Following last week’s narrow victory over the Ravens, the Rams returned home to play their divisional rivals in the regular season finale. The Rams lost 27-24 in a story of two halves, essentially ending Sean McVay’s record of winning while leading at halftime. Despite the setback, the Rams won the NFC West and will meet the Cardinals in a Monday night playoff game. Let’s go through the good, bad, and meh aspects of a disappointing divisional loss.
The Rams had a great first half and put up 17 unanswered points on the Niners before a field goal to end the half. They were moving the ball downfield, and looked like a Super Bowl caliber team. It looked like a welcome change from the past couple of games that started off bad. The defense was holding the 49ers offense and picked off Jimmy G before the half. If the Rams continued to play at the same level, they would have easily won.
Although Kupp fell short of breaking Megatron’s receiving record, he had one of his best games statistically. When targeted by Stafford, he produced a perfect passer rating and caught all 7 targets for 118 yards and a touchdown. He ended the game with the NFL triple crown in receiving, making him only the fourth player in history to accomplish it. For those still asking how much of an upgrade Stafford is over Goff, here’s proof.
The star DB looked impressive as usual, keeping whoever he was covering in check. He had a highlight-reel interception in the fourth quarter, which the offense took advantage of. He was not only effective in the passing game, but he also contributed to run support. Ramsey has played in every game this season and has become more involved with the entire defense.
Higbee has been outstanding since his comeback to the team. He’s a reliable player in both the run and pass game, and his presence is felt. McVay doesn’t utilize his tight ends much in the pass game, but Stafford’s passes to Higbee routinely move the chains. Higbee isn’t on the same level as people like Kelce or Andrews, but he helps the team when they need it the most. This season, he has a 94.2 passer rating when targeted and the team’s lowest drop percentage. He’s a consistent target in the short passing game and one of Stafford’s favorite receivers to dump it off to.
The offensive line’s performance is a significant element of Stafford’s performance this game that isn’t getting enough attention. Stafford was sacked five times, tying the game against the Titans, and took 13 QB hits. The 49ers’ physicality has never matched up well against the Rams, and it starts in the trenches. The Niners didn’t even need to rush more than 4 to put pressure on Stafford.
The Rams looked like a completely different team in the second half. Stafford’s performance deteriorated as the offense struggled. The run game never got going, and it only grew worse as time passed. The defense struggled to contain the 49ers offense, and Jordan Fuller’s injury in the fourth quarter certainly didn’t help. With the large gaps in coverage that occurred, it appeared that there were some communication errors. There were many missed tackles and the defense just looked sloppy. LA looked like a first-round exit in the second half, plain and simple.
Stafford has had some really questionable performance over the past 3 weeks. His play was on par with the past couple of games and he seems like he’s been in a slump. The only reason they won the past 2 games is due to a great defensive performance keeping them in it, and Stafford finishing the 2nd half strong. It was a completely different case this game, as Stafford had a great first half and subpar second half. He seemed to hold the ball for too long, which resulted in him taking sacks.
Stafford hasn’t been terrible in recent weeks, but it seems that the Rams have to play to cleanup his mistakes. He finished the year with a turnover in 4 straight games, and interceptions in 11/17 games. Granted, he has elevated the offense back to 2018 levels, but just like 2018, his performances recently don’t seem good enough to win it all.
Wild Card Outlook
Overall, the team performed similarly to the previous two weeks, with the exception that Stafford did not lead a game-winning drive at the end. They looked terrific in the first half and appeared to be on track to end their losing streak against the 49ers. The Rams’ total collapse to conclude this game reflects the Rams’ season with Stafford thus far. Their performance against the Cardinals at home next week will be determined by Stafford. If the Rams continue to underperform, they may be eliminated in the first round; if they play as well as they did in the first half, they could easily win the Super Bowl.