Did Sean McVay know when he released Mason Crosby that he would blow a field goal to seal a one-point Los Angeles Rams win and clinch a playoff birth? If he did he’s a 4D chess-playing genius who knows everything except where to find a decent Special Teams coach. But Occam’s Razor suggests it was blind luck but at this point in the season who cares!
This game was ugly, nerve-wracking, and at times frightening. A loss today would’ve dropped the Rams playoff odds to 24 percent, which might as well be zero. So it was absolutely imperative that they win today. It wasn’t easy but the Rams left New York still in the sixth spot and got to have a “When Harry Met Sally” New Year’s Eve as opposed to a “Boogie Nights” New Year’s Eve.
Everything went wrong today but there were a handful of guys on the team that were able to keep the Rams’ afloat.
Matthew Stafford‘s Magic Ran Out
Whether Matthew Stafford‘s magic was sent to JFK by mistake or Silvio took it to the backroom at the Bada-Bing it sure didn’t make it to the Meadowlands. He was atrocious today throwing two picks when he had been clean the entire month of December.
Today Stafford was 24/34 with a TD and two picks. Those picks were 1000 percent his fault and were entirely preventable. Even when he wasn’t turning the ball over, he was sailing balls over receivers all day and two of the three sacks he took were due to him holding onto the ball too long. Furthermore, he flat-out missed reads that would’ve netted positive yardage.
Yes, the blocking was ROUGH as Wink Martindale’s defense confused the line all day with intricate blitzing. It wasn’t all Joe Noteboom’s fault either, even their good lineman were getting beat. Stafford wasn’t making the throws fans had seen him make all month. Instead, he looked the way he did during the Los Angeles Rams’ mid-season spiral.
McVay is partially responsible because when everyone could see Stafford didn’t have it he abandoned the run for most of the second half like it was a bad New Year’s resolution. Kyren Williams (more on him later) only had three carries in the third quarter which cannot happen if the Rams are to make a playoff run.
The Secondary Couldn’t Cover a Toll Booth
Tyrod Taylor played the exact kind of game many feared he could play. He was able to move around the pocket and just find open receivers all over the field. The secondary was all-around terrible. Ahkello Witherspoon got roaster Jeff Ross-style on an 82-yard touchdown and on a previous drive he gave up an easy third and long.
At every turn the DBs were playing too far off the ball and no matter how far the third down yardage was Tyrod could find a guy open. Jordan Fuller had a pick and Derion Kendrick of all people made a game-saving pass breakup but overall this unit struggled all day. They’re lucky Saquon Barkley dropped the go-ahead two-point conversion and a pass on the final drive. This was a tough day for Raheem Morris’s unit and if it were not for the front seven (hang tight) the Giants win this game outright.
Los Angeles Rams Special Teams Was a Catastrophic Train Wreck
Ethan Evans‘ punts were largely terrific and Ben Skowronek had an incredible field goal block that was called back because the officials couldn’t believe he jumped over a guy without help. (Was he that far off the LoS?)
Other than those two bright spots that unit kept finding new ways to hit rock bottom. They gave up a 92-yard punt return for a touchdown and unlike the Baltimore game, there was no uncalled block in the back. Three different Los Angeles Rams failed to tackle Gunner Olszewski at the same time. It was a masterclass in what not to do in punt coverage and they allowed charitable field position all day.
That’s not even the worst thing that happened today if that can be believed. Lucas Havrisik missed not one but TWO extra points and not just missed them but he shanked them as if he owed Fat Tony money. The Rams’ inability to find a kicker feels like an elaborate bit at this point because surely someone, ANYONE could be better than the Deride of Riverside. He not only deserves to not be on the plane but he deserves to be buried next to Jimmy Hoffa at the Meadowlands.
That sounds mean but he’s proven he’s the single biggest liability on this team. Next season McVay should use every resource at his disposal to find a real kicker and scour the Earth for a competent special teams coach.
The Front Seven was Spectacular
The secondary couldn’t have been trashier if it spent its evenings with Snookie but the front seven saved their asses. Kobie Turner was MARVELOUS with 2.5 sacks putting his season total to 8 which leads all rookies (and yet he’ll receive zero votes). He was also terrific against the run. Aaron Donald put on a show with two sacks, a batted pass, and continuously drawing attention so Byron Young could also get a sack. Young also had four tackles and was decent in pass coverage. Michael Hoecht improved in coverage and got a half sack.
Ernest Jones was the most unsung hero today as not only did he lead in tackles with 13 but he was huge against the run and took the Giants out of field goal range. He passed James Laurinitis for most tackles by a Ram in a single season with 142 and leads all linebackers this year with 30 pressures. He also has a 20.2 win percentage which is second in the league. He’s earned an extension and then some. He also registered a half sack on a key fourth down. Ernest Jones came up big today just as he’s done all year.
Kyren Williams and Puka Nacua Kept the Offense Afloat
Kyren Williams had as great a day as he could. He had 87 yards which doesn’t sound great but he also had three touchdowns. Furthermore, he was also terrific as a blocker, saving Stafford’s bacon on more than one occasion. McVay should’ve leaned on him more than he did because outside of the Cooper Kupp touchdown he was the Rams’ only source for points.
Speaking of blocking, Puka was great as a run blocker and sprung Kyren for two of his touchdowns. As a runner, Puka was able to get two first downs, and as a receiver, he was his incredible self notching another 100+-yard game. He didn’t break the record today but his 5 catches and 118 yards were more than needed. Demarcus Robinson would warrant praise but he had two massive drops and a fumble.
Los Angeles Rams Clinch A Playoff Spot!
Despite their massive amount of miscues, mistakes, and acts of malpractice the Los Angeles Rams pulled out a win. It wasn’t pretty or deserved but this time of year ‘deserves’ got nothing to do with it. Glass half full would say that this shows that the Rams’ are resilient and can find ways to win. Glass half empty would see this as a harbinger of doom when the competition gets tougher.
We won’t know for two weeks as the Niners are likely going to sit guys because they already have the one seed. One would think Kyle Shanahan would want to stick it to McVay but not at the expense of a Super Bowl run. Either way, the Rams need to fix a ton of things before they go on the road and look to make noise in the playoffs (assuming they hold on to their spot). Today aged fans by at least ten years but it was worth it.
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!