The Los Angeles Rams are the 2017 NFC West champions. The Rams organization has claimed the division title for the first time since 2004 when they were in St. Louis. Without a doubt, it was not the best game of the season for the young team. Despite a shaky game, Connor Barwin took down Marcus Mariota to close out Tennessee’s final possession.
Todd Gurley was beyond dominant yet again, totaling over 250 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. The offense looked to be marching down the field out of the gate, but their drive fizzled out. This was in large part due to an unwillingness to attempt a 50-yard field goal with new kicker Sam Ficken. The defense wasted no time getting them the ball back, quickly intercepting a Mariota pass. For the eighth time this season, the mob squad defense had forced a turnover on the opening possession. L.A. capitalized, getting right down the field and finishing the drive off with a Jared Goff touchdown pass to Gurley. However, Ficken failed to hit the extra point.
The Titans ran the ball effectively down the field on the ensuing possession, setting themselves up for a chip shot field goal. When the Rams turned around and got into field goal range trying to answer, Ficken clanged the kick right off the upright. When the Rams defense stepped up to stop the Titans, the Rams were pinned deep. On the first play, when Goff turned to handoff to Gurley, Jamon Brown missed his assignment and got Goff blown up for a fumble, which was promptly returned for a Titans touchdown.
With things quickly seeming to get out of hand for L.A., Gurley put the team on his back and flipped a switch. After a one-yard rush, Gurley took a screen pass 80 yards for a touchdown. Goff now had two touchdown passes on the day, and he would notch two more to Cooper Kupp and Sammy Watkins.
In the second half, the Rams defense struggled to handle the Titans offense, primarily when facing a no-huddle look. The biggest issue was the Rams inability to get home with the pass rush, much like when they faced the Vikings many weeks ago. Even when they created pressure they frequently were unable to fully contain Mariota, something did so well last week against Russell Wilson.
After the Rams scored two touchdowns behind a beautiful Kupp catch and a Watkins goalline slant, all the young team had to was hang on. On their final drive Mariota and co. gave the Rams a run for their money, but things fizzled out just over midfield.
In a very unconventional game that saw many strange events, such as an onside kick before the Rams were even on the field that was later nullified by a timeout that wasn’t really a timeout, the Rams found a way to get their 11th win of the year. Goff had a big day by the numbers but actually struggled. Gurley was ridiculous, yet again. And, Kupp bounced back from a drop just like he has all season long.
Most Valuable Player – Todd Gurley
Gurley was incredible for the second straight week. Being awarded MVP of this game should be symbolism for Gurley winning NFL MVP this year. The star running back went for over 100 yards rushing and over 150 yards receiving. On top of that, the Rams extended their record to 9-0 when their workhorse back touches the ball more than 20 times throughout the course of the game. After Ficken left plenty of points on the board the Titans returned a fumble for a touchdown, who picked the Rams up? Gurley, of course, was there as he has been all season. The Rams can break teams down through the air or on the ground, but so much of what they do through the air also revolves around the screen game.
Least Valuable Player – Sam Ficken
Ficken was a liability in his first game as a Ram, and it would not be too shocking if it was his last. The Rams tried out 12 kickers last week when they were forced to place Greg Zuerlein, who was elite all season, on Injured Reserve. It is difficult to think that not one of those kickers from the try out could have performed better than Ficken. The good news is that the new man booting the ball for L.A. found his way later in the game, hitting three straight extra points. If the Rams elect to keep Ficken around it is possible that he proves his first two misses were pure nerves from his first NFL action. But, is it okay to have a kicker who is that affected by nerves?
Rams running back Todd Gurley eclipsed 2,000 yards from scrimmage for the season on Sunday. A very impressive number, Gurley has been incredibly effective through the air and on the ground. The definition of a three-down back, he plays a higher snap count than most running backs in the league. Sean McVay’s system has allowed Gurley to flourish, getting him the ball in space. Talking about his role in the passing game earlier in the season, Gurley said: “It’s nice having to get past one guy instead of all 11”. While the answer seems simple, it is very true. Gurley often catches the ball on screens with a convoy of blockers. Rodger Saffold is notably excellent in the screen game and his rib injury sustained Sunday is hopefully minor.
The Rams back came into this season hoping for 2,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards, but it is impossible to be disappointed in the season he is having.
The Rams next matchup will be with the San Francisco 49ers on New Year’s Eve. While the Niners were nowhere near a factor in this season’s playoff race, they have found new life with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Now 4-0 with the new man under center, the Rams will look to end the Niners season on a more negative note. For the Rams, it is one final tune-up before heading into the playoffs. With seeding not locked into place, it seems unlikely that the Rams would give any of their players rest, but a smaller workload to keep Gurley fresh would not be shocking. Follow along this week for all the news regarding Sunday’s game.