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It wasn’t the cleanest game from the Rams, nor their easiest win, but they still managed to hold on and beat a resilient Vikings team on the road Sunday. Despite Matthew Stafford throwing three interceptions and several key players going down with injuries, the Rams still put up 30 points and held on to beat Minnesota.
The offensive line was down to its fourth-string left tackle and backup center, but Sony Michel still found big running lanes and Stafford wasn’t sacked a single time.
Here’s a recap of how the Rams earned their 11th win of the season and claimed the top spot in the NFC West for the first time this season.
Final score: Rams 30, Vikings 23
(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
The Rams didn’t have a great performance on offense outside of Sony Michel running the ball hard to help carry the offense. They jumped out to a 7-0 lead early and extended it to a 10-0 cushion, never allowing the Vikings to even tie the game after that point.
There was some questionable play calling in the first half of the game by Sean McVay. On their third drive, Sony Michel got them down inside the red zone with 43 yards rushing, but McVay proceeded to call three straight passing plays and the Rams settled for a field goal. He seemed to get away from the run too quickly after it was working so successfully.
On each of the Rams’ first two drives of the second half, Stafford threw interceptions. The first was a deep shot to Van Jefferson in double-coverage, and the second was tipped at the line and returned to the Rams’ 2-yard line, setting up Alexander Mattison’s touchdown on the next play. The Rams ran the ball once in their first four plays of the second half.
Just when the Rams needed their special teams unit to step up, Brandon Powell did. He returned a punt 61 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter after Stafford had just thrown two interceptions and brought the Vikings back into the game. It was the Rams’ first punt return touchdown since 2015.
The offensive line held up well given the circumstances with Andrew Whitworth and Joe Noteboom out, and Brian Allen injuring his knee in the first half. The running lanes for Michel were huge and he didn’t miss them.
Speaking of Michel, he just keeps dominating as the starting running back. He topped 100 yards once again, keeping his firm grip on the RB1 spot ahead of Darrell Henderson Jr.
The defense was excellent in this one, both against the run and the pass. Justin Jefferson found almost no space when covered by Jalen Ramsey, who had a great performance against a premier receiver. Aaron Donald was a force on the interior, and Leonard Floyd did a great job on the edge, as well.
It was over when...
… Matt Gay made a 32-yard field goal with 2:03 left in the game. That put the Rams up 30-20 and the Vikings were out of timeouts, making it a two-score game and all but sealing the victory.
The Vikings still had an outside chance to score and recover the onside kick, but the Rams managed to hold on and end the game with a kneel down after fielding on the onside kick.
3 stars of the game
(AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
No. 3 star: Jalen Ramsey – 7 tackles, 1 PBU
No. 2 star: Aaron Donald – 5 tackles, 1 sack, 2 QB hits, 3 TFL, 1 FF
No. 1 star: Sony Michel – 27 carries, 131 yards, 1 TD
Play of the game
Is there really any doubt? Powell’s 61-yard punt return for a touchdown completely shifted the momentum in this one after it appeared the Vikings were going to claw their way back into it when Stafford threw two picks to open the third quarter.
The touchdown put the Rams up 20-10, a good lead that they wouldn’t allow the Vikings to come back from.
HUGE 61-yard punt return from Brandon Powell!
— x – Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) December 26, 2021
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
The Rams will be back on the road in Week 17, visiting the injury-ravaged Ravens. It’s the first time they’ll face the Ravens since 2019 when Baltimore blew them out 45-6, the worst loss of McVay’s career with the Rams. It’s unclear who will start at quarterback for the Ravens with Lamar Jackson still nursing an ankle injury that has caused him to miss the last two games.