The Los Angeles Rams had lost six games in a row heading into Thursday Night Football against the Las Vegas Raiders. The Raiders were clinging to slim playoff hopes, and their fans outnumbered the home team’s supporters at SoFi Stadium in primetime.
It was an unlikely hero that saved the Rams from turning their six-game losing streak into a seven-game losing streak - Baker Mayfield requested a release from the Carolina Panthers. He hit the waiver wire on Monday, and by Tuesday afternoon he was on his way to Los Angeles. With less than 48-hours to prepare, Mayfield elevated those around him to take down the Raiders in the final minute of the game.
After being the butt of many, many jokes over the last three months, Mayfield got the last laugh on Thursday Night Football. He was one of several individuals that stood out against Las Vegas.
Baker Mayfield, QB
It’s a mystery why John Wolford earned the starting nod, but he was only in for the first drive and didn’t even attempt a pass.
Mayfield then came into the game and showed immediately that he is the more talented quarterback. The veteran QB played well on the scripted offensive plays, but then the offense started to sputter. The Rams were able to put together two touchdown drives late, and Mayfield seemed to get more comfortable as the game went on.
Credit to Mayfield for elevating the rest of the offense in a way no Rams quarterback has done this season, leading Ben Skowronek to a career day and getting productive outings from Tutu Atwell and Van Jefferson.
BAKER MAYFIELD MASTERCLASS pic.twitter.com/Hoo2dMqmz3— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) December 9, 2022
Ben Skowronek & Tutu Atwell, WR
Skowronek had two key catches that stand out:
The first where he plucked the ball just inches off the turf and then had the recognition that he was untouched and earned some yards after the catch. Las Vegas challenged the call, but the catch was upheld.
The second came on the final drive and in double coverage. Skowronek went up and attacked the ball, coming down with a clutch 32-yard reception.
Skowronek finished with seven catches for 89 yards.
Atwell also added 50 yards on five receptions, and he made multiple catches on the final drive. It’s clear the speedster is furthering the development of his route tree and contributing to the offense in new ways - which bodes well for his outlook in 2023.
Bobby Wagner, MLB
The Rams help Josh Jacobs to 98 yards on 27 carries (3.7 avg), which is much better than some teams have fared against him this season.
Bobby Wagner played an important role in bottling Jacobs up, and the veteran finished with 14 total tackles. He’s played very well in recent weeks, especially in the run game.
Michael Hoecht, OLB
First, it’s important to note that Michael Hoecht struggled to maintain and/or set the edge in the running game, and as a result receiver Mack Hollins was very productive on jet sweep and rushing attempts on the outside - he had three carries for 40 yards.
But Hoecht continues to flash as a pass rusher, and it’s the equivalent of the Rams finding 20 dollars in the pocket of their jeans. At the very least Hoecht figures to be a key rotational player at edge next season, but he could be on his way to taking over a starting job.
Hoecht hit Derek Carr on the Raiders’ final offensive play to assist in the interception by Taylor Rapp.
THAT'S GAME— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) December 9, 2022
Taylor Rapp picks off Derek Carr as the Rams STUN the Raiders pic.twitter.com/rUtUXFYUfA
Greg Gaines, DT
In the same light as Wagner, Gaines was also important in stopping the run and played well in this game. He finished with six total tackles and often disrupted the Las Vegas ground attack. He was important in the 3rd-and-1 stop to give the offense back the ball with two minutes left in the game.
Bryce Perkins, QB
Why has Perkins been on some form of the Rams’ roster for the last three years when a QB that has been with the team less than 48 hours already has leapfrogged him on the depth chart? LA has spent years and effort developing Perkins as a quarterback, but at this point it’s time to call it a failed experiment.
If Perkins isn’t going to play, the Rams should stop burning the roster spot and move on.
Cam Akers, RB
Yes, Akers had an important touchdown on the first of two consecutive touchdown drives; however, Akers had another fumble that took away a red zone possession from the Rams - and it continues a concerning trend for the young running back.
Akers had some good runs, but this fumble outweighs the positives.
Coleman Shelton, RG
Rob Haventein was called for holding on a screen play after Atwell had already run by him and earned the first down, which is a head scratching move by a veteran and a questionable flag by the officials. This backed up the offense and took away a key first down in the red zone.
Coleman Shelton followed up Havenstein’s flag with a dead ball foul just before a field goal attempt by Matt Gay, which cost the offense another 15-yards of field possession. This resulted in a 61-yard and improbable attempt by Gay, and the kick had no chance. It was an unfortunate lapse in judgement by the lineman.
Matt Skura, LG
Bobby Evans has been an oft-criticized player on the offensive line this season, and he’s been a healthy scratch in recent weeks because of that criticism.
But the on-field play from Matt Skura has not been much better, and the Rams’ quarterbacks are being pressured often from the left guard spot. Mayfield was sacked four times and Skura was the culprit for at least a couple of those.