With the win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Rams have outlasted every other team in the NFC with the exception of the San Francisco 49ers. As a franchise, the team could not be in a better spot after ousting Tom Brady. However, some players had a career-changing day for the better and one player had a career-altering day for the worse. Here’s a look at the winners and losers from the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
Los Angeles Rams Winners and Losers: Divisional Round
With one throw, Stafford proved himself to be everything the Rams were hoping for. Heading into the season, the question was whether Stafford could make the key throw in the playoffs when everything was on the line. It was clear that Jared Goff could not, which led to his exit. Stafford’s sole purpose was to make a key throw when needed. When the ball hit Cooper Kupp perfectly on his fly route to set up the game-winning field goal, Stafford answered the question that was a year in the making. Almost no matter how 2021 ends, Stafford will point to that throw as proof that he can win a Super Bowl in Los Angeles. With that throw, Stafford almost completely assured himself that he will retire as a Ram. Of course, that talk is still a long way away, but that is how big this throw was. It will follow him for the next decade.
Playoff Von is back. The sleeping giant simply needed some larger stakes, and he suddenly returned to 2015 form. He only earned one sack against Tom Brady, but he was in his face all game long. It also helped that the Buccaneers were down multiple linemen in the game, but when Miller was hurrying Brady up, flashes of the 18-20 AFC Championship game returned. Next week, Miller faces the former backup to Brady in Jimmy Garoppolo. Will he frustrate Garoppolo in a similar fashion? An awakened Miller could prove to be the difference between hoisting the Lombardi trophy, and not.
Kupp may not have earned the record for the most yards in a regular-season in the history of the NFL, but he earned the record for the most yards in a regular and postseason in NFL history. While the accolade doesn’t have the same level of knowledge or respect as the regular-season equivalent, it remains to be said. Kupp has earned more yards in a season than anyone else in NFL history. With potentially two games to go, Kupp could set the record out of reach for quite some time. In the game, Kupp earned a whopping 183 yards and a touchdown on nine receptions. It was the single-highest game of his season. Put simply, he’s heating up at the perfect time.
Sean McVay put it all on red in the trade for Stafford. If Stafford failed, McVay would have been the scapegoat. Even during the period of Stafford’s struggles during the middle of the regular season, McVay started to get some heat. However, with the win over the Buccaneers and the quality of play from Stafford in the playoffs, McVay’s bet has paid off. At least, the Rams didn’t give up ground in the trade. Now, the coach is just two and a half weeks from immortality. Will he finally accomplish what he’s been building towards since 2017?
Heading into the game, there was a question of whether Sean McVay would ride the hot hand with Sony Michel or force Akers into the starting role. Welp, Akers appears to be the man no matter what happens for the rest of 2021. Cam Akers had 24 carries for 48 yards. Michel had one carry. After tearing his Achilles in the summer, Akers has earned a feel-good story to the end of his season, but he’s a loser for this week because of the two fumbles. Whether it was due to rust or simply poor decisions, Akers put the ball on the ground and put the game in danger. Who knows if this will affect his workhorse role, but it probably should.
A few weeks ago, there was hope that Michel was going to be the main back for the rest of the season. However, just a few weeks later, he’s back in the stable in the same place he was at the start of the season. Akers appears to be the leading back for the Rams for the rest of the season and into next year. Akers rushed 24 times and Michel rushed once.
At this point, it appears that Michel’s future lies elsewhere. That said, he should take solace in how he played when he got the opportunity. There will be a general manager who will look at Michel’s tape and offer him a contract based on that alone. Perhaps in his next home, Michel will get the spotlight he has earned.