What must the LA Rams do to keep this winning streak going?
The LA Rams offense rallied for ten points in the fourth quarter to secure a season sweep over the Seattle Seahawks in Week 11. An outstanding defensive performance by the Rams, led by ILB Ernest Jones and DB Derion Kendrick, was almost spoiled by a sputtering offense in the first three quarters. In Week 12, the Rams are on the road against the Arizona Cardinals, a compelling matchup with quarterback Kyler Murray back under center. What are the keys to success in Week 12?
An Efficient Script
The first three drives of Week 11: Punt, Turnover on Downs, Punt. Flashback to the first three drives of Week 10: Punt, Fumble Lost, Punt. Sean McVay's game scripts, usually an offense's first 20 plays, have been lackluster at best the past few weeks. Since the Rams' Week Six 26-9 win over Arizona, LA is averaging just 14 points per game. It's unlike a Sean McVay offense to average 14 points per game over an extended period.
Running back Kyren Williams is set to return from IR this week, which could potentially be a spark plug for the Rams' offense. The second-year back from Notre Dame found his form before injuring his hamstring in the Week 6 win over Arizona, racking up 158 yards on the ground.
Before the 2023 season, experts predicted the Rams' defense would be far behind the offense. Raheem Morris has put those worries to bed. While there have been lackluster performances, the Rams have been able to lean on their defense many times this season. DT Aaron Donald, MLB Ernest Jones, and S Jordan Fuller have done what's expected as defensive captains. Newcomer OLB Byron Young is in the conversation for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Fellow-rookie DT Kobie Turner has 20 tackles and two sacks, and CB Ahkello Witherspoon has had an under-the-radar season defending the opposing team's best WR.
Raheem Morris could receive a few calls in the offseason about a head coaching job. Three sixth-round picks and two UDFA started on defense in the Week 11 win over Seattle. While only intercepting five passes this season, the Rams' defense allows just 217 passing yards per game, per espn.com. In two games since his return from injury, Cardinals QB Kyler Murray has 463 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. Murray also has 13 carries for 84 yards and two scores. Kyler's legs add a different element to the Week 12 matchup. The linebacker group of Ernest Jones, Byron Young, and Micheal Hoect have to contain Murray as he exits the pocket.
While the Rams' defensive group has shown consistency throughout the season, they're tested with Kyler Murray this week, who has breakaway speed. Perfection isn't expected from Head Coach Sean McVay, but keeping the Rams competitive is the expectation. Raheem Morris' group has done an excellent job of that so far this season.
Availability is your best ability, and that statement remains accurate for the Los Angeles Rams. WR Cooper Kupp is one of the best wideouts in the NFL but could be out this week due to a low-ankle sprain sustained in last week's win over Seattle. Kupp has been QB Matthew Stafford's favorite target the last three seasons, but rookie WR Puka Nacua has filled Kupp's absence marvelously.
MLB Ernest Jones is the anchor of the defense. Yes, All-Pro DT Aaron Donald still exists, but Jones is the signal-caller for Raheem Morris. Jones was absent in the 20-3 loss to Green Bay, and his impact was greatly missed on defense. DL Bobby Brown III returned from IR in Week 11, providing a much-needed spark to an injury-riddled defensive line. Cornerback Cobie Durant missed Week 11 versus Seattle due to a shoulder injury and is questionable for Week 12.
Matthew Stafford took a ferocious hit on a failed trick play last week. For video reference, here's the attempted trick play that was executed by USC earlier this season.
Stafford is unquestionably the resilient player on the Los Angeles Rams. His health is imperative to Sean McVay and the rest of the offense. Example A, Week 10 versus Green Bay without Stafford, the offense scored three points. Los Angeles signed QB Carson Wentz during its bye week but would much rather keep Stafford under center.
With a win in Week 12 versus the Cardinals, the Rams can keep their slim playoff hopes alive in a weak NFC. An efficient game script from Sean McVay, defensive continuity from Raheem Morris, and continued health are keys to a Week 12 win for the Rams.