The Los Angeles Rams let go of all their momentum and dropped a 23-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. It was disappointing, deflating, and frankly a little embarrassing for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.
But as with most defeats, it was not without a few bright spots. Here are six of them.
We’ve become so accustomed to Aaron Donald thoroughly crushing opposing offensive linemen and quarterbacks that it almost doesn’t feel newsworthy.
But after Donald’s performance last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he deserves to be in the spotlight for what he did against the Niners. Donald got some flak a week ago for being shut out on the stat sheet; he still played brilliantly, and was a huge reason why the Rams forced Tom Brady into a rough performance, but he didn’t record any stats. And when you’re the best defensive player in the NFL, your critics will find any and every reason to find a hole in your game.
They’ll have no chance to do so after Donald’s performance on Sunday. He recorded five tackles, including four solo tackles. He had a sack. He forced a fumble. He got so closely acquainted with Nick Mullens that I fully expect the 49ers quarterback to send Donald a Christmas card in a few weeks.
It was a clinic, as we’ve grown accustomed to.
A defensive score
Despite the loss, the Rams are still 7-4, and their defense is the first, second, and third reason why.
And on Sunday, the D proved it by scoring as many touchdowns as the offense did. I mentioned already that Donald forced a fumble … well, Troy Hill picked it up and ran it in 20 yards for a score.
Fuller steals another
A week ago, rookie Jordan Fuller had a pretty epic career first, by nabbing the first and second interceptions of his career, both against Tom Brady. That’s about as good of a way as you can start a career of picks.
Mullens is no Brady, but with the notable first (and second) pick off the board, it’s time for Fuller to just start racking them up. And that’s exactly what he did when he had the third interception of his young career on the Niners second drive. It set up a field goal, which gave the Rams the lead.
A perfect kicking game
Kicking has been an Achilles heel for the Rams all year long, but there were no signs of right foot issues on Sunday.
In his second game with the Rams, kicker Matt Gay — LA’s third attempt at finding a kicker this season — was perfect. He made both of his extra-point attempts, and both of his field goals, connecting from 41 and 48 yards.
Remarkably, it was just the second time all season that the Rams have made it through an entire game without missing a PAT or a field goal. The only other time they did so was in Week 4 against the New York Giants.
Akers does his thing
A week after registering his first career touchdown, rookie Cam Akers was back in the lab on Sunday. He had nine rushes for a career-high 84 yards, and was almost single-handedly responsible for the Rams go-ahead drive.
That drive lasted three plays: a 61-yard run by Akers, a six-yard run by Akers, and a one-yard touchdown run by, you guessed it, Akers.
A blistering stretch
The Rams spent the bulk of the game trying to score points, and falling on their face in the process. But during a stretch of a few minutes spanning the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth, LA showed just how dynamic they can be, by rattling off 17 unanswered points in the blink of an eye.
It started with a seven-play, 53-yard drive that culminated in a Gay field goal. Six seconds later, they were scoring on Hill’s fumble return.
They then forced the Niners into a three-and-out, and followed it up with Akers’ three-play touchdown drive.
In the time it took you to get a new beer, and empty the old one from your bladder, the Rams had turned a 17-3 deficit into a 20-17 lead.
They didn’t hold it. But what got them there is still worth praising. Faint praise, but praise nonetheless.