6 takeaways from the Rams’ Week 16 win over the Vikings

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  • Los Angeles Rams
    Los Angeles Rams
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  • Minnesota Vikings
    Minnesota Vikings
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  • Matthew Stafford
    Matthew Stafford
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It’s been an up-and-down season for the Rams this year, one filled with winning streaks and an ugly three-game losing skid. But with the season winding down, they’re beginning to play some of their best football.

They overcame injuries and three turnovers by Matthew Stafford on Sunday afternoon in their 30-23 win over the Vikings, earning their 11th victory and a spot in the playoffs. The defense continues to play well, while the special teams unit is also improving at the right time.

Here are six key takeaways from the Week 16 win.

Matthew Stafford must cut down on the mistakes

Just when it seemed like Stafford was turning the corner on his interception problem, he takes a step back with three bad turnovers. Two of his picks set up the Vikings inside the Rams’ 15-yard line, including one where they had it at the 2-yard line and scored a touchdown on the next play.

Stafford could’ve easily been picked two other times, as well, but the Vikings dropped them and failed to capitalize on the opportunities. It’s impressive that the Rams were able to win this game despite Stafford’s turnovers, but it’s a sign that this is a complete team with a quality defense and a running game it can lean on.

That doesn’t mean Stafford can continue to turn the ball over without consequence, but the Rams weren’t winning these types of games earlier this season when their quarterback was giving it away left and right.

Special teams has something to build on

This was the best performance from the Rams’ special teams unit all year. Brandon Powell returned a punt 61 yards for a touchdown, Matt Gay and the kickoff coverage unit pinned the Vikings deep twice and Gay drilled three field goals to help keep the Rams in front.

With Powell finding a groove in the return game, the Rams finally have something to build on on special teams. There are still mistakes that need to be cleaned up, but the coverage has been better and Powell has provided a spark in the return game.

Johnny Hekker had two punts of 55 and 53 yards, too, downing one of them inside the 20-yard line. If the special teams unit can catch up to the offense and defense, the Rams will be in excellent shape.

Offensive line depth is remarkable

The Rams’ offensive line was a concern before the season began, but it’s become a strength – and the depth across the front is fantastic. They were down to their fourth-string left tackle and backup center against the Vikings on Sunday, yet they didn’t allow a single sack to the team that leads the league in that department.

That’s not easy to do, but it’s a testament to the job that Alaric Jackson and Coleman Shelton did as backups who were thrust into starting roles. David Edwards played well at both left tackle and guard before Brian Allen got injured at center, and the right side of the line was rock solid with Rob Havenstein and Austin Corbett.

The Rams hope they don’t have to use their reserves as often as they have in the last three weeks, but they’re glad they have the depth to survive all the hurdles they’ve faced.

Sony Michel was a difference-maker on offense

When your quarterback turns the ball over three times, it’s important to have a running game to lean on. And that’s exactly what the Rams did in the second half after Stafford’s two early picks in the third quarter. Michel carried it 27 times for 131 yards, with 16 of those carries and 64 of those yards coming in the second half.

Realizing that Stafford was off throughout the game, McVay turned to Michel and it paid off in a big way. The Rams controlled the clock and finally sustained drives after two quick interceptions to start the half. Had Michel not run the ball as well as he did, the Rams may not have won this game.

Having a running back like that to hand the ball off to is invaluable in games like this one.

Defense stepped up in critical situations

Stafford didn’t do much to help his defense by throwing three interceptions. He set the Vikings up with two short fields, which they turned into 10 points. The Rams’ red zone stand after Minnesota started at the 11-yard line was huge, holding the Vikings to only three points and maintaining a 10-3 lead.

They were unable to keep the Vikings out of the end zone the second time when they started at the 2-yard line, but the Rams’ defense came up big in this one. Minnesota was 2-for-12 on third down and 2-for-5 in the red zone, which shows that Raheem Morris’ unit stepped up in the biggest moments on key plays.

No reason Rams can’t run the table

During the Rams’ three-game losing streak, they looked like a team that might struggle to make the playoffs. Now, there’s no reason to believe they can’t go on a deep run in the playoffs and win it all.

They have the running game to support Stafford, a defense that’s filled with stars and underrated players, and an offensive line that hasn’t been whole in three weeks – yet is playing remarkably well.

The Ravens won’t be an easy opponent, nor will the 49ers. But the Rams are playing some of their best football and haven’t allowed more than 23 points since Week 12 against the Packers.

The NFC is filled with good teams but there isn’t one juggernaut or unbeatable opponent. The Rams are on a four-game winning streak and could very well go on a run the way the Bucs did last season.

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