Ed "Pi Double i" Henderson
For the second consecutive season, the Los Angeles Rams have clinched the NFC West under Sean McVay, their young head coach. The Rams took care of business today by defeating the Detroit Lions by the score of 30-16. They attained control of their destiny by executing their game plan to become victorious over the Lions. The last couple of weeks the Rams depended on losses by the Seattle Seahawks, but it just didn't work out to their desire.
Two weeks ago, they pinned their hopes on the Green Bay Packers on defeating the Seahawks. However, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers seemed to have picked the wrong evening to play one of his worst games of the season. The Seahawks escaped the game with a fourth down stand to secure a 27-24 victory.
Last Sunday, the odds were stacked in favor of the Rams as they pinned those hopes on the Carolina Panthers defeating the Seahawks. A Panther victory at home would not come easy as they tried to scrap and remain perfect at home on the season. The Panthers fought a hard battle, but unfortunately, they lost to the Seahawks by a score of 30-27.
Panther's kicker Graham Cano missed a 48-yard field goal with 1:46 remaining in the game, that would have given the Panthers the lead. The Seahawks took over on downs, and after two near Panther sacks, Wilson did it again by eluding the pressure and launching a deep pass down the field to a wide-open Tyler Lockett. Veteran kicker Sebastian Janikowski then nailed a 31-yard field goal to beat the Panthers at Bank of America Stadium.
The victory didn't come easy for the Rams as the offense seemed to struggle at points of the game. Quarterback Jared Goff threw an interception in triple coverage and lost a fumble on a sack late in the second quarter.
The Lions threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Rams with a failed on-side kick, a failed double pass, but caught them off-guard with a five-yard pass to tackle Taylor Decker for a touchdown. Decker's touchdown pulled the Lion within three points of the Rams to a score of 16-13. But the Lions defense was on point today causing nearly two back-back interceptions in the fourth quarter as Goff woes continued.
Perhaps the 2018 NFL MVP Aaron Donald saved the Rams with his second sack of the game which forced a fumble from Lion's quarterback Mathew Stafford. Donald had his third forced fumbled and three sacks in his last two games. Rams 2017 NFC Offensive Player of the Year Todd Gurley capitalized on the turnover when he blasts through the right side for a 13-yard touchdown run.
The Lions would not give up as Stafford an escaped a sack and launched the ball down the field to receiver Kenny Golladay and received a 48-yard pass interference call on safety LaMarcus Joyner. On a third and goal Stafford would escape yet another sack with a Whodini move and hit Golladay for an apparent touchdown pass. However, it would be ruled incomplete as Golladay came down out of the back of the end-zone. Lions would settle for a Matt Prater field goal to pull the score to 23-17.
On a third-down and short, Gurley would take a handoff and rip through the left side for a 36-yard run, and his unselfishness would run horizontally across the field to burn time off the clock. Two carries later, Gurley gets his second touchdown of the day to put the Rams up by two scores.
On the Lions, next possession the Rams defense gets three errant passes out of Stafford and on third down a roughing the passer call would be enforced on Ndamukong Suh to extend the drive. Stafford would guide the offense down the field, but the Rams defense would get an interception from Troy Hill to seal the game.
Now that the Rams have clinched the division, they were first optimistic that the Dallas Cowboys in a miraculous way could defeat the red-hot New Orleans Saints. The Saints were the hottest team in the league as winners of their last ten games. The Cowboys snapped their 10-game win streak upsetting them 13-10, at AT&T Stadium. The loss to the Cowboys was crucial as they now yield the number one overall playoff spot to the Rams whom at this point will have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Despite the Saints loss, the Rams will still need to remain focused on their last four games as they will face the Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles, Arizona Cardinals and the season finale against the San Francisco 49ers. Questions will begin to circulate if the Rams win out, will Coach McVay bench his starter in the season final game?
Should the Rams win their next four games, and he elects to bench the starters, and should the Saints win out their remaining schedule, what does McVay do in the season finale? A critical point will be if the Rams and Saints end with precise records, the Saints will capture the home-field advantage once again. The Saints defeated the Rams in week nine with a 45-35 victory, in a shootout at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to control the head-to-head in case of a tie.
Therefore there will be much more at stake for the Rams moving forward after clinching this division title. McVay's "We, Not Me" approach has translated well with this young Rams team. Let's continue enjoying this pilot as he continues to navigate this team to success.
Today we are the "2018 NFC West Champions."