They are leading a five-match winning streak. They have already made it to the playoffs. And now they can beat the 49ers on Sunday to secure their third NFC West title in five years.
In short, the Los Angeles Rams are sitting where they launched a blockbuster trade for franchise-changing quarterback Matthew Stafford almost a year ago.
Of course, the recent anxiety-inducing way he has positioned himself for postseason runs was not part of the plan. Rams Land has had plenty of victories over the past two weeks, while Stafford complicates matters by throwing five interceptions and faltering twice.
Stafford’s mistakes are nothing new—his 15 interceptions this season have only been surpassed by Jacksonville rookie Trevor Lawrence. But it’s definitely getting old for them to answer.
“I hate going to all this to be honest with you. I’m tired of doing it.’ He had to interpret another pick six after Ravens safety Chuck Clark returned a wayward pass for the touchdown.
Stafford, whose 27 sixes in 13 seasons is the fourth most in NFL history, has now returned four passes for touchdowns this season. (Maybe 49ers fans remember Jimmy Ward for one of them, accounting for San Francisco’s 31-10 win over LA in weeks?)
Pick-6! Jimmy Ward’s 2nd INT.@49ers 14-0 lead in the first quarter.
— NFL (@nfl) November 16, 2021
Whenever Rams coach Sean McVay talks about Stafford’s misunderstandings, the unease should be evident. When you try to upgrade the quarterback by shipping two first-round picks, a third-round pick, and your own $130 million quarterback (Cal’s Jared Goff) to Detroit, expect a little less drama and far lower turnover. It is logical to do.
But that’s what you get from rifle-armed Stafford, who has a propensity for mistakes fans may be mad at, but those forgivable sins for McVay, who has consistently seen his quarterback pounce. On Sunday, McVay watched as Stafford pass a game-winning TD pass to Odell Beckham Jr., with 57 seconds left to beat the Ravens 20-19.
The NFL remains a bottom line business and the Rams’ bottom line is looking good, thanks in large part to Stafford, whose 4,648 passing yards and 38 touchdowns this season surpassed only Tom Brady’s 4,990 yards and 40 TD throws. .
McVay said after Stafford’s rally, “Here I would say that there is a lot of focus on the position of the quarterback, but what we don’t talk about is all the great plays made in the drive that helped us win the game.” went.” His team with two quarter TD passes. “It tells me what a leader he is.
“I love this guy so much. I think I can definitely help him get him to some better places, but when we had to… he did big throw after big throw in clutch situations. Did it. That’s what great players do.”
Instead of focusing on the troubles, McVay chooses to focus on the other side of Stafford’s game, which has played a big role in the Rams’ 12 victories. If you can look at the interception, you’ll also see evidence suggesting Stafford is what the Rams needed for him.
He has definitely made it a habit to save his best for last.
Stafford has now produced back-to-back game-winning drives over the past two weeks, making him fifth in NFL history with 34 fourth-quarter returns and seventh with 42 game-winning drives. has gone.
After turning the ball in each of the first three quarters against Baltimore Sunday, Stafford again flipped the script late. With games this season, Stafford’s numbers show how special and error-free he has been in the fourth quarter:
Closing Rate: 72.8 percent (first in the NFL)
Passer Rating: 126.8 (1st in NFL)
TD Pass: 11 (second in the NFL after Justin Herbert’s 12)
Intercept: 0 (first in the NFL)
Stafford would be the first to point to Pro Bowl receiver Cooper Kupp throwing in to make life easier. With league-leading totals of 138 catches, 1,829 receiving yards and 15 TD grabs, Kupp is poised to become the fourth player to win the NFL’s “Triple Crown” in the Super Bowl era.
Instead of basking in his own late-game glory, Stafford wants to figure out a way to limit the mistakes that also doomed him and the Rams when they played the 49ers on Monday night in November at Levi’s Stadium. had met.
“I want to start the game better than I start, there’s no question about it,” Stafford said. “It’s a team effort (and) I’m proud of the way these guys fight, the way we stay together.”