(East Los Angeles, CA) January 5, 2022 [FromThe Editor’s Desk]: On “Any Given Sunday,” not referring to the movie specifically, but to real life and to the NFL, it’s been proven that no matter what the two team records are going into that day’s combat, either team always believes that it has the chance of winning the game, whether it be on the road or at home, and no matter what their team records are.
That coined phrase is commonly used in the League to describe and infer the high level of competition among all of its (32) teams. In this sport, you can go from an underdog before game “kick-off” to an upset maker and an incredible winner in the span of one 60 minute game. Thus, the expression, “on any given Sunday” lives on in one of the most successful major professional sports in the world.
Now, its onto the Rams thrilling win in Week #17. The team started out the game with another nightmare turnover committed by QB/Matt Stafford when he unexpectedly threw a 19 yard “Pick 6” that was returned by Chuck Clark, with (1:58) left in the first period (7-0) Ravens. Baltimore scored again in the 2nd quarter to take a (10-0) lead when PK/Justin Tucker connected on his first field goal from 22 yards out with (3:41) left. Ravens 10, Rams 0.
For much of the 2nd period, the Rams offense was unable to generate any kind of scoring drives as the Baltimore defense was holding them to little success with their ground and air games. But a Jordan Fuller interception added fuel to the offense and with just (0:58) seconds left in the half, the Rams were on the scoreboard with an 18 yard TD pass from Stafford to Cooper Kupp, making it (10-7) Ravens. To close out the half, with just (:02) seconds left, Tucker came through again from 46 yards out, giving the Ravens a (13-7) lead at half.
(3rd Quarter): Meanwhile the Ravens QB Tyler Huntley, was doing well as his own pocket escape runs, and run-options were working well-enough to produce great field goal positioning for their All-Pro place kicker, Tucker. His 45 yarder with (4:47) seconds left gave the Ravens the narrow lead going into the locker room. Not much scoring took place except for this field goal. Ravens (16), Rams (7).
(4th Quarter): The Ravens looked to have confidence that they could upset the Rams should they continue inspired defense. However, Coach McVay urged his players to stay cool under pressure and begin to take what the Ravens defense was giving them. Key plays by Cooper Kupp and a strong running effort shown by Sony Michel at the (12:12) mark earned him a 1 yard TD run, with Matt Gay adding the PAT for a (16-14) Ravens advantage. Then, at (4:33), they put Tucker in good positioning for his 4th field goal attempt from the 34 yard line and he nailed it for a (19-14) advantage.
But the drama & intensity of the game showed itself and the game basically turned on the Rams “2 minute drill” and their perfect execution of it to secure a TD winning drive to tie the Ravens & then take the lead with (00:57) seconds left on the M & T Stadium clock.
Let’s recap their game-winning drive. Of the highest significance, it was Odell Beckham, Jr.’s knee-high reception and stretching forward catch with (1:08) left at the 7 yard line giving them a 1st and “goal-to-go.” Then, on a great play call, Coach McVay went right back to OBJ, who caught Stafford’s perfectly thrown low-pass. OBJ then squeezed his foot just inside the pylon for the score. This put the Rams on top by the score of (20-19). Coach McVay decided to go for the 2 point conversion looking tfor the 3 point margin, leaving the Ravens a chance to tie with another field goal. The attempt failed, leaving the score as it was.
The Ravens received the “kick-off” and put the ball in play with just (00:57) seconds left. They appeared ready to rally for the chance to get into field goal range for the win. But that fell apart when Outside Linebacker, Von Miller, came to the rescue and sacked Huntley for a big loss at their 30 yard line with just (00:19) seconds remaining. Then, with just (00:03) seconds left, the Ravens called a “flea flicker” final play with a “lateral” but to no avail. Time had expired by the end of the play with the tackle.
(Of Further Significance): After watching Odell Beckham Jr.’s post-game interview with Fox’s sideline correspondent, Pam Oliver, he must now truly believe that it was his right choice to sign with the Rams because he certainly proved that he has become a great pillar of team strength that has greatly added to the franchise with his “super-clutch” plays during this (5) game winning streak. He has repeatedly shown that he has mastered to a new level, the strength of making crucial catches in short down yardage plays that result result in first downs and TDs. He has definitely earned the respect of all his teammates.
(Of Great Significance): But not by any means to overshadow the record-breaking accomplishment by WR/Cooper Kupp, who broke the team’s single season receiving records, when he demonstrated the grace and athleticism on his 4th quarter reception resulting in a “Key” first down that kept their drive alive.
On review of the NFC West standings…the Division’s playoff picture now shows the Rams at (12-4) and the Cardinals at (11-5) after pulling out a win over the Cowboys. The Rams must win Sunday over the 49ers to claim the Division title.
Read Coach McVay’s and Odell Beckham Jr.’s Post-Game comments here.
[Head Coach Sean McVay]:
(On if there were any injuries and DL Greg Gaines playing through his hand injury)…“(DL) Greg (Gaines) did good. I thought he played really well. I think he’s getting comfortable, really kind of throwing that thing in there. But he made his plays and (I) thought Greg had another solid game. Really, the only person, that as of right now will be affected potentially, would be (S) Nick Scott. He broke his thumb on the last play of the game. He’s having surgery today. It is something that he could potentially cast up and play as soon as this week. So, his status will be kind of questionable and up in the air. But everybody else was just your typical bumps and bruises. It’s a positive for us. Hopefully, we can get Nick back because I thought he did some really good things yesterday.”
(On the possibility of DL Sebastian Joseph-Day returning in the postseason)…“There’s no updates on that. I don’t have any really further information. I know he is attacking his rehab the right way. He’s really stayed engaged and locked in, and it’s good to see a smile on his face when he’s in the weight room doing what he can. But no updates on (DL) Sebastian (Joseph-Day) right now.”
(On WR Cooper Kupp going into the final game in range of breaking some big records and the both of them having an understanding of the priorities for this week)…“The best thing is, is that usually when he’s involved, that’s best for our team. So, those things kind of go hand in hand. I think what (WR) Cooper (Kupp) will tell you is our goal is always team oriented first. And if that just so happens that it coincides with great individual accomplishments and what I think is the greatest team sport there is, that’s outstanding. But Cooper epitomizes the selflessness that you want from your leaders, from your best players. When he’s involved, we’re better offensively. But there’s different ways he’s opening up some different other things. You see some of the production from (TE Tyler) Higbee yesterday I think was a result of some of the attention that Cooper draws. But I really think I’ve been so impressed with just the way he’s handled this entire season. Selflessness is on full display. He’s already really rewritten a lot of the record books and he’s etched himself in the history of this game with what he’s done – if he doesn’t have a single catch or a yard in the last game of the season which is a credit to the consistency that that he’s played with through these 16 games. Am I aware of where he’s at numbers wise? Yes, I am. Will that affect the way that we game plan and try to ultimately go beat a really difficult division opponent? It won’t. But the good thing is his production usually goes in alignment with our offensive production. And so, that’s where you can feel like you’re probably (going to) be able to check the boxes in both instances, but not at the detriment ofwhat’s best for (inaudible).”
(On if he could envision a scenario where he’d know that he is close to breaking a record and they’d go for it)…“I don’t know. I think that’s something that I think you definitely want to kind of be openminded where you’d never close the door on it, but not at the expense of potentially losing him too. And so, all those things are up in the air. I wouldn’t pigeonhole myself into kind of one standard operating approach.”
(On if there’s a standard operating procedure in the aftermath of something like what happened between CB Jalen Ramsey and S Taylor Rapp to clear the air)
“I think you talk to those guys. Communication is usually the best way to operate. You get your feelings up in the air. You understand what happened. You try to be empathetic to both sides of the perspective that each of those guys had, and then we keep it moving. And that’s what families do kind of like I mentioned yesterday.”
(On if he did what he just previously mentioned)…“I talked to both of those guys, yes. But there was a lot of excitement. There’s a lot of different things. Our players were not in the building today, but I have spoken with both of those guys, and I don’t feel like it’s going to be anything that we need to worry about as we move forward, just like I felt in the game yesterday.”
(On how he built the culture at the Los Angeles Rams and what he has implement over the years maintain the culture of the team to have positive progress)…“I think the best thing I would say is that culture is a reflection of the people and the caliber of people that we have in this organization and on our team. Part of our onboarding process year in and year out is attracting guys that love football, that have high football character, that are great communicators, it’s important to ‘em, they’ve got a mental and a physical toughness, they love to compete and they’re smart players in terms of the game making sense to ‘em. And so, it’s all about really our players. Any great place, it’s all about the people. We talk about that all the time. I’ve heard my dad say this when he was in advertising sales, he used to say, ‘Hey, we are going to compete with our products, but we’re going to win with our people.’ And I really think that it’s very similar to us. We win with our people, we compete with our schemes is kind of how I would draw on an equivalent to football. But, it’s about the types of people that we have. We’ve consistently had great leadership from our players. I think we’ve had great coaches that have consistently poured into these guys. Ultimately anybody that’s a part of this culture, I think they make people that they’re around better. That’s what great people do. That’s what great leaders do. I don’t think you can have enough good leaders in any organization and it’s about the relationships, the communication and the standards that we uphold every single day. And I think that’s what the players have done in the five years that I’ve been fortunate enough to be here. I feel like I try to just do kind of the same. And it’s never about coaches or players. It’s about all of us collectively collaborating to be at our best and enjoy the journey as well.”
(On his team making the playoffs four of the last five years and what it’s like to hear his name mentioned with former Head Coach Chuck Knox)…“It’s very flattering. But again, I do think that the best thing about this game is it’s a reflection of the entire atmosphere, the environment. From our coaches to our players to our training staff to the front office, I think these are great reflections of a good organization and these players have delivered in a big way. It’s flattering. But I certainly – if there’s one thing that I’ve continued to learn over these last five years – it’s all about being around people that are better than you, leaning on those people, being able to trust them, and then ultimately, trust the players and the leaders to be able to kind of uphold the standards that we want to abide by and operate with week in and week out – through both the good and the bad.”
(On how WR Ben Skowronek has become a player that they can trust to be put into situations where he’s blocking for WR Odell Beckham Jr. and how impact has it been to have that)…“(I) think the big word you used there is ‘trust.’ And I got a lot of trust in this guy. The way he goes about his business – the way that he’s learned from Cooper, from (WR) Odell (Beckham Jr.), from (WR) Robert Woods, from (Wide Receivers Coach) Eric Yarber and (Offensive Assistant) Chris O’Hara – he’s really – as a rookie – he’s very mature beyond his years. The game makes a lot of sense to him. (He’s) really smart, conscientious, and he is tough as hell. He can run. He’s got a lot of great traits. I’m really excited about (WR) Ben Skowronek.
I think he did a great job really asserting and establishing himself on special teams. And then you’re just saying, ‘Man, this guy’s got a chance to be able to really contribute.’ I thought he made a big catch on that last drive. That was a big play. (I) thought he really played well without the ball. And then you mentioned it, on the touchdown he does a great job of being able to win on his release, which kind of got a natural pick for Odell. Without having to touch the defender, Odell used it perfectly and that was what enabled him to be able to score. And then the fourth-down-and-five, what an amazing catch by Odell, but was really pleased with Ben and a lot of guys that came through in crunch time when we had to have it. Ben’s doing a great job and he’s only going to continue to be more of an instrumental piece to our success as we move forward.”
(On what is different about QB Matthew Stafford in the first half compared to his play in the second given that 12 of his 15 interceptions have come in the first half of games and if he is concerned about that especially as the playoffs approach)…“I’m not concerned. I think you want to address those things, but they all have their own story. There was two of them yesterday. I thought the second one, he saw the coverage. The back, he kind of quick counted it. It was a good job by the backside safety kind of overlapping. And then on the first one, (I) thought (Ravens S) Chuck Clark made a nice play. We had a little bit of a mix up with the route distribution we were looking for. It was a good defensive call by (Ravens Defensive Coordinator Don) ‘Wink’ Martindale. And I thought Chuck Clark played it really well based on the coverage. It wasn’t a very good play call and they made a play and that sometimes happens. But I think the thing that says as much that to me about (QB) Matthew (Stafford) is anything that I continue to say is, if there’s one thing you can say about our football team, we’re a mentally tough football team that has some resilience.
And that serves us really well. I think that’s embodied as much by anybody as our quarterback. That’s a trait that is a huge thing. I think any great quarterback has that mental toughness, that resilience, goes 14-for-14. The ball never touched the ground in the second half. He ended up leading two touchdown drives when we had to have it the most. And that’s what it’s about. That’s an organization and a franchise that I have tremendous respect for. They were playing for their playoff lives. There’s still a chance they can get in, but I don’t care what’s going on with them. They got some guys back. I got tremendous respect for ‘Wink’ Martindale. I thought they’re front seven and they do a really good job. They’ve had a commitment to a philosophy. And I was really pleased with the way Matthew played that game. We had a couple turnovers that we want back, but those are not exclusively on him as I’ll continue to reiterate. Unfortunately, the quarterback gets more blame and then sometimes they get a lot of credit as well, but the guy’s a stud and I love him.”
(On what level of importance does he put WR Cooper Kupp’s record at)…“That’s a good question. What’s important to me is us winning and trying to do things right as a team week in and week out. And if those things can go hand in hand, now you’re checking both boxes, but I do think it’s important to talk to the players, see where their priorities lie. I don’t think you want to minimize the importance of the opportunity that Cooper has earned to even be in this position. Best thing about Cooper is, he’ll tell you this is a reflection of Matthew, his other ten teammates, some of the things that he’s done week in and week out. But I think it’s a really special thing that he’s earned the opportunity to even have a conversation about, but it always does start with the team goals first.”
(On if the last four wins were due to mental toughness or more experience)…“I think both, I think both. I think you develop a mental toughness through that experience and through those opportunities if you use it the right way. I think we’ve found different ways to win football games. I do still think (despite) of us turning the ball over the last three weeks and finding a way to win, I think that’s outstanding. I think that shows great resilience, mental toughness. I think the experience that a lot of our key players have developed over the course of their career has led to that mental toughness. I do think it’s going to be important for us to make sure that we minimize those to be able to play our best ball, to try to win this division against an excellent opponent this weekend. And then as we move towards the playoffs, the margin for error continues to get smaller and smaller. We know that and we got to be able to really lock in on those things.”
(On if he’s confident his team will be able to pull through when they are down, like in the game against the Ravens)…“I did. I don’t know that I’ve ever been a part of a game where we trailed for the whole game and then you find a way to take the lead with as little time as what was left, but I did have a belief. I thought our defense, I thought the stand, when it’s second-and-two on the two or first-and-five on the five and they’re up two points with the chance to really make it a two-possession game, you’re thinking, ‘Alright, this is a challenge,’ but I had real belief and conviction that our defense would make a stop. I thought the play on second-and-two that (S) Taylor Rapp and (DL) Greg Gaines made to get that tackle on the back field to get it to a third-down-and-four, and then ultimately, they take a delay to go to third-and-nine, play the game without a doubt. And I felt like the way that the Matthew had gone in the second half, the way that the offense was moving the football, if we kept it to a one possession game and made them settle for a field goal – which is exactly what our guys did – felt very confident that Matthew and the offense would go lead a touchdown drive. And they definitely answered the bell in a big way. So, I did feel good about that. It didn’t minimize how difficult it would be to accomplish it, but there was confidence all the way in our guys.”
(On the moment he realized Kupp can do all the things they’ve installed in him)…“I think just his feel, his understanding, his intuition and really the intrigue he’s always had and everything that goes on, even if it’s outside of the framework of what receivers are being asked. How to use your leverage the right way, how to be able to take the proper angles, footwork, techniques, fundamentals. If you see the way this guy’s been engaged, every Friday we have a run game meeting, and in a lot of instances, it revolves around the offensive line, the tight ends, the running backs. The receivers are a big part of what we ask of those guys. But if you watch the way that he and Robert Woods from the day that they got here have been engaged in that. And then he’s done some different things on the backside of other run concepts or even if we’ve thrown some play actions where we’ve asked him to be a part of the protection that have kind of stimulated a thought process amongst us as coaches and Cooper’s really always a part of that dialogue. And so, it’s kind of been an accumulating thing over the course of his career. He loves it and that’s one of the things that makes him so special.”