Rams Defeat Titans, Clinch NFC West Title

Posted Dec 24, 2017

The Rams clinched the NFC West with a 27-23 victory over the Titans on Sunday. It’s their first division title since 2003 and their first playoff berth since 2004.

NASHVILLE — It’s been a long time coming.

The Rams defeated the Titans on Sunday 27-23, clinching the organization’s first division title since 2003. It wasn’t the prettiest of victories, but the Rams did what they had to do in order to come away victorious.

It’s been a remarkable year-to-year turnaround in Sean McVay’s first season as Los Angeles’ head coach. The Rams have a long list of accomplishments in 2017, but a division championship immediately goes right to the top of the list.

But running back Todd Gurley was once again the story of the day, as he continues to make it harder to keep him out of the MVP conversation. He had over 200 yards from scrimmage once again, also finishing with a pair of touchdowns.

Gurley made a key play in the second quarter, taking a screen pass 80 yards down the middle of the field for a touchdown.

Los Angeles overcame missing a pair of critical pieces to success in this game, namely kicker Greg Zuerlein and starting inside linebacker Mark Barron. Zuerlein was placed on injured reserve earlier in the week with a back injury. And while he was not listed with an injury status for Sunday, Barron was inactive for the contest. He did leave last week’s game with a knee injury and did not return.

But starting in Barron’s place, linebacker Cory Littleton made an impact early to help give the Rams a lead. On the Titans’ second play from scrimmage, Littleton picked off quarterback Marcus Mariota’s first pass to give Los Angeles an extra possession.

The visitors capitalized on the opportunity, as Gurley scored his first touchdown of the day — a three-yard reception. But Sam Ficken — replacing the injured Zuerlein missed the extra point, which kept Los Angeles’ lead at 6-0. Ficken would also miss a 36-yard field goal of the right upright later in the first half.

Tennessee scored a field goal to cut Los Angeles’ lead to three, and then took the lead off a Rams turnover. Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey went unblocked on what looked like run play to the right, and forced a fumble on quarterback Jared Goff before he could hand off to Gurley. Linebacker linebacker Wesley Woodyard returned the loose ball for a touchdown, giving Tennessee a 10-6 lead.

Gurley brought L.A. right back with an 80-yard touchdown on a screen play, outrunning everyone on the field for an impressive touchdown. Ficken converted the extra point, to put the visitors ahead 13-10.

Tennessee added a field goal just before halftime to tie the score at 13.

In the second half, Gurley kept a Rams drive alive with a 10-yard run on 4th-and-1. And then Goff connected with Sammy Watkins on a slant route for the wideout’s team-leading eighth touchdown reception.

The Titans responded with 10 straight points, taking the lead early in the fourth quarter. Kick returner Adoree’ Jackson set up the Titans well with a 57-yard return to the L.A. 44. Running back DeMarco Murray took in a six-yard touchdown to tie the score at 20. Then Ryan Succop nailed a 27-yard field goal to give Tennessee a 23-20 lead.

That’s when wide receiver Cooper Kupp provided two big plays on the same drive to put Los Angeles back on top. He drew a defensive pass interference penalty that moved the Rams 31 yards to the home team’s 28. Then on 3rd-and-6 from the Tennessee 14, the wideout caught a pass in the back right corner of the end zone, getting a knee down and controlling the pass to the ground for the go-ahead touchdown.

The Rams had a time-consuming drive midway through the fourth quarter, with third down receptions by Robert Woods and Kupp extending the drive. But an incomplete pass on 3rd-and-11 left the Rams needing to punt from the visitors’ 49. 

The Titans started from their own 20 with 3:25 left on the clock and three timeouts after a touchback. They were able to cross midfield with a completion from Mariota to tight end Delanie Walker. A checkdown on 3rd-and-10 to running back Derrick Henry left the Titans with a 4th-and-3. Outside linebacker Connor Barwin forced Mariota to roll to his right, and the quarterback threw up a prayer that was batted down for an incomplete pass.

The Rams had to run three plays to do it, but they ran out the clock with a few Gurley runs to become NFC West champions.

Los Angeles is now 11-4 with the win. The club will be back at the Coliseum next week for its regular-season finale against the 49ers.