Last week left a terrible taste in everyone’s mouth. Sean McVay and the Los Angeles Rams rightly didn’t celebrate their NFC West win as it was basically by default. They weren’t popping any champagne, they weren’t pulling a Homer and chanting “DE-FAULT, HOO HOO DE-FAULT”.
Due to the Rams taking their foot off the gas, they failed to do themselves, and the rest of America, a favor by knocking out the Niners; the doubts came back.
Matthew Stafford can’t win in the playoffs, Raheem Morris’s defense can’t stop good teams, Odell Beckham Jr. disappears in big moments, etc.
The alarms got louder when the Rams went to a log cabin in the mountains and convinced Eric Weddle to come back for one last mission. The secondary was in shambles and the offensive line was gone. Now, after SMOKING the Cardinals 34-11 none of that matters.
Matthew Stafford came into this game the same as he’s come into every game and will continue until they win a Super Bowl, with all the pressure in the world on him. The narrative surrounding the trade potentially being the biggest blunder in recent history came into play and Stafford had to silence his critics. His 13/17, 202 yards, two passing TDs, and one rushing TD represented him at his most efficient. The line gave him time and of course, good things happened.
McVay called a great game and despite going in empty set more than many would like, he didn’t abandon the run. He also showed that he’s not afraid to be creative. After scoring a receiving touchdown, Beckham threw a 40-yard pass to Cam Akers. For a while, that was more yards than Kyler Murray had in the game.
Akers proved he’s gaining steam the more time he gets. He had 55 yards on the ground and looked explosive. He had several runs that could’ve gone long that were called back due to penalties.
Sony Michel had 58 yards of his own and the offensive line was as balanced as it’s been all season. Andrew Whitworth was hurt early and even though he continued to play, McVay wasn’t afraid to replace him with Joe Noteboom for a series or two.
McVay also clearly learned from his mistakes last week. His two challenges were both big swings in the game. Yes, he shouldn’t have had to use them in the first half but he did, and good thing too.
The first one confirmed an obvious Stafford touchdown, and the other confirmed Nick Scott‘s massive hit on A.J. Green which forced an incomplete pass that allowed for the David Long pick-six the very next play.
Defensively, the Rams were incredible. They allowed a season-low 183 yards, and through the Cardinals first for drives they had a net -4 yards.
Von Miller had a sack while Aaron Donald and Greg Gaines shared a sack. Travin Howard had several big hits and Marquise Copeland had an interception. The Cardinals had Chase Edmonds and James Conner active and it didn’t matter. They collectively amassed 61 yards. Kyler Murray looked out of sorts the entire night. Yes, they allowed a touchdown and two-point conversion in the third quarter but it didn’t matter.
Even on special teams, the Rams were on point. Johnny Hekker was in vintage mode, Brandon Powell had some solid returns, and Matt Gay was perfect.
Cooper Kupp didn’t even need to make an impact until later. He had a touchdown in the third quarter and prior to that he only had one catch in the game. Still, he finished the game with 61 yards to lead the Rams. Van Jefferson had one catch for 41 yards to set up that score.
Beckham made an impact early and often, while Stafford threw zero picks and wisely took a sack instead of forcing something.
The secondary that was allegedly in shambles came to play. Nick Scott and Terrell Burgess had a fantastic game despite having to start in the safety spot for the first time all year. Weddle didn’t even have to play very much. David Long Jr. had the pick and Darious Williams rebounded from last week.
Things did get a little heated when Donald got into it with one of the linemen on the Cardinals and there was a scuffle following the two-point conversion. There was an ugly moment during a bang-bang play when Cam Akers hit Budda Baker causing him to leave the game. It wasn’t intentional and thank goodness Baker seems to be okay but the second half was beginning to boil over until the Rams put it out of reach late.
The Rams came into the game with a ton of doubt after backing into an NFC West title, but they proved they are not just a playoff team, but the Super Bowl contender they were billed as from the beginning. Tonight the Rams got back on track and proved that they aren’t incapable of protecting leads or don’t have what it takes to beat the elite. Tonight they can dance like they’re in the opening credits of “Peacemaker”, tomorrow they can get back to work. Onto Tampa!