The LA Rams had two goals for the Wild Card Round of the 2024 NFL Playoffs on the road against the Detroit Lions: Win the game. Emerge from the game without injuries. Unfortunately for the Rams, they were unable to accomplish either objective in a disappointing 24-23 loss to the Lions. And during the game, the LA Rams roster suffered a number of serious injuries.
Injuries that occur on the final game of the season often go undetected, or at least are not monitored by the fans in terms of progress. But you cannot tell the players that injuries that rehabilitate in the offseason are any easier to recover from, or any less painful. And so, let's revisit the injuries suffered before and during the Rams final game that may have an impact to the team's offseason strategy:
DB Jordan Fuller
Before the LA Rams ever suited up for the Wild Card Round of the 2024 NFL Playoffs, defensive back Jordan Fuller was ruled out with an ankle injury. Fuller was one of the Rams starters who did not sit out in Week 18 and suffered an injury in the win over the San Francisco 49ers.
The Rams took Fuller's injury day-by-day in preparation for the matchup with the Detroit Lions, but Fuller was unable to answer the bell. No updates about Fuller's injury were reported, so we will presume that his recovery is underway and that he will suffer no lingering effects.
RB Kyren Williams
The LA Rams surprisingly did not get the type of production in the game from feature running back Kyren Williams that I had hoped. Williams ended the game with 61 yards on 13 carries, but seemed to run with more confidence and authority in the second half. Unfortunately, his performance ended early, as he suffered an injury to his hand in the second half limited his playing time.
The Rams did not have much interest in running a balanced offensive attack after the Lions took a 14-3 lead in the game. But even without a steady diet of carrying the football, Williams average 4.7 yards per carry against one of the stingiest run defenses in the NFL (again).
QB Matthew Stafford
Matthew Stafford was a Timex watch in the game, as he took a licking but kept on ticking. Known ailments suffered throughout the game included: Laceration of his throwing hand, possible concussion from a hard impact of the back of his head on the surface, getting his throwing shoulder stomped on after being throwing to the ground, and several hits to his body by Detroit Lions defenders.
Stafford was not going to be taken out of this game, but I have no doubt that he will be stiff and sore and feeling the effects of this physical game for some time.
He will have a chance to rest and recover in the offseason, and may need surgery to correct his UCL in the thumb of his throwing hand. But he should be back and ready to go in 2024. But the LA Rams have got to address a succession plan for Stafford in the off-season.
TE Tyler Higbee
Perhaps the scariest moment of the night involved LA Rams veteran TE Tyler Higbee, and a horrifying play that I still wonder how he was even able to be helped off the football field. By every indication, Higbee should have been transported off the football field on the cart.
The play shown below (WARNING: Not for the squeamish) shows that at Tyler Higbee went for the catch, Lions safety Kerby Joseph dove at his knees, forcing it to bend in a direction that it was not supposed to, launching Higbeen into the air, head over heels, and landing him face first onto the football field as the weight of his entire body came crashing down on top of him.
As the play unfolded, I was not even certain that Higbee would retain consciousness.
The LA Rams have scheduled an MRI to determine the extent of Tyler Higbee's knee injury, with a confirmation of an initial diagnosis of an ACL tear. If an ACL tear is indeed the situation, Higbee's availability for the 2024 NFL season becomes somewhat questionable.
The LA Rams did not advance to the Divisional Round of the 2024 NFL Playoffs, nor did the team emerge unscathed. But it seems to me as though the Rams did draw much closer, and many of the team's young players performed far better than expected.
Perhaps, like 2022, all that is needed for the Rams to improve is time, and a lot of patience.