It was no secret that the Los Angeles Rams were outmatched in almost every facet of the game when they took the field on the home turf of the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday afternoon. While the final score seems lopsided at 26-10, LA fought to stay competitive.
The Chiefs are 8-2 and are the current favorites to represent the AFC in the 2022 Super Bowl, which would be their third such berth in four years. The Rams are now 3-8 and have tapped into the lowest rungs of their depth chart - further than they realistically could have expected at the start of the year.
After winning Super Bowl LVI this calendar year, Los Angeles was forced to trot out their third-string quarterback, Bryce Perkins, against one of the top signal callers in all the NFL, Patrick Mahomes. The result wasn’t pretty, but the Rams made it as much of a fight as they could have hoped for.
Here’s who stood out on an individual level:
Sean McVay, Head Coach
The Rams’ leading man said in a glowing profile this offseason that he’s never known what it’s like to coach in adversarial conditions, but he’s getting more than his fair share in 2022. With injuries continuing to erode this roster and forcing players onto the field before they are ready, McVay has done an admirable job keeping his locker room intact and fostering a continually competitive environment.
Look around the league at other teams at a 3-8 record or similar. You can tell if their coach still earns the respect of his team - and that’s not a problem for McVay in his first losing season. There’s no reason to think McVay isn’t the right guy to help steer Los Angeles back towards winning in 2023.
Rams fans had a good showing
I was at the game and was surprised how much royal blue there was in the stands. Perhaps it was mostly fans that stuck with the team through its relocation from St. Louis to Los Angeles and made the four-hour drive to Kansas City. The Rams play at Arrowhead only once every eight years typically, so good on fans for making an appearance on Sunday afternoon.
Michael Hoecht, OLB
Hoecht entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2020 and has been a depth piece along the Rams’ interior defensive line since. He’s one of LA best special teams players, and he’s willing to run down the field on kickoffs in a way you wouldn’t expect for a defensive tackle.
And now that makes sense, because Hoecht has transformed his body and grown into an outside linebacker for Los Angeles - a role he’s taken to over the last two weeks. The Rams released Justin Hollins this week, but Hoecht has also leapfrogged over former third rounder Terrell Lewis on the depth chart.
It’s not just impressive that Hoecht has earned playing time - he’s also playing well. He pressured Mahomes on multiple occasions, drew a holding penalty, and recorded six tackles. There was one play where Mahomes completed an intermediate throw to a receiver and Hoecht ran from the backfield to take the ball carrier down - a sign of relentless effort.
I thought Michael Hoecht showed some spit & fire, along with some pressure on the best QB in the game, out there today. Give more snaps to him going forward.— Mike Winchell (@mrmikewinch) November 28, 2022
Tutu Atwell, WR
We’ve been told all season that Atwell’s understanding of the route tree has not yet developed to the point where he can be a mainstay in the offensive rotation; however, the second-year receiver’s performance in Kansas City shows he can get open on short and intermediate crossing routes in addition to deep routes. Perkins and Atwell connected on fourth-and-two to convert, which shows the receiver is ready for more work in this offense.
It’ll be important to continue to involve Atwell with Allen Robinson ruled out for the remainder of the season.
.@TDN_Perk ➡️ @tutuatwell makin' plays on 4th down!— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) November 27, 2022
@NFLonFOX | https://t.co/4beUdmlymg pic.twitter.com/mAJ9b7Xvcq
AJ Arcuri, LT
It was tough for the Ty Nsekhe to be inactive for this game due to injury after he played well last week against the New Orleans Saints; however, his absense allowed the Rams to get an extended look at seventh round rookie AJ Arcuri.
Frank Clark bested the rookie early on, but Arcuri seemed to settle in and played well for the rest of the game. He also looks the part as a large, physically imposing body.
There’s no reason to trot out Nsekhe at this point, as there’s limited benefit in giving playing time to a 37 year old journeyman over a developing rookie.
Nick Scott, DB
David Long, Taylor Rapp, and Nick Scott all three are key secondary players with contracts that are set to expire after the season, but only Scott seems worth retaining at this point.
He made a key interception on Mahomes in the end zone to end a Chiefs drive, and he laid several big hits on rookie running back Isiah Pacheco.
Bend but don’t break!!! Aaron Donald owes Nick Scott half a game check pic.twitter.com/kVqBOIPP7l— 732 Studios (@732_studios) November 27, 2022
Bryce Perkins, QB
Perkins had the opportunity in this game to show he’s capable of being the full-time understudy to Matthew Stafford moving forward, but he didn’t show the ability to consistently throw the football down the field.
Yes, Perkins is downright electric with the football in his hands - but he needs to show growth at getting the ball into the hands of his teammates if he wants to take the next step in his career.
First NFL touchdown for Rams QB Bryce Perkins— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) November 27, 2022
(via @NFL) pic.twitter.com/6EtUv0kJty
David Long & Derion Kendrick, CB
Most of the Chiefs’ biggest passing plays came against either Long or Kendrick in coverage. Kendrick was also flagged for a holding call and was caught on multiple occasions playing the receiver instead of looking back for the ball.
The Skyy Moore haters don’t want you to see this: pic.twitter.com/vlT6JI675U— Price Carter (@priceacarter) November 28, 2022
The Rams continue to cite that they cannot run their coverage schemes as intended due to a lack of trust in the secondary, which makes their decision to let Darious Williams walk in free agency more of a head scratcher.
It’s fine to move on from Williams if you had a plan to replace him, but the Rams vision is not clear here. Either Long didn’t take a step forward as expected or LA underestimated how much of a loss Williams actually was.
Derion Kendrick should be benched for lack of effort. https://t.co/88OjFvoCgA— WILLHANS ILI (@willhansili) November 27, 2022
Leonard Floyd, OLB
In a game where Aaron Donald was consistently disruptive in the backfield, the Rams really needed another defender to complement his pass rush production. You’d expect Floyd to be that person, but he didn’t generate much pass rush production and even lost contain on Mahomes on multiples plays - leading to big scrambles by the quarterback.
Matt Skura & Oday Aboushi, OG
The interior offensive line did not hold up in pass protection, but they had a tough matchup against Chris Jones - who’s even rivaling Aaron Donald in terms of pass rush production this season.
By my eye test Skura was the biggest liability along the offensive line, but I’m not sure Aboushi played much better. If Matthew Stafford was in this game we might have been looking at a seven or eight sack game, so this unit should be grateful for Perkins’ ability to evade pressure.