in this one. He did miss a tackle via a poor angle in the first half, but outside of that - he collected 9 tackles (6 solo), 1 sack. Reeder isn’t ever going to excite the Rams fan base, but he has played well in the last two games.
Week 17 Grade: B-, Overall: B-, Trend: Neutral
Leonard Floyd: 74.9 (-1.2), Von Miller: 87.5 (+1.1), Justin Hollins: 70.3 (+0.9), Terrell Lewis: 50.3 (INA), Ogbonnia Okoronkwo: 84.8 (-0.6), Chris Garrett: 53.8 (INA), Justin Lawlar: 63.8 (INA)
Von Miller comes alive. His 2 sacks were difference-makers in getting the Rams the win. It was awesome to see him step up in a clutch situation; further cementing his clutch ability as a future HoF, but also as a player on this Rams team that can pull the Rams to victory.
Leonard Floyd added 0.5 sack. He has cooled off in the 2nd half; only managing 2 sacks in his last 7 games.
Justin Hollins (15% snap share) and Okoronwko (14% snap share) played less than usual, in large part to the Rams deficit and the Ravens run first mentality.
Week 17 Grade: A-, Current Grade: A-, Trend: Slight Upward
Jalen Ramsey: 84.8* (-0.3), Darious Williams: 64.4 (+3.4), David Long Jr.: 60.2 (-2.9), Dont’e Deayon: 71.4 (+2.2), Robert Rochell: 61.9 (IR), Kareem Orr: 28.1 (DNP)
The Ravens did not really test the Rams defensive backs, except for one play - and Jordan Fuller made them pay. The Ravens used the game plan of quick slants and short out routes for Tyler Huntley. Huntley wasn’t able to move the ball against the Rams secondary with any efficiency. The only long pass was a missed tackle and coverage on Mark Andrew for 33 yards.
Huntley threw in Ramsey’s direction a few times, and while he completed a few passes for minimal gains, he also had to throw multiple passes away/out of bounds because of Ramsey’s tight coverage on the outbreaking routes.
Darious Williams played very well against his former team. He collected 6 tackles (4 solo) with a pass deflection that was nearly an INT to end the game.
David Long Jr (31% snap share) was the culprit of the Mark Andrews 33 yard gain.
Week 17 Grade: B, Overall: B, Trend: Neutral
Jordan Fuller: 73.5 (+0.0), Taylor Rapp: 66.1 (+2.1), Terrell Burgess: 55.3 (DNP), Nick Scott: 51.6 (+1.4), JuJu Hughes: 35.5 (DNP)
Jordan Fuller finally got his hands on one this year. And he made it count with a huge 34 yard return; gifting the Rams offense new life before halftime. Credit really can be given to Sean McVay for the turnover though. He goated Harbaugh and the Ravens into taking a deep shot by calling those timeouts before halftime.
Scott (30% snap share) broke his thumb on the last play of the game and is questionable for Week 18, so the Rams could turn to Terrell Burgess if he is unhealthy. Burgess has played a limited amount this year after high off-season expectations. When he has been on the field, it has been underwhelming.
Week 17 Grade: B+, Overall: C+, Trend: Slight Upward
Johnny Hekker: 66.0 (-0.6), Matt Gay: 79.5 (-3.6)
Matt Gay failed to find space between the uprights in this one; missing wide right on a 56 field goal. That snaps his season-long run of making at least 1 field goal per game.
Johnny Hekker punted twice for 92 yards (46.0/avg) with both punts landing inside the 20.
Brandon Powell had an 18 yard punt return. His emergence as a returner single-handedly elevates the value of the kick/punt return team.
Week 17 Grade: B, Overall: C+, Trend: Neutral
MCVAY AND CO.
McVay’s offense was staring down the barrel of being shutout with 1:40 left in the 2nd quarter. Credit the head coach for digging his team out with a pair of timeouts when the Ravens had the ball.
There are overreactions about the amount of consecutive times Stafford passed in this one. The Rams were behind and trying to find momentum. Michel wasn’t seeing his cutback lanes in the 1st half, so I can understand the calls to find a jolt of energy through the passing game.
A lot of TSTers and Rams fans have gone under hiding after calling for Raheem’s job mid-season. Here’s the difference between Morris’s Rams and Staley’s Chargers…
Rushing Yards Allowed
- Rams: 6th (101.2/game)
- Chargers: 30th (136.7/game)
Passing Yards Allowed
- Rams: 20th (237.2/game)
- Chargers: 13th (224.3/game)
- Rams: 23 turnovers forced (17 INTs)
- Chargers: 21 turnovers forced (11 INTs)
- Rams: 47 sacks (2nd)
- Chargers: 32 sacks (24th)
- Rams: 21.6 (15th)
- Chargers: 26.5 (26th)
And considering the Rams defense has been put in a number of bad field positions because of turnovers, their pts/game should reflect better.
Week 17 Grade: McVay: B / Morris: A- / DeCamillis: B, Overall: B+, Trend: Neutral