Highlights, Observations & Analysis From Rams’ Week 17 Win Over Ravens

While it wasn’t easy, the Los Angeles Rams went on the road and beat the Baltimore Ravens, 20-19, in Week 17 to improve to 12-4 on the season.

The win marks the fifth straight for the Rams, who still have yet to clinch the NFC West with one week remaining in the season as the Arizona Cardinals took care of the Dallas Cowboys to remain alive.

This marked the second straight game where the Rams were able to overcome big mistakes by quarterback Matthew Stafford to get a win. While it’s good they were able to do that, they may not be as fortunate in the playoffs against better teams, so let me start with Stafford for my weekly observations and analysis.

Will the real Matthew Stafford please stand up

When the Rams acquired Stafford, the hope was that he would be the guy to take them over the top and win the Super Bowl with the rest of the roster being at that level for years now.

And while for the most part it has worked out (the Rams are 12-4 and Stafford has played at a Pro Bowl level), he STILL has not been able to figure out this turnover issue.

Jared Goff’s turnovers are ultimately what led to him being shipped out of town, so it’s unfortunate that Stafford has been had similar issues.

The pick-six has become Stafford’s best friend early in games, and that was again the case in this one as he spotted the Ravens seven early points. He then forced a deep ball to Odell Beckham Jr. into triple coverage on third down for another interception and after leading the Rams down the field on a nice drive to begin the third quarter, he fumbled in the red zone while getting sacked.

That’s three turnovers, with the result being a 16-7 second-half deficit for L.A. to climb out of. And honestly, the only reason the game stayed that close is because of the Rams’ defense.

Now, a few turnovers here and there isn’t all that concerning. I would rather have a quarterback like Stafford who takes risks and gets some big plays out of it as opposed to someone like Kirk Cousins, who doesn’t turn the ball over but also takes zero risks.

But when it becomes a theme, as it has with Stafford, then it becomes a bit of an issue. You can’t spot the Green Bay Packers or Tampa Bay Buccaneers two touchdowns in a playoff environment and expect to be able to work out of that hole.

To Stafford’s credit though, almost every time he has turned the ball over early in games, he has responded extremely well. That was again the case in this one as he went 14-for-14 in the second half and wound up with 309 yards and a pair of touchdowns. That includes the game-winning drive in which he led the Rams down the field 75 yards on nine plays to win it.

On that drive, Stafford went 6-for-6 for 70 yards, including a massive fourth-down conversion to Beckham and then later a touchdown to the same receiver.

Overall in the fourth quarter this season, Stafford has 11 touchdowns and no interceptions, leading the entire NFL in second-half passer rating. He also has the most fourth-quarter comebacks in the NFL since he entered the league.

So when the game is most important, Stafford is at his best. Which is great to see. And that truly is the difference between him and Goff and why I still do that trade 10 out of 10 times and think it’s ridiculous when NFL media members bring up Goff every time Stafford makes a mistake.

But since we know Stafford is capable of being that great, let’s not spot teams points in the playoffs with dumb turnovers.

New acquisitions coming up huge

The Rams have sort of gotten laughed at by a lot of NFL media and fans for their “all-in” approach trying to bring in as many great players as possible to maximize this Super Bowl window.

Well…who’s laughing now?

As previously mentioned, Beckham came up with the two biggest catches of the day on the Rams’ game-winning drive. And as Sean McVay pointed out, there are only a few receivers that could’ve made the ridiculous catch Beckham made on the fourth-down play when Stafford fired a fastball to him and he caught it with a defender draped all over him.

Beckham now has five touchdowns in seven games with the Rams, becoming their premier red-zone threat.

And how about Von Miller? A two-sack game for the outside linebacker, including the big one on third down in the Ravens’ final drive that sealed the victory. Difference-maker.

How about Sony Michel? The Rams acquired him in a more under-the-radar trade after Cam Akers got hurt, and there’s an argument to be made that he is the biggest reason for the team’s five-game winning streak.

Michel had another solid game against the Ravens, carrying the ball 19 times for 74 yards and a touchdown while also adding three receptions for 25 yards.

Over the last five games, Michel has 557 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns, giving the Rams the tough, physical running game that they lacked earlier in the season.

Will these acquisitions lead to the Rams winning the Super Bowl? That remains to be seen. But there’s absolutely no doubting that these guys make them a better team.

Did Ramsey/Rapp scuffle mean anything?

Something worth addressing is what happened in the first quarter as inside the defensive huddle, Jalen Ramsey and Taylor Rapp got into a very spirited argument that led to some minor blows exchanged.

While this is something you never want to see between teammates, especially right in the middle of the game, all of the Rams players and McVay said after the game that it is resolved and won’t be an issue moving forward.

So with that said, I’m not concerned at all. What that altercation showed me is that these guys care and want to get things right. As McVay said, sometimes brothers fight. But at the end of the day, they’re still brothers.

Plus, after watching a full season of Rapp at starting safety, what Rams fan hasn’t wanted to do what Ramsey did? (kidding) (not really)

Kupp’s historic season

Been keeping track of Cooper Kupp’s historic season all year so let me give one more update on that after another solid game in which he had six catches for 95 yards and a touchdown.

With 138 receptions for 1,829 yards and 15 touchdowns, Kupp is now the all-time single-season receiving leader in Rams history, surpassing the great Isaac Bruce.

He will need 136 yards next week to break Calvin Johnson’s all-time NFL record of 1,964 yards in 2021.

Playoff scenarios

As previously mentioned, the Rams still have not clinched the NFC West, so their Week 18 matchup with the San Francisco 49ers will be a big one.

If the Rams win, then they will clinch the division and the No. 2 seed in the NFC. Also, if they win and the New Orleans Saints beat the Atlanta Falcons, then they would knock the 49ers out of the playoffs altogether, which would be sweet.

If the Rams lose though, then the only way they would clinch the division is if the Arizona Cardinals lose to the Seattle Seahawks. If the Rams lose and Cardinals win, then L.A. would fall all the way down to the No. 5 seed and would have to go on the road, likely to the Dallas Cowboys, on Wild Card Weekend.

A lot riding on this weekend’s games, should be fun!