After eight weeks of drudgery, injuries, finger-pointing, and axe grinding fans finally have something to celebrate this season. Baker Mayfield led the Los Angeles Rams to a 17-16 win over the slightly more hapless Raiders. That’s right, the Rams got their first win since week six and did so with a QB who has only been in LA for 48 hours.
Mayfield puts his Stamp on the Rams in First Game
It was an ugly game, full of penalties and shots in the foot, but a win is a win. Damn it. Fans can finally enjoy something for the next eleven days without any caveats or reservations, especially because this win came in primetime on Thursday Night Football. Al Michaels hated every minute of the game until the last two minutes and honestly so did America but all’s well that ends well. For at least one night, as the kids would say Baker Mayfield WAS HIM!
In a polarizing move, Mayfield was claimed on Tuesday. Some fans wondered why they’d take on his $1.3 million because adding a QB to a 3-9 team is just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Others saw the bigger picture, the move is low risk because he either sucks and some other team signs him and he becomes a comp pick in 2024 OR he’s decent and Matthew Stafford has a decent backup behind him for at least a year. It’s a low-risk, medium reward, and tonight it paid off.
His bags were probably still unpacked in his underground SoFi apartment (those are real) but he quickly made an impact. Despite John Wolford starting the first series, Mayfield came in and went 22/35 with 236 yards and a TD. The biggest loser in this though was Bryce Perkins because he was healthy and not even considered an option to play tonight. OUCH. Anyway, once Mayfield came in the offense had a spark. His first throw was a 22-yarder to Van Jefferson (2 catches 44 yards 1 TD) and throughout the game found Tutu Atwell (5 catches 50 yards) and Ben Skowronek (7 catches 89 yards).
It wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops though because, on several occasions, Baker made plays but the offensive line would get called for holding. Rob Havenstein and Ty Nsekhe in particular were AWFUL tonight. Sure, blocking Maxx Crosby and company is a tough assignment but they derailed so many drives.
Coleman Shelton had an unsportsmanlike penalty that not only murdered a late third-quarter drive but it forced Matt Gay to try for a 61-yard field goal that he had no business attempting. Cam Akers (12 carries, 42 yards, 1 TD) also ruined what looked to be a scoring drive by fumbling late in the second quarter. Sure, he scored late (barely) but he also routinely ran into defenders and failed to pick up blocks. Kyren Williams (3 carries 19 yards, 1 catch 10 yards) fared better but those opportunities were surprisingly few and far between.
At first, tonight looked to be another rallying cry from the “FIRE RAHEEM” crowd after a quick 75-yard opening drive where Josh Jacobs scored. The defense committed their fair share of penalties (7-60 yards in total flags for the Rams tonight) Once again the debate over whether Jalen Ramsey is washed or just lacking in a pass rush and grown-up defenders to help him out. Davante Adams got 67 of his 71 yards on Jalen but at the same time, the Raiders didn’t go to him nearly as much as they could’ve if Ramsey were truly toasted.
Michael Hoecht went from a fun story to YIKES in the span of four days, Taylor Rapp is further settling into his destiny as a comp pick (yes he had the game-sealing pick but YEESH), and Leonard Floyd is trying to keep himself from being a cap casualty and not succeeding.
On the plus side, Bobby Wagner is still a badass. He led the defense with 14 tackles and his impact on Ernest Jones paid off in a big way as Jones not only had a decent night in run coverage but he picked off Derek Carr in the end zone preventing them from scoring before the half. Despite not getting any sacks, Wagner also chased Carr around all night and even prevented him from running it for a first down. Greg Gaines too kept Carr on the move forcing him into bad throw after bad throw.
Both sides can agree that the refs were also TERRIBLE tonight either calling ticky-tack calls or ignoring calls altogether. Whether it be an illegal man downfield on the Rams final drive or ignoring a Raider running directly into Riley Dixon on a punt. Both teams had a multitude of penalties that made the game borderline unwatchable but that’s the nature of Thursday Night Football. Al Michaels could barely be bothered to read promos or hold back his disgust for “WHOSE HOUSE?” but that might have been because he put some money on the Rams money line.
Tonight might be the last win of the season. So for at least eleven days fans can break from the spiral of negativity. Take Zombieland rule #32 to heart and enjoy the little things. There will be plenty of time for infighting when the Rams travel to Green Bay next Monday Night. For now, just appreciate the fact that Baker Mayfield seems eager to audition to either stay in LA or get the Rams a pick down the road.
Either way, there’s finally something fun to look forward to for this last stretch of the season and that’s better than anything else the team has had going for it since before Halloween. Sean McVay’s reactions to both the Cam Akers fumble and the Van Jefferson game-winning touchdown encapsulated the glass case of emotions fans have been in all year, now everyone can sleep a little easier. Perhaps Baker can go on a mini-run and make the Lions’ pick less embarrassing.