Rams look to cut out Stafford’s errors before it costs them
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Wins are piling up for the Los Angeles Rams.
So too are turnovers by quarterback Matthew Stafford.
With the playoffs in sight, the two are unlikely to continue to coexist, something Stafford knows all too well after the Rams escaped with a 20-19 victory at the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.
Despite Stafford throwing two interceptions and losing a fumble, the Rams (12-4) won their fifth straight game. He has six interceptions in his past three games after being picked off nine times in his first 11 following the trade that sent him from Detroit to the West Coast.
“I hate going over all of these, to be honest with you. I am tired of doing it,” Stafford said Sunday as he recapped his three mistakes, which Baltimore turned into 13 points, including a pick-6 by safety Chuck Clark.
But Stafford was able to regroup and lead the Rams on two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter, finding Odell Beckham Jr. for the winning 7-yard score with 57 seconds remaining. Stafford finished 26 of 35 passing for 309 yards and two touchdowns.
“I love this guy so much,” coach Sean McVay said. “I feel I can certainly help him in putting him in some better spots, but when we had to have it, and the defense made a stop, he made big throw after big throw in clutch situations. That’s what the great players do.”
The Rams can win the NFC West and secure the second seed in the conference by defeating the San Francisco 49ers (9-7) at home on Sunday.
Stafford’s carelessness with the ball was a major factor in the first meeting in Week 10, which San Francisco won 31-10. He threw two interceptions in the first quarter, which the 49ers turned into a 14-0 lead. There was no comeback that Monday night in November.
However, McVay sees the response Stafford put together in the crucial moments against the Ravens as a signal his quarterback will be ready for the postseason.
“Here’s what I would say, the quarterback position gets so much attention, but what we don’t end up talking about is all the great plays he made in the drive that ended up winning the game for us. That says to me how much of a leader he is,” McVay said.
Adding LB Von Miller to an elite defensive front has supercharged the Rams pass rush, which had five sacks against the Ravens. Miller had two, Aaron Donald and Leonard Floyd split a takedown of Tyler Huntley, and even big man A’Shawn Robinson got in on the fun. The 330-pound space eater picked up the sixth career sack of his six-year career.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
It was a challenge for the linebackers and the secondary to cover Baltimore TE Mark Andrews. He had six receptions for 89 yards, and the 49ers will try to attack those weaknesses this week with standout George Kittle. Kittle had 50 yards and a touchdown on five grabs in the first meeting versus Los Angeles, and he has four 100-yard games in eight career appearances.
TE Tyler Higbee set season highs with six catches for 69 yards. As long as Cooper Kupp and Beckham draw the focus of opposing defensive backs, Higbee should continue to be a valuable option to keep the chains moving.
K Matt Gay missed his only field-goal attempt from 56 yards, and the subsequent turn in field position hindered the Rams offense for the rest of the first quarter. It was just his second miss in 33 tries this season, and that McVay let him try from that distance reflects how good the Utah product has been.
S Nick Scott broke his thumb on the last play of the game. He had surgery on Monday and could play this week with a cast, McVay said.
136 — Kupp (1,829) needs 136 yards to pass Calvin Johnson (1,964 in 2012) for most yards receiving in a season. Kupp also has a shot at setting the single-season mark for receptions, as he will go into the last week of the season with 138. Michael Thomas had 149 catches in 2019.
The Rams host the 49ers having lost five straight in the series. With San Francisco fighting to secure a playoff berth, the intensity should be high.
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