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Rams stumble early before Odell Beckham Jr. rescues them in win over Ravens

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Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. celebrates after scoring a touchdown on a pass from quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. celebrates after scoring a touchdown on a pass from quarterback Matthew Stafford during the second half against the Baltimore Ravens Sunday.
(Nick Wass / Associated Press)

The Rams moved a step closer toward clinching the NFC West title with 20-19 comeback victory over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.

Rams overcome early miscues to edge Ravens

Rams running back Sony Michel gets up after he failed to score on a two point conversion play.
Rams running back Sony Michel gets up after he failed to score on a two point conversion play against the Baltimore Ravens during the second half Sunday in Baltimore.
(Gail Burton / Associated Press)

BALTIMORE—The Rams did it again.

For the second game in a row, they overcame three turnovers by quarterback Matthew Stafford to win.

On Sunday, they defeated the Baltimore Ravens, 20-19, at M&T Bank Stadium to improve to 12-4 and move a step closer to clinching the NFC West.

The Rams won the game when Stafford connected with Odell Beckham Jr. for a seven-yard touchdown with 57 seconds left.

The play capped a nine-play, 75-yard drive during which Stafford completed seven passes, including a fourth-down pass to Beckham that set up the touchdown.

Just as they did last week when they overcame three interceptions to defeat the Minnesota Vikings, the Rams survived Stafford’s miscues and the 13th-year pro made key plays when the Rams needed them most.

Stafford completed 26 of 35 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns.

Sony Michel rushed for 74 yards and a touchdown.

Kupp caught six passes for 95 yards and a touchdown. And Beckham had five catches for 39 yards and a touchdown.

The Rams must wait for the result of the game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Dallas Cowboys to determine if they have clinched the NFC West.

Sunday’s game was a stark contrast to the last time the teams played.

In 2019, the Ravens routed the Rams, 45-6, at the Coliseum as Lamar Jackson passed for five touchdowns and ran for 95 yards.

Jackson did not play on Sunday because of an ankle injury that has sidelined the 2019 NFL most valuable player for three games.

Tyler Huntley played well in his place and Justin Tucker kicked four field goals, but it was not enough to beat the Rams.

The Rams’ problems started early.

During the first series, star cornerback Jalen Ramsey struck teammate Taylor Rapp in the face while they were in the huddle.

It devolved from there.

Stafford had two passes intercepted – one that was returned for a touchdown – and he also lost a fumble.

The Rams trailed 13-7 at halftime after Ravens safety Chuck Clark intercepted Stafford passes, one he returned for a touchdown and another the Ravens converted into a field goal.

They appeared on their way to possibly taking the lead after Stafford delivered a 35-yard pass to Van Jefferson during a drive that got to the 11-yard line. But Stafford was sacked and he lost a fumble.

The Ravens converted the turnover into another Justin Tucker field goal for a nine-point lead.

But late in the third quarter, the Rams started a drive that featured a 21-yard catch-and-run by Kupp. That play set up Michel’s short touchdown run in the fourth quarter, trimming the Ravens’s lead to 16-14.

The Ravens added another Tucker field goal with 4:30 left.

But Stafford engineered a nine-play, 75-yard drive that culminated with Beckham’s touchdown.

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Rams take lead with touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to Odell Beckham Jr.

Rams 20, Ravens 19… 0:57 left

Matthew Stafford passed to Odell Beckham Jr. for a 7-yard touchdown pass with :57 seconds left in the game. Rams went for the two-point conversion, but was unsuccessful.

Stafford is 26 of 35 for 309 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Beckham Jr. has 39 yards with a touchdown.

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Rams defense limits Ravens to field goal late in fourth quarter

Ravens 19, Rams 14… 4:30 left

Justin Tucker kicked a 34-yard field goal to cap a 12-play drive that consumed more than seven and ahalf minutes.

The Ravens drove as deep as the Rams’ two-yard line, but a delay of a game penalty and then a sack shared by Leonard Floyd and Aaron Donald forced the Ravens to settle for the field goal.

Tucker has kicked four field goals.

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Sony Michel TD cuts Ravens’ lead in fourth quarter

Ravens 16, Rams 14…12:09 left

Sony Michel rushed for a one-yard touchdown to pull the Rams within two points.

Matthew Stafford’s 21-yard pass to receiver Cooper Kupp was the key play during a seven-play, 55-yard drive.

Kupp has four catches for 67 yards and a touchdown.

Michel has rushed for 69 yards and a touchdown in 16 carries.

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Ravens take advantage of another Matthew Stafford turnover to add to lead

Ravens 16, Rams 7…4:42 left in third quarter

The Ravens took advantage of another Matthew Stafford turnover.

Stafford looked good through most of the opening drive of the second half, completing a 35-yard pass to Van Jefferson. But on first down at the Ravens’ 11-yard line, Stafford was sacked and lost a fumble.

The Ravens then went on a 14-play, 52-yard drive that culminated with Justin Tucker’s 46-yard field goal.

Stafford has completed 15 of 24 passes for 196 yards and a touchdown, with two interceptions and a lost fumble.

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Matthew Stafford connects with Cooper Kupp for TD, Ravens lead at halftime

Ravens 13, Rams 7… halftime

Justin Tucker of the Ravens kicked a 46-yard field goal with two seconds left in the second quarter to leave the Rams with a six-point deficit.

The Rams had gained momentum late in the quarter when safety Jordan Fuller intercepted a pass and returned it 34 yards. That set up Matthew Stafford’s 18-yard touchdown pass to Cooper Kupp with 55 seconds left in the second quarter.

Stafford has completed 12 of 21 passes for 147 yards and touchdown, with two interceptions.

Kupp has three catches for 46 yards, tight end Tyler Higbee three catches for 44 yards.

Sony Michel has rushed for 33 yards in eight carries.

Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley has completed 12 of18 passes for 144 yards, with an interception.

Tight end Mark Andrews has three catches for 66 yards.

Safety Chuck Clark has intercepted two passes, one he returned for a touchdown.

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Matthew Stafford picked off again, Ravens add to lead

Ravens 10, Rams 0….3:41 left in the second quarter

Matthew Stafford’s miscue hurt the Rams again.

Ravens safety Chuck Clark intercepted a long pass by Stafford that was intended for receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

The Ravens took over that their four-yard line, and then used nine minutes to march to the Rams’ eight-yard line.

Tyler Huntley’s third-down pass was incomplete, and the Ravens settled for Justiin Tucker’s 22-yard field goal.

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Ravens take advantage of Matthew Stafford interception to take early lead

Ravens 7, Rams 0… 1:58 left in the first quarter

Ravens safety Chuck Clark intercepted a pass by Matthew Stafford and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown.

It was the fourth interception in two games for Safford, who had three passes intercepted in last Sunday’s 30-23 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

It’s been a tough start for the Rams.

During the first series of the game, Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey struck safety Taylor Rapp in the face while the team was in the huddle.

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Odell Beckham Jr. has caught on with Rams’ drive to be super

Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. runs with the ball during a win over the Seattle Seahawks on Dec. 21.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

Moving among Hollywood entertainment and sports celebrities was familiar to Odell Beckham Jr. even before the star receiver signed a free-agent contract with the Rams in November.

Beckham counts Drake, Kanye West and LeBron James among his friends.

But since joining the Rams, Beckham has flourished in a supporting role out of the spotlight.

With receiver Cooper Kupp on track to possibly establish several NFL receiving records, Beckham has caught four touchdown passes in six games for a Rams team that could clinch the NFC West title Sunday.

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Rams, Ravens inactives

The Rams have listed quarterback Bryce Perkins and running back Cam Akers among the list of inactives:

The Ravens have listed quarterback Lamar Jackson and others inactive for today’s game:

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John Madden’s lifelong buddy John Robinson: ‘Just two doofuses from Daly City’

NFL legend John Madden, left, and former Rams and USC coach John Robinson.
NFL legend John Madden, left, and former Rams and USC coach John Robinson spend time together in the NBC broadcast booth in 2006.
(NBC Sports)

They became football legends, although not the way they once planned.

John Madden and John Robinson rose to prominence as coaches, not players, their lives had intertwined since they met as fifth-graders at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in a neighborhood south of San Francisco.

“Just two doofuses from Daly City,” said Robinson, 86, the former USC and Rams coach wistfully repeating a phrase the two pals used often over the course of their nearly 80-year friendship.

They met as rival catchers at a youth baseball clinic, each sizing up the other and essentially saying, “Well, I know I can beat out that guy.”

They became fast friends, two dreamers dead set on playing professional sports while, in their minds, setting objectives that were realistic and readily reachable.

“Our plan was to play for the Yankees and the 49ers,” said Robinson, who was eight months older. “But we weren’t going to play basketball.”

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Sony Michel has allowed Rams to grind out wins, but will it work against Ravens?

Rams running back Sony Michel carries the ball during a win over the Seattle Seahawks on Dec. 21.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

BALTIMORE — He is mild-mannered, a self-described “smiler” who prefers to listen.

When Sony Michel carries the ball for the Rams, the running back mostly hears sounds of frustration from opposing defensive players.

It played out in a similar way throughout his college career at Georgia and during much of his first three NFL seasons with the New England Patriots. Most recently in the last four games for the Rams.

Since supplanting Darrell Henderson as the starter, Michel has averaged 22 carries and 105.8 yards rushing per game. Not coincidentally, the Rams have won four games in a row and clinched a playoff spot.

If the Rams (11-4) defeat the Baltimore Ravens (8-7) on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, and the Arizona Cardinals lose to the Dallas Cowboys, the Rams will win their third division title in five seasons under coach Sean McVay.

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Rams vs. Baltimore Ravens matchups, start time and how to watch

Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp, left, runs against Minnesota Vikings cornerback Cameron Dantzler.
Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp, left, runs against Minnesota Vikings cornerback Cameron Dantzler during the Rams’ win on Dec. 26.
(Bruce Kluckhohn / Associated Press)

Breaking down how the Rams (11-4) and the Baltimore Ravens (8-7) match up heading into their game at 10 a.m. PST on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. The game will be shown on FOX.

When Rams have the ball: Quarterback Matthew Stafford aims to avoid a repeat of his three-interception performance in a 30-23 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. Stafford came through with a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, but the Rams cannot expect to win if they give away the ball that many times.

Sony Michel is coming off a 131-yard rushing performance, his second 100-yard effort in four games since becoming the starter. Darrell Henderson (knee) is on injured reserve, and Cam Akers (recovering from Achilles injury) is not expected to play. Rookie Jake Funk, who returned from a hamstring injury a few weeks ago, will back up Michel.

With 132 receptions for 1,734 yards, receiver Cooper Kupp is on track to possibly establish NFL records for receptions and yards receiving in a season. But he would need 17 catches against the Ravens to tie Michael Thomas’ record of 149 set in 16 games in 2019.

Left tackle Andrew Whitworth is back after sitting out against the Vikings because he was on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

The Ravens, led by linebacker Patrick Queen, are their typically stout selves against the run. Because of injuries suffered by Marcus Peters and others in the secondary, however, they rank last in the league in pass defense.

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Rams vs. Baltimore Ravens: Betting lines, odds and predictions

Rams (-4.5, 46½) at Baltimore Ravens, 10 a.m. PST Sunday, FOX

Those who saw the practice clip of Jackson hobbling around Wednesday must feel there is little chance he will start for the Ravens. His absence Thursday, coupled with a line move in favor of the Rams, seemed to offer further evidence that QB1 might not play.

Quarterback Tyler Huntley was activated off of the COVID/reserve list, so the Rams won’t get so lucky as to face Josh Johnson. The truth is that Huntley might not be that much worse than Jackson, if at all. Huntley can run the same offense given the similar skill sets. Jackson is certainly more accomplished, but he has a 16/13 TD/INT ratio on the year and has taken 38 sacks.

Jackson’s mediocre season has taken on greater meaning because the Baltimore secondary has been ravaged by injuries and ineffectiveness. Baltimore’s defense has struggled as a whole, allowing 6.1 yards per play this season. The Rams, who lead the NFL in yards per play, should be able to take advantage of a defense that is dead last in net yards per pass attempt.

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