Week 14 did not yield the results that the Los Angeles Rams would have hoped for against the Eagles, despite key contributors stepping up and playing above the competition. This week’s version of the Rams’ grading comes with four players earning “A” grades for their performances, with one being a veteran that Rams fans have seen elevate his play as of late after back-to-back injury-plagued seasons. This week we are going to give interior defender Aaron Donald a break, but just know that he earned an “A” for his week 14 performance. With that being said, here’s reason for optimism heading into the Rams’ most important game of the season.
Though he only had 13 carries against the Eagles, running back Todd Gurley had no problem reaching 93 yards in the run game. Coming into the game the Eagles had allowed a league-leading 68.1 yards per game on the ground, while only two running backs had gained 80 or more yards on them via the ground game. Gurley’s 93 yards were the most given up on the year and 29 more than the Eagles had given up to all running backs in their last two games combined, making it all the more impressive.
Though he was gaining yards at will, Gurley’s biggest contributions will not show up on any stat sheet. The success of Gurley’s performance helped neutralize the Eagles’ devastating pass-rush for most of the game, though they were able to get home late and create a turnover. This is the type of performance that gets people talking about Gurley as an MVP candidate, and with his 1,637 combined yards and 13 touchdowns he may get some more love.
For the second time in three weeks, rookie wide receiver Cooper Kupp went over 100 receiving yards, while adding his fourth touchdown of the season. Kupp’s biggest play of the game came on a third-&-10 from the Rams 25-yard line where he caught a pass and then proceeded to juke Eagles defenders for a 64-yard gain. The drive ended four plays later with a touchdown, a six-yard strike to Kupp. People knew the Kupp was a great receiver coming out of Eastern Washington, but no one saw this type of contribution in his rookie season. Over the last three weeks without the Rams’ leading receiver (Robert Woods), Kupp is fifth in the league among wide receivers with 302 reception yards, 136 of which have come after the catch.
Saffold continued to be one of the Rams’ most impressive offensive linemen, even against the best pass-rushing team in the NFL. Week 14 brought three interior defenders in Fletcher Cox, Tim Jernigan, and Beau Allen who had combined for 10 quarterback sacks, but Saffold was not phased. Saffold did not surrender a single sack and was credited with only one quarterback pressure, the fewest of the starters. Perhaps the most impressive part of Saffold’s game is his ability to get out in front of the receivers or running backs in the screen game and basically hold their hands down the field for large chunk gains. Even with the arrival of left tackle Andrew Whitworth in the offseason, Saffold has been the most impressive player on the Los Angeles Rams’ offensive line.
Nothing has been more exciting than seeing veteran edge defender Robert Quinn play like the player he was in 2013 over the last three weeks. He continued that against one of the NFL’s best pass blocking offensive lines by recording two quarterback sacks. With those two sacks, Quinn has now recorded five over the last three weeks after only three in the first 10 games of the season. The emergence of Quinn has given the Rams a pass-rush outside of interior defender Aaron Donald and will only continue to open up lanes for other defenders. A dominant edge defender can change an entire game in one play and with the lack of pressure off the edge through the first 10 games, look out for this pass-rush down the stretch.
The Los Angeles Rams will need to put this loss behind them in a hurry with their most important game of the season coming in week 15 against the Seahawks, in Seattle. Even in a loss, this Rams team appears to be in a position to make a playoff run in their first year under the new regime. Though the future is very promising, the Rams will need to focus everything they have on their upcoming matchup against the Seahawks or their playoff hopes will be put in jeopardy as they will lose control of their first place spot in the NFC West.
With the elevated play of Quinn, look for the Seahawks to take a “pick your poison” type approach with him and Aaron Donald, not something that will bode well for quarterback Russell Wilson. With Donald’s most dominant performance coming back in week six against the Seahawks, look for Quinn to continue his dominance, even against a great pass blocker in left tackle Duane Brown.
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