In a game that mirrored Week 1’s surprising win, the Los Angeles Rams put a dent in the Seattle Seahawks’ playoff aspirations. On Sunday, they won again, 17-16.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford returned to action from his thumb injury and spun it pretty well. It ultimately wasn’t a pretty offensive affair, but the defense did just enough to survive. Seattle kicker Jason Myers’ last-second field goal was no good, and a handful of yards very well could have been the difference.
Coming out of the bye, it was clear head coach Sean McVay and defensive coordinator Raheem Morris’ adjustments were on display. What can fans take away from the Week 11 win?
1. Royce Freeman has taken over the running back room … for now.
Whether it was a matter of riding the hot hand or a bye-week adjustment, running back Royce Freeman took control of the Rams’ ground game on Sunday.
Of Los Angeles’ 27 rush attempts, and 24 from running backs, Freeman saw 17 carries. He was easily the Rams’ best rusher too. He totaled 73 yards for a yards per carry of 4.3. That was far better than running back Darrell Henderson’s average gain of a half-yard (on six carries).
Unsurprisingly, he also had the longest rush of the day for either team, ripping off a 15-yard gain.
Freeman was critical to the limited offense Los Angeles produced. On the final offensive drive for McVay’s unit, Freeman rushed for back-to-back nine-yard gains and found over 20 yards on a handful of attempts. The Rams would score the game-winning field goal in part thanks to his efforts.
Henderson is transitioning into more of a third-down back than the alternating-drive split Los Angeles had used early in the season. How the return of running back Kyren Williams impacts things will be the next question for this offense.
2. The defense, once again, stood up Seattle.
Week 1 was nightmare material for a Seahawks offense that managed to gain just 12 yards in the second half. While it wasn’t such a tale of two halves, they found similar struggles.
The final drive may steal the spotlight, giving Myers just enough room to push his field goal right of the goalpost. However, this one was a four-quarter affair.
Seattle quarterback Geno Smith was average, throwing for 233 yards. He returned for the final drive, but while he was dealing with an injury, backup Drew Lock was intercepted by cornerback Derion Kendrick.
It was a strong game from the young secondary, with only Metcalf having a truly productive day at the offense (five catches, 94 yards, and a score). Neither receiver Tyler Lockett nor Jaxon Smith-Njigba made much of a mark on this one, and six targets were funneled to running back Zach Charbonnet, a testament to the coverage’s ability to force check-downs.
On the ground, it wasn’t much different. Charbonnet rushed 15 times for 47 yards. Starting running back Kenneth Walker left the game early with an injury, gaining just 18 yards.
The Rams had one of their strongest outings of the season on this side of the ball, mainly by balancing limiting explosives with stopping the run.
If defensive backs Derion Kendrick and Quentin Lake continue to find success, this is a secondary that could finally gel during the home stretch.
3. Cooper Kupp’s injury isn’t fatal.
Obviously, losing receiver Cooper Kupp is a detriment to the offense. He’s one of the best receivers on the planet and his rapport with Stafford is essentially unmatched.
However, just like the beginning of the season, receiver Puka Nacua has mitigated the impact of his absence. If Kupp is to miss extended time (he was quickly ruled out Sunday after a leg injury), this Rams offense has proven capable of keeping itself afloat.
Naturally, much of that success rests on Nacua’s shoulders. Stafford, though, was able to distribute the football to seven different targets with moderate success. He threw for 190 yards on 31 attempts, with a single touchdown and interception.
He’s going to continue firing off tight window throws. As long as the receivers can operate smoothly as cogs in the McVay machine -- as they did on Sunday -- this offense should remain passable.