Aside from a midseason slump where they lost three in a row, the Los Angeles Rams have performed as well as any National Football League team – and Matthew Stafford was one of the driving forces. of his team’s success this season. However, on Sunday afternoon Stafford made mistake after mistake and bad pitch after bad pitch to keep the Minnesota Vikings and their struggling attack in the game.
The Rams, for the most part, won that game 30-23 despite their call sign rather than because of him – and there were a number of key individual performances that kept Los Angeles on course for the win. Victoire.
With LA’s big win, the team nabbed a playoff berth for the 2021 season, marking the fourth time Sean McVay has made the playoffs in his five seasons as a head coach. The Rams are also now alone in possession of the first place in NFC West with the Arizona Cardinals lose on Christmas day.
This is an 11-4 edition of Winners & Losers:
Jalen Ramsey, DB
Justin Jefferson is one of the league’s best receivers this season, but most of the damage he did against the Rams came late in the game as LA protected a two-point lead. While he hasn’t always been invited to face the number one receivers this season, Jalen Ramsey’s main task in the first half was Jefferson – and the star corner erased him from the game.
Adam Thielen was injured on Sunday afternoon and struggled to stay on the pitch. With him and Jefferson mostly unavailable, Kirk Cousins had very little to work with. It was one of Ramsey’s best outings this season.
Aaron Donald, DT
Aaron Donald has been a regular member of the “Winner” list for the past month or so, and his performance in Minnesota has been one of his best this season. Donald was a monster in the running game and he was a force against the pass – registering three tackles for a loss and a backpack.
Between the acquisition of Von Miller and the emergence of Greg Gaines, Donald has taken his individual play to a new level of disruption in the last four to five games.
Brandon Powell, KR / PR
LA’s much-maligned special teams unit has struggled at times this season, but returns specialist Brandon Powell has been a silver lining since joining the team in recent weeks. Powell had explosive kicking returns – and against Minnesota, he took a 61-yard punt for a touchdown.
Powell’s score marks only the second time in the NFL this season that a touchdown has been scored on a punt return, underscoring how special this game was on Sunday.
David Edwards, Coleman Shelton, Alaric Jackson
The Rams placed veteran left tackle Andrew Witworth on the COVID-19 reserve list on Saturday, and that usually means the team would look to Joseph Noteboom; However, Noteboom also missed the last two games on the COVID list.
Left guard David Edwards moved up to the left tackle and Coleman Shelton, who replaced Brian Allen in center against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 14, started at left guard.
For the first time since Andrew Whitworth signed in 2017, neither he nor his apprentice Joe Noteboom are available to the Rams.
So David Edwards comes out to make the first start in LT. Coleman Shelton will take his first steps at LG.
Allen (C), Corbett (RG), Havenstein (RT) intact.
– JB Long (@JB_Long) December 26, 2021
But then Brian Allen injured his knee in the first half, causing the Rams’ Plan C to be in disarray.
Edwards moved inside towards the left guard and Shelton moved towards the center. Undrafted rookie free agent Alaric Jackson played some big left tackle snaps – but the line didn’t appear to miss a beat.
Of course, the Vikings don’t have an elite pass rush; however, the Seattle Seahawks and we saw the LA offensive line drop four sacks last week with Rob Havenstein with COVID issues.
The truth is, it could easily have been a disaster for the Rams, and the fact that it didn’t is a huge testament to these three young offensive linemen.
Sony Michel, RB
Sony Michel has been a constant presence in Los Angeles over the past month. With the uncertainty along the offensive line and with their struggling quarterback, the Rams leaned on the running game and Michel took control – rushing 27 times for 131 yards (4.9 average) and a touchdown.
Darrell Henderson arrived at one point and made just one postponement before being ruled out for the remainder of the game with a knee injury, which sadly illustrates the season Henderson has had so far. Michel has been so reliable for LA, and his previous playoffs and super bowl the experience could be crucial as the Rams gear up for the playoffs.
Odell Beckham, Jr., WR
Cooper Kupp finished with over 100 yards again, but the Rams’ most effective receiver on Sunday afternoon may have been Odell Beckham, Jr. OBJ finished with 4 receptions for 37 yards and an impressive touchdown on the line. but Stafford missed Beckham on several occasions, including a deep attempt that would have resulted in a long touchdown.
It’s encouraging to see OBJ get back into shape and become more comfortable with the Rams, and he’s going to be an important player in the final two games and heading into the playoffs.
Tyler Higbee, TE
Tyler Higbee missed games against the Cardinals and Seahawks. While there didn’t appear to be a significant void in the tight position in Higbee’s absence, the veteran made it clear on Sunday against the Vikings how valuable he was to this team. Higbee has never consistently filled out the stats sheet, but he is a reliable contributor and important player.
Higbee finished with 5 receptions on 6 targets for 41 yards at Minnesota.
Best when your best is needed?
It was Stafford’s best moments – especially in the 3rd down – to give the @RamsNFL a two touchdown lead with 11:37 left in Week 16.
Higbee and OBJ on receiving those clutch throws.
– JB Long (@JB_Long) December 26, 2021
Matthew Stafford, QB
The Rams had a ten-point lead before half-time, but the Vikings’ 3-point first-half came from a Stafford interception deep in LA territory. In the third quarter, Stafford threw another interception (Anthony Barr’s second) which was sent to the Rams goal line and gave the Vikings another 7 points.
The disturbing part of these turnovers is that they follow a pattern of recent Rams losses where the team fell behind early due to Stafford’s inability to take care of the ball. Put simply, these are mistakes veteran quarterbacks shouldn’t make – and Stafford could have thrown an extra 3-4 interceptions that were dropped by Viking defenders.
Stafford’s turnovers are the only reason the Vikings were competitive in the second half. If the Rams’ caller pulls off a performance like this in the playoffs, LA will be well below their Super Bowl hopes. The bottom line is that this performance is not good enough and this level of production will not be up to the best teams.
Darious Williams, CB
With Ramsey dealing with the impact of Jefferson and Thielen mitigated by his injury, Darious Williams should have been given a favorable assignment; However, it seemed like most of the Vikings’ impact play in the passing game came with Williams on the cover.
Williams was apparently turning a corner after the team’s big win over the Cardinals, when Ramsey was out due to COVID concerns, but he has yet to live up to his expectations. a year ago. Williams’ lackluster play has yet to cost the Rams a game this season, but the possibility is certainly there – it has to be better.