The LA Rams entered the 2023 NFL season with modest goals. At least, you would have expected that if you tracked the team through OTAs and the early phases of training camp. The Rams had depleted the roster to less than one-half of the 90-man limit for training camp. In fact, the Rams were below 44 players before the 2023 NFL Draft, having traded away DB Jalen Ramsey and WR Allen Robinson, while outright releasing OLB Leonard Floyd and ILB Bobby Wagner.
The LA Rams knew that getting better in 2024 and beyond meant getting less expensive in 2023. So that is exactly what the front office did to the Rams roster. The Rams pared the payroll of existing players down rapidly and created a dead cap number for 2023 in excess of $77 million. C'est la vie in the LA Rams.
Perhaps one of the most intriguing stories is that of Week 18, and how the LA Rams (9-7) called upon a forgotten and downtrodden former NFL veteran quarterback, Carson Wentz, to show up and do what he could to earn a victory against the LA Rams NFC West rivals, the San Francisco 49ers.
One streak ends, one streak extends
The LA Rams were in the playoffs, no matter what happened in Week 18. But for the LA Rams and for Rams fans, it would be a far better way to enter the NFL Playoffs riding the crest of a four-game winning streak, rather than backing in after a loss. While that is all well and good, there were several problems with the entire win and get in strategy.
The first and foremost problem is the fact that to do so, the LA Rams had to win against the 49ers, a team that held a nine regular-season game winning steak over the Rams. Making matters worse, the Rams opted to sit seven starters, including QB Matthew Stafford, WR Cooper Kupp, and RB Kyren Williams.
And this final game of the season would be played on the road, at Levi Stadium, home for the San Francisco 49ers.
But the LA Rams held one Ace up their sleeve in backup quarterback Carson Wentz. Entering the game, Wentz held a three-game winning streak over the 49ers. And so, one streak would end, and the other would extend.
Wentz delivers a rare win against the 49ers
The LA Rams were pretty vanilla in their Week 18 season finale. By all accounts, the Rams had to walk the treacherous tight-rope, almost like a preseason game, where the team did enough to try to win but did not reveal too many plays out of their playbook to tip their hand in upcoming games in the NFL Playoffs.
In those types of games, the difference between winning and losing often falls upon the raw athleticism of one or two key players on the football field. For the LA Rams, the difference maker was clearly backup QB Carson Wentz. Not only did the Rams get 163 passing yards and two passing touchdowns out of Wentz's throwing arm, but Wentz ended the game with 17 carries, 56 rushing yards, and a rushing touchdown
Wentz had 220 yards from scrimmage in his one and only start for the LA Rams this season to beat a San Francisco 49ers team that is the best in the NFC, and who many believed to have far superior depth than that of the Rams.
In beating the 49ers, Carson Wentz did something that hadn't been done by a Rams QB in over 73 years:
What will the future bring for Wentz and the Rams? I admittedly will be very disappointed if Wentz is not extended in the off-season. The LA Rams have tried going the inexpensive route at the backup quarterback position for long enough. If the Rams truly hope to have a chance to get to and advance in the postseason, I believe that they need to re-sign Carson Wentz.
Not only because he can run with the football. But to see if the LA Rams can extend his winning streak against the 49ers