The Rams faced the Arizona Cardinals for the third time this year to wrap up Wild Card Weekend, and came out with a win over a division rival. Los Angeles played well in every phase of the game, and will now travel to Tampa Bay to face Tom Brady and the Buccaneers next Sunday. Now, let’s break down the Good, the Bad, and the Meh of the Rams’ win last night.
In his full game debut this week, Cam Akers shined. After his limited action last week against the 49ers, Akers split time with Sony Michel, and was as explosive as ever. Even after his achilles injury in July, he played as if he hadn’t missed time at all. Akers had more carries, and was more involved than Sony Michel, which should foretell his involvement in the offense moving forward. Him and Sony Michel should be a good 1-2 punch for the Rams’ run game down the road.
The special teams performance on Monday was one of, if not the best performance all year. All 5 of Johnny Hekkers punts ended up inside the 20 yard line and he looked like his vintage self. Matt Gay was automatic as usual and hit all 6 of his kicks with a long of 46. Brandon Powell returned 2 kicks for 19 yards and didn’t get a good chance to make a big play. From the eye test and the stats to back it up, he’s the best Rams returner this year.
The defense put up a dominant performance and held Kyler to under 200 total offensive yards. David Long Jr. and Marquise Copeland also added interceptions, with Long Jr. returning his for a touchdown. The defensive line got to Murray all night and made him feel uncomfortable. There were no singular dominant performances, the defense as a whole really shined.
Odell Beckham Jr.
Odell had a great night against the Cardinals posting 4 catches for 54 yards and a touchdown. With Cooper Kupp facing double coverage most of the night, it opened up things for Beckham Jr. who took advantage. The veteran was a reliable target for Stafford all night, and was the only Rams receiver to post a perfect passer rating when targeted.
This is quite possibly the only time that there wasn’t any bad from the Rams. They were locked in and played well in all three phases of the game. You can argue that the passing game wasn’t clicking as well as it used to, but the run heavy offense led them to a win.
The one group that I noticed that wasn’t playing to their full potential was the offensive line. They did get called for a couple of penalties that resulted in easy yardage given up, but were a force in the run game all night.
Looking ahead to next week’s divisional game there’s a couple things that the Rams will need to do to win. The Buccaneers rank 21st in passing yards allowed (1 above the Rams), and 3rd against the run, so the Rams should be airing it out more against a weaker pass defense. I would expect a more pass based offense rather than the run heavy approach. If LA can run the ball well, and take advantage of a weak pass defense, they should have no problem advancing to the NFC Championship game.