The Rams were sluggish in their first game after a scheduled off week, but they clinched their second consecutive NFC West title with four games remaining in the regular season. Here’s what we learned from their 30-16 victory over the Detroit Lions.
Aaron Donald is worthy of MVP consideration
The star defensive tackle once again asserted himself when his team needed him most, recording two sacks and causing a fumble that led to a touchdown.
Donald, who signed a $135-million extension before the season, has a league-leading 16 ½ sacks.
Donald dismisses MVP talk, saying it’s not up to him to decide.
But on an 11-1 team that features running back Todd Gurley, who is at the forefront of MVP buzz, and quarterback Jared Goff, who also has been in the conversation, Donald might be the most consistent playmaker on a team full of them.
The Rams can win when Jared Goff is not at his best
After passing for four touchdowns and running for another against the Kansas City Chiefs, Goff struggled against the Lions.
He entered the game having completed 68% of his passes.
On Sunday he completed just over 50%, connecting on only 17 of 33 passes for 207 yards and touchdown, with an interception.
He also lost a fumble for the third time in two games.
Aqib Talib solidifies the defense
The veteran cornerback did not make any big plays but his mere presence on the field seemed to settle teammates.
Talib, coming off an ankle injury that sidelined him for eight games, was on a snap count. He said he played 31 plays before trainers pulled him.
His playing time is expected to grow when the Rams play the Chicago Bears on Sunday night at Soldier Field.
Dante Fowler is getting more comfortable
The trade deadline move to acquire the edge-rushing linebacker continues to pay dividends.
Fowler made five tackles, three for losses, and had a sack. He also had several key third-down stops that forced the Lions to settle for field goals.
In the Rams’ Nov. 19 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, young outside linebacker Samson Ebukam was the difference-maker. Fowler played a similar role against the Lions.
Malcolm Brown’s shoulder injury could be more than a minor cause for concern
Brown is mostly under the radar because he plays as Gurley’s backup.
But he is dependable, does not fumble and has shown playmaking ability at times.
If Brown is sidelined, that will create opportunity for second-year pro Justin Davis or perhaps rookie John Kelly.
That’s a plus for the Rams because it presents a chance to develop depth. But it’s also possibly troubling if Brown is not available for the playoffs.