The Rams defense was nearly at its best in the biggest game of the season Sunday, stepping up to help carry the team to the playoffs. The Cardinals were limited to seven points and only 214 total yards of offense, only scoring once thanks to a short field after John Wolford’s interception.
The Rams offense didn’t play as well as many had hoped, but Wolford showed poise and confidence in his NFL debut, leading the Rams in rushing and also throwing for 231 yards.
Here are our studs and duds from Week 17, recognizing the best and worst individual performances of the game.
Stud: Jalen Ramsey
Ramsey has been worth every single penny for the Rams, doing exactly what they paid him to do once again. He all but eliminated DeAndre Hopkins from the Cardinals’ offensive attack, limiting him to only four catches for 35 yards on 10 targets. Specifically in coverage against Hopkins, Ramsey allowed two catches for 28 yards on seven targets. You could argue Ramsey has been even better than expected this season, consistently locking down No. 1 receivers each and every week. https://twitter.com/NextGenStats/status/1345892606019051521
Stud: Troy Hill
Hill’s performance shouldn’t get lost in the mix. He had an 84-yard pick six, the Rams’ only touchdown of the game, broke up another pass that he nearly picked off, and also made a strong tackle on third down early in the game. Ramsey gets most of the attention at cornerback, and rightfully so, but Hill has really played well as of late. https://twitter.com/RamsNFL/status/1345864874312695809
Stud: John Wolford
If this were Wolford’s 20th career start instead of his first, he probably wouldn’t be considered a stud. But given the circumstances, he was better than expected. Aside from the interception on his first career pass, Wolford took care of the football and made some really impressive throws – namely, the back-shoulder dime to Robert Woods to get the Rams in scoring range. https://twitter.com/RamsNFL/status/1345855228952731648 He nearly totaled 300 yards (231 passing, 56 rushing) and although he left some plays on the field, it’s hard to be disappointed about the way he played in his NFL debut. His poise, mobility and aggressiveness throwing downfield were encouraging.
Stud: Aaron Donald
When is Donald not a stud? He didn’t have a sack, but he still made four tackles and had two big stops behind the line of scrimmage, seemingly teleporting into the backfield for a TFL. He earned a PFF grade of 93.2, continuing a Defensive Player of the Year-caliber season. He opens up opportunities for his teammates up front while simultaneously disrupting offenses by getting into the backfield in the blink of an eye. https://twitter.com/RamsNFL/status/1345884271135707136
Stud: A’Shawn Robinson
Robinson made two highly impactful plays that essentially amounted to a five-point swing for the Rams. He drew a holding penalty by Justin Pugh in the end zone to net the Rams two points on a safety, and later in the game, he blocked a 37-yard field goal attempt to keep the Rams’ lead at 18-7 with 9:08 left to play. https://twitter.com/RamsNFL/status/1345882303768088577
Stud: Morgan Fox
Fox got the start in place of Michael Brockers, who was out due to COVID-19 protocol. He was really good against the run, but he also provided more as a pass rusher. Lining up all across the defensive line, Fox generated pressure on the quarterback a few times and even got home for a sack on the Cardinals’ opening drive. Fox has quietly been very good in a backup role and earned some recognition for the way he played as a starter on Sunday. https://twitter.com/RamsNFL/status/1345845136438095873
Stud: Leonard Floyd
Floyd earned himself a nice bonus on Sunday by eclipsing 10 sacks for the first time in his career, hitting an incentive worth $1.25 million. He had one sack in the game, which also resulted in a forced fumble, and he was consistently generating pressure on both Kyler Murray and Chris Streveler. He finished the afternoon with two tackles, one sack and a QB hit.
Dud: Rob Havenstein
Havenstein would rather not remember his first game of the new year because he was not very good. He was called for a false start at the Cardinals’ 26-yard line, committed a killer holding penalty on a later drive to negate a 5-yard run by Wolford to the Cardinals’ 19-yard line and then allowed a sack three plays later to put the Rams in second-and-23. It was not a banner day for the Rams’ right tackle.
Dud: The running game
Sean McVay said it himself after the game: “I didn’t think we ran the ball particularly well. I didn’t think we got great movement.” He isn’t wrong because if you exclude Wolford’s 56 yards rushing, the Rams gained only 54 yards on 24 carries by Cam Akers and Malcolm Brown combined. Twelve of Brown’s 20 yards came on a third-and-11 carry, too, so the running backs’ other carries resulted in very little yardage.
Dud: Gerald Everett
Everett caught two passes for 25 yards and made a couple of defenders miss in the open field after those catches. But he was targeted seven times, was called for offensive pass interference (which was declined) and did little to help Wolford outside of those two receptions. He had a perfect pass go through his hands in the end zone, too, which should’ve been a touchdown. On another deep pass by Wolford, Everett failed to fight for the ball in the air, short-arming it and resulting in an incompletion. The chances were there, Everett just didn’t capitalize.
Dud: Austin Corbett
Like Havenstein, this is a game Corbett would rather forget. His false start at the Cardinals’ 6-yard line – immediately after Van Jefferson’s false start – forced the Rams to settle for a field goal. In the third quarter, he was called for a false start again, this one coming at the Cardinals’ 13-yard line on first down. They settled for a field goal that time, too, as the penalties plagued L.A. all game long.