The Los Angeles Rams could not compete against the playoff-bound Los Angeles Chargers in a 31-10 defeat while also capturing their 11th loss of the season. A strong effort in the first half of the game was followed up with a disappearing act in the second that allowed the Chargers to bench starting quarterback Justin Herbert in favor of their second-string Chase Daniels. The first battle for SoFi supremacy will be a forgettable, yet predictable, defeat for LA. The Chargers get the crown until next matchup, but for now this is the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Let’s get it started.
Cam Akers is setting himself up for a career year next season
Cam Akers ran with a purpose on Sunday, finishing with 123 yards on the ground on 19 carries for an average of 6.5 yards per rush. While the offensive line may have had their best game of the season as far as the rush is concerned, even when there were not gaping holes for Akers to run through he made the most of his opportunities. His elusiveness was on full display as he made defenders miss and catapulted himself additional yards that at first were not there.
He was lackluster in the receiving game with just one catch that went for 10 yards, but a better throw from Baker on an out-route would have significantly improved that stat line. Though he was running all over the Chargers defense it was Akers ability to pass block that was the most impressive. In one instance Mayfield looked like a deer in headlights as an unblocked rusher broke through the line but his running back saved him with an absolutely extraordinary block.
Cam Akers with a block of the year submission. pic.twitter.com/5a3GK2MaGz— NFL Fashion Advice (@fashion_nfl) January 1, 2023
The relationship between him and the coaching staff seems to have healed itself with a solid effort from the third-year running back in the last quarter of football and has set Akers up to be the featured back next season.
Van Jefferson gets separation
With Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson going out for the season due to injury many believed it would be Van Jefferson’s turn to be the number one receiver. That, unfortunately, has not been the case. Despite the Rams going down their depth chart for receivers Jefferson has not had a game over 50 receiving yards, that is until the game against the Chargers. He caught all three of his passes for 77 yards and was by far Mayfield’s best option of the day.
It would have been nice to see him get even more targets but the game did not get out of hand until the second half and the Chargers defense could not stop the run. Jefferson will go back to the third position when Kupp and Robinson return from injury next season but the experience without the Rams top pass catchers could be a positive one for his development, especially if he can carry over Sunday’s effort into the final game of the season against Seattle.
The battle for LA goes the wrong way
SoFi Stadium adorned the Bolt for Sunday’s game and it appears it will be that way at least until the next time the Rams and Chargers face off in the battle for LA. The Chargers not only came away with a win but during the process they also absolutely embarrassed the Rams in front of their home crowd. The Rams did not have much to play for, but defending “Rams House” seemed like a pretty good story line going into Sunday’s game. What the fans actually got was a mediocre display of inconsistency and a lacking effort on the defensive side of the ball.
Raheem Morris does not silence critics
After holding Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos to just 323 yards of total offense while also putting up six sacks and forcing four turnovers Raheem Morris’ defense seemed to have finally figured it out. The critics of his defense were temporarily muted but on Sunday the Rams defense gave a reason for an uproar. The unit did not post a single turnover and allowed Justin Herbert to dice them up all game long. He finished with 21 completions on 28 attempts, two touchdowns, and a QB rating of 119.9. The pass rush was non-existent as not only Herbert but Chase Daniels stayed upright the entire game.
Congrats to Austin Ekeler Fantasy owners on your championship— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) January 1, 2023
The usual stout rushing defense folded at the sight of Austin Ekeler who finished the day with 122 yards on the ground and 39 yards receiving. He averaged 12.2 yards per rush on 10 attempts, though much of that was predicated on a 72 yard scamper that he was barely even touched on.
The worst stat line to come out of Sunday’s game was not the yards they allowed Ekeler and Herbert but was their inadequacy in the red zone. On three trips the Chargers scored four touchdowns and they made it look easy. In games passed Morris’ “bend-not-break” defense has done a decent job at the very least keeping offenses out of the end zone and forcing fields goals, but that was not the case on Sunday.
Former Rams players make a big impact
With injuries piling up all season long the Rams have had to dig deep into their depth to put together a roster worthy of competing. It might be safe to say it has not worked out very well for them, which makes the efforts made by the former Rams players on the Chargers that much more difficult to watch. Of Mayfield’s three sacks two were made by previous Rams depth players Morgan Fox and Sebastion Joseph-Day. On offense Gerald Everett was held to just 15 yards receiving but also found the end zone on a six yard reception.
Les Snead’s top-heavy roster has created a revolving door for depth players and that was on full display Sunday as the Rams could have used the help of the players previously mentioned this season.
Sean McVay is shadowed by his understudies
What does Brandon Staley, Matt LaFleur, Zac Taylor, and Kevin O’Connell have in common? Not only have they all passed through a stint with McVay’s coaching staff, but this year they have all already claimed a playoff position or are still vying for one in Week 18. McVay, for at least a season, has been outplayed by his previous staff members. If records weren’t enough to prove that, McVay’s matchups with his previous assistant coaches might as he is winless against them this season with losses to LaFleur’s Green Bay Packers in Week 15 and the most recent game against Staley’s Chargers. It is an underrated fact of how the revolving door of coaches have effected LA negatively and is not nearly talked about enough. McVay will again be looking for another offensive coordinator and possibly a defensive coordinator if Raheem Morris locks up a head coaching position, it will be interesting to see who those positions go to and what kind of an impact they will have on the team next year.
What were your good, bad, and ugly this week? Let’s discuss in the comments below!