The Los Angeles Rams ceded the battle for LA to the Los Angeles Chargers. The Rams showed signs of life in the first half, but it was all Chargers after the break. Austin Ekeler ran wild against a Rams defense that had otherwise held up in that department over the course of this season. Justin Herbert made the big throws when his team needed them the most.
It was a disappointing result in a long, disappointing year for the Rams. They have just one game remaining before we close the book on 2022 - and the Rams can play spoiler to the Seattle Seahawks’ playoff hopes next week.
Here’s who stood out on an individual level - in positive or negative ways - against the Chargers:
Cam Akers, RB
No Ram has been better over the course of the last month than running back Cam Akers, who took a mid-season leave of absence from the team amidst philosophical differences with head coach Sean McVay.
Akers had 19 carries for 123 yards on the ground. He also added another 10 yards on a single reception.
Baker Mayfield just missed Akers on a wheel route on the team’s first possession for what would have been one of the biggest plays of the game - possibly a 60-yard touchdown. Akers deserves some blame for only going after the ball with one hand instead of two, but the pass also should have been thrown with more air under it.
Oh my goodness Cam Akers just buried this dude on a blitz pickup!! pic.twitter.com/QSZabSlhTM— Rob Gallik (@CoachGallik) January 1, 2023
Sean McVay, Head Coach
The box score shows a story of poor production by the offense, but McVay gave his team opportunities for big plays that weren’t always taken advantage of.
The first was the aforementioned wheel route to Akers. Another was a bomb to second-year receiver Tutu Atwell that was just inches away from being converted. McVay’s game plan leveraged a lot of smoke a mirrors - Atwell ran in jet motion almost every play - and 12 personnel, which helped production in both the run game and off play action.
The system was better than the player’s execution in this game.
Van Jefferson, WR
Jefferson had his best outing of the year (which probably tells you just how low the bar is) with three receptions for 77 yards. His longest catch of 39 yards was a bullet from Mayfield who had a lot of green grass in front of him if he decided to instead run.
Jefferson’s role in 2023 is shaping up to be WR#3 on the depth chart, and his performance this season hasn’t suggested that he’s ready to take a step forward in his career beyond that role.
Jalen Ramsey, CB
Ramsey wasn’t targeted often in coverage. He recorded only three tackles which is a relatively slow day for him.
But Ramsey was just a split second away from making the Rams’ biggest defensive play of the game - a strip sack on Herbert that was determined by officials upon review to be an incomplete pass instead of a fumble. The strip sack would have taken the Chargers out of field goal position.
Greg Gaines was an addition to the injury report over the second half of the practice week. While he was active for this game, he didn’t play his usual volume of snaps.
The Rams felt Gaines’ absence in the running game. The Chargers averaged 6.2 yards per carry on their way to a 192 total for the game. They also added two touchdowns on the ground.
It makes sense why the Rams would struggle in this facet - they were without Gaines, Aaron Donald, and A’Shawn Robinson.
Taylor Rapp, DB
Whenever the Chargers had a big passing play, it seemed to me that Taylor Rapp usually wasn’t too far away - and that helps explain how he recorded nine total tackles in the game. Rapp has consistently been a liability in coverage over his Rams tenure and has been the opposite of a fan favorite.
Next week’s game against the Seahawks should be Rapp’s last game in royal and sol, and it probably will be.
Lance McCutcheon, WR
The rookie UDFA got an opportunity from Baker Mayfield on a long ball along the sideline. It seemed like a decent throw from the quarterback, but McCutcheon seemed to short arm the catch and only get his finger tips on the ball. The throw fell to the ground incomplete.
McCutcheon hasn’t had many opportunities to demonstrate his ability, but he hasn’t made the most of those chances either.
Bobby Wagner, MLB
Wagner is probably the Rams’ MVP this season, but this game against the Chargers was one of his worst outings of the year.
Ekeler lost Wagner in space on multiple occasions and Wagner wasn’t able to keep up in the short passing game. It’s worth mentioning that the difficulty of his job goes up without having Donald, Robinson, and/or Gaines in front of him.