The Los Angeles Rams dominated the Washington Commanders in nearly every facet of their Sunday NFC battle despite the final score of 28-20 indicating a narrow margin. The offensive line consistently created room for RB Kyren Williams, who fought for yards beyond what was available to the naked eye. LA controlled the trenches on both sides of the football as Sam Howell was constantly under duress up to the point of his benching in favor of Jacoby Brissett.
The Rams are playing their best football at the most important point in the season. Dominos are seemingly—and for now—falling in their favor and creating an opening in the NFC playoff picture. Los Angeles is back to .500 and will look forward to a Thursday Night Football clash against the New Orleans Saints that will be important for the postseason fate of both teams.
Which individual contributions helped the Rams down the Commanders to keep their playoff dreams alive? Let’s take a look at the “winners” and “losers” from Week 15:
LA averaged a whopping 5.4 yards per carry in this game with several individuals getting involved. Kyren Williams had most of the work with 27 carries (arguably too much work), and Royce Freeman contributed with another six rushes on his own. Receivers Demarcus Robinson and Puka Nacua added three carries for 26 yards.
Stafford was sacked three times but this strikes me more as a product of coverage forcing him to hold the ball at times. The pass protection mostly seemed solid. Joe Noteboom did have some tough moments, including in the run game where I can think of at least two occasions where he was blown up and a tackle for loss was made in the backfield.
Quentin Lake, DB
This was Lake’s first game back after he missed the last month or so with a hamstring injury. He immediately proved his worth by forcing an incomplete pass and a three-and-out on Washington’s opening possession.
In a year where the Rams are hoping to uncover who’s worth keeping around on defense, Lake seems like a valuable piece moving forward.
Demarcus Robinson, WR
I was worried that Los Angeles might not have enough firepower or deep speed with Tutu Atwell sidelined with a concussion; however. Robinson stepped up in a big way at WR#3 and caught a touchdown pass for his third-straight game. He’s a bigger than he looks target with a large catch radius, and he seems to be building a positive chemistry with Matthew Stafford.
Robinson finished with two receptions for 44 yards, a touchdown, and added a rush for another 23 yards. Not too shabby.
The Rams extend their lead on this BEAUTY of a touchdown by Demarcus Robinson pic.twitter.com/MBbQ4X0qZJ— LA Rams Nation (@RamsNationCP) December 17, 2023
Matthew Stafford, QB
Stafford was sharp in the first half and took what the defense gave him, maybe with only one or two incompletions through two quarters. It was clear that Washington wasn’t going to allow Stafford and the Rams to beat them deep, and it was refreshing seeing Stafford be patient and work underneath. When the opportunity presented itself (arguably in the form of a busted coverage by the Commanders), Stafford launched the ball for a 62-yard touchdown to Cooper Kupp. Most important is the veteran kept the ball out of harm’s way.
Stafford completed 25 of 33 passes (76%) for 258 yards and two scores.
Commanders might wanna cover Cooper Kupp pic.twitter.com/Wn2GPl7eKv— Footballism (@FootbaIIism) December 17, 2023
Bobby Brown, DT
The Rams held the Commanders late at the goal line until a penalty by Derion Kendrick gave Washington a new set of downs. Brown played an important role in building a wall and not ceding a touchdown on the ground.
Generally the run defense held up and allowed 4.2 yards per attempt. Washington had some success when rookie Chris Rodriguez came in to start the second half, but ultimately LA adjusted and kept the running attack at bay.
While his first two years of his career were fairly quiet, Bobby Brown is becoming an important player along the Rams defensive line.
Derion Kendrick, CB
Star receiver Terry McLaurin had a big day. It seemed Ahkello Witherspoon was able to bottle him up for the most part and that most of McLaurin’s production came against Derion Kendrick. Kendrick allowed three intermediate-to-deep passes to McLaurin, including a touchdown drive from Jacoby Brissett that started Washington’s comeback momentum. The second-year corner also committed an ill-advised penalty late to give the Commanders life at the goal line and reduce the lead down to a single possession.
Kendrick drew a difficult assignment in this game, but it is further proof that he’s being miscast as a full-time outside starting corner.
Get Terry McLaurin the football…good things happen.pic.twitter.com/YJB5GdcGVc— Scott Abraham (@Scott7news) December 17, 2023
Kyren Williams’ ball security
It wouldn’t be fair to call Williams an outright “loser” in this game as he was the focal point of the Rams offense while the Commanders made an conscious effort to limit big plays. LA probably does win this game without his 27 carries for 152 yards and a touchdown with another five catches for three yards.
Still, his two fumbles gave Washington life when they were otherwise being dominated in nearly every aspect of the game. Both gave in Commanders territory and killed long, promising drives for LA. The stakes are only going to get more significant for this team, and they can’t afford for Williams to be careless with the ball.
Tyler Higbee, TE
Higbee hauled in an awesome pass and toe-drag catch from Matthew Stafford and finished with four receptions for 36 yards; however, he incurred a false start penalty early in the game that put the Rams behind the chains. Rookie Davis Allen continues to learn the ropes of the offense and is finding moments to contribute.
Are we sure Davis isn’t a better player at this point in his career than Higbee, especially when you factor in that Davis will be on a cost-controlled rookie contract for three more seasons and Higbee was just rewarded with a new contract extension?
Deep passing coverage
Aside from the individual issues with Kendrick, this is the second week in a row where opposing offenses have found great success in the deep areas of LA’s coverage. Lamar Jackson threw touchdown passes, including one to former Ram Odell Beckham, Jr., last week. Sam Howell didn’t find much success in this game, but that changed once Brissett took over.
While the Saints might not seem like a daunting matchup, Derek Carr still has the arm talent and weapons at his disposal to make you pay in the deep portions of the field. If the Rams don’t correct this issue, they may find themselves on the outside looking in on the playoff race.