We could look back on Sunday’s win by the Los Angeles Rams over the Seattle Seahawks and reflect on this game being a moment of transition. After losing close games earlier this season to the Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Green Bay Packers, the Rams finally emerged on the right side of a hard-fought battle.
While the passing game couldn’t get much going through three quarters, the Matthew Stafford-Puka Nacua connection came alive late to lead a game-winning drive that resulted in a Lucas Havrisik field goal. Aaron Donald, who lived in the Seattle backfield, and the defense did just enough to force the Seahawks to settle for a long field goal—and ultimately Jason Myers’ attempt sailed just outside of the upright.
What went right for the Rams? Who stood out on an individual level from both a positive and negative perspective? Let’s take a look at the PFF grades from this NFC West matchup:
Top five offensive grades:
1 - Puka Nacua, WR: 84.8
It wasn’t the most impressive statistical day for Nacua, who finished with 70 yards and a touchdown on five receptions; however, the rookie’s touchdown was along the goal line and came just before half time. The majority of his yardage came in the fourth quarter with the outcome of the game on the line. Nacua is now at 69 receptions for 897 yards and 3 TD’s on the season. He could soon break the 1,000-yard threshold.
With Cooper Kupp oft-injured and not playing up to his usual standard, it’s fair to wonder what this Rams offense would be this season if it weren’t for finding a historical diamond in the rough in the fifth round of the NFL Draft. Sure, Tutu Atwell would probably have a more significant role. LA wouldn’t have traded away Van Jefferson. Still, this passing offense is already inconsistent but they’d be much worse without their dynamic rookie receiver.
Puka Nacua was pure energy in the gritty win over Seattle.— RAMS ON FILM (@RamsOnFilm) November 20, 2023
The rookie had a crucial TD before the end of the half and then clutch yardage on the go ahead score drive to finish the 4th quarter pic.twitter.com/uoIzjS6xSt
2 - Demarcus Robinson, WR: 72.5
Robinson played only seven offensive snaps, of which five were passing plays. He hauled in both of his targets for 24 yards, including a 23-yard catch and run.
3 - Royce Freeman, RB: 72.0
Freeman has been the Rams’ best back since Kyren Williams was placed on injured reserve a little over a month ago. He displayed in this game particularly why he should be in the starting lineup over Darrell Henderson, and Henderson should not be on the field (or maybe even the roster) once Williams and backup Ronnie Rivers return.
Freeman rushed 17 times for 73 yards (4.3 average) and earned an impressive pass blocking grade of 82.3. Henderson earned only a single yard on six carries but caught four passes for 28 yards.
Royce Freeman had another extremely efficient day running the ball for the Rams.— Blaine Grisak (@bgrisakTST) November 20, 2023
Among RBs with at least 15 carries, Freeman led the NFL in rushing yards over expected per attempt in Week 11. Zero negative runs.
He's added a "Sony Michel-like" physicality to the run game. pic.twitter.com/FS360AQy7w
4 - Kevin Dotson, RG: 71.5
Doston is consistently among the top-graded players on offense and has been LA’s best individual lineman this season. He surrendered only a single pressure while his neighbors, Coleman Shelton and Rob Havenstein, allowed five combined.
5 - Matthew Stafford, QB: 68.4
It wasn’t Stafford’s best performance in this game, but he did just enough to get the win. In terms of PFF grading, this was his third-worst individual game on the 2023 season.
Stafford completed 17 of 31 attempts (54.8%) for 190 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. Rams receivers dropped two passes which bolstered his adjusted completion rate to 70.4. Of all QB’s with a least 260 drop backs this season, Stafford (71.2%) ranks only in front of Kenny Pickett (69.9%) and Jordan Love (69.7%) in adjusted completion percentage.
One interesting data point is that Stafford held the ball for the longest amount of time on average that he has all season. He had a time to throw of 3.35 seconds with his next closest outing being 2.76 seconds against the Bengals. As a result the offensive line was credited with 12 pressures while Stafford was dinged for two. Seattle recorded 14 pressures total.
Matthew Stafford to Cooper Kupp sheesh pic.twitter.com/sS7spM6bpr— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) November 20, 2023
Other notes on offense:
Tyler Higbee continues to struggle for Los Angeles. He was called for pass interference on a key completion that brought back a sizeable game in a key moment. Higbee also allowed two pressures in pass protection on only seven reps.
Top five defensive grades:
1 - Aaron Donald, DE: 86.9
Donald had one of his best individual performances of the season in this game and seemed to live in the Seattle backfield. He earned seven total pressures, including three QB hits. One of this hits knocked Geno Smith out of the game for multiple series. Backup Drew Lock threw an interception while Smith was on the sideline.
Aaron Donald is still terrifying pic.twitter.com/EnCrKpCa9s— NFL on CBS (@NFLonCBS) November 19, 2023
2 - Christian Rozeboom, MLB: 81.3
Rozeboom was on the field for 16 plays, of which 13 were passes. He notched an impressive coverage grade of 90.3 by allowing only a single reception on two targets that went for a one-yard loss. He recorded a pass breakup on an interceptable pass.
3 - Jonah Williams, DE: 76.1
Williams has been one of LA’s best run defenders this season, and his performance on Sunday was no exception. He also was productive in the passing game with two pressures—one of which resulted in a sack.
4 - Derion Kendrick, CB: 73.5
This game was a rollercoaster for Derion Kendrick, though the grade indicates this was one of his better games on the season. Kendrick was called for unnecessary roughness on the opening drive and then later earned a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after intercepting Drew Lock.
Smith seemed intent on targeting Kendrick early and often. On eight targets the second-year corner allowed only three receptions for 21 yards along with a pass breakup and the aforementioned pick.
5 - Michael Hoecht, OLB: 71.8
While he was oft-maligned early in the season, Michael Hoecht has hit his stride and has been one of LA’s better defenders over the last month or so. This wasn’t an overly productive game from him from a pass rush perspective, but Hoecht was effective in coverage. He allowed two receptions on three targets for negative two yards as he controlled the flat often.
Other notes on defense:
Ahkello Witherspoon did not perform up to his usual standard in this game as he was credited with three completions for 59 yards on five attempts. This was good for a passer rating of 140.8. The veteran corner also missed two tackles on four attempts and earned a tackling grade of only 21.8.