The Rams punched their ticket to the postseason for the second consecutive year with a 30-16 victory over the Lions on Sunday. The next step for Los Angeles? Clinching a first-round bye.
Here are five takeaways from Week 13.
1) COOKS REACHES 1,000
Maybe it’s a surprise to some, but it probably shouldn’t be. Wide receiver Brandin Cooks eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving on Sunday, reeling in four catches for 62 yards.
Now at 1,026 yards receiving this season, Cooks has become the first player in NFL history to reach 1,000 yards receiving in three consecutive seasons for three different teams. Cooks’ career path has not been traditional, but he’s been remarkably consistent — reaching 1,000 yards receiving in each of the last four seasons.
“Yeah he’s been great for us,” quarterback Jared Goff said Sunday. “Just his intensity and his daily preparation, constantly asking questions, I’m constantly trying to give him feedback, he’s giving me feedback, and our relationship has been growing, it’s been awesome.”
Cooks is currently on pace for 1,368 yards receiving, which would be a career high. He previously reached 1,173 yards for the Saints back in 2016.
2) LITTLETON AGAIN
Speaking of consistency, middle linebacker Cory Littleton continues to make an impact week after week.
Littleton had four total tackles — two for loss — with a pass defensed, and a sack.
In his third year out of Washington, Littleton has become one of Los Angeles’ most effective defenders. According to press box stats, Littleton currently leads L.A. with 95 total tackles. He’s also No. 2 on the team with eight tackles for loss, and is second on the team with 4.0 sacks.
Given Littleton’s versatility, the Rams move him around a bunch in their defensive scheme — particularly in known-passing situations. Nevertheless, Littleton’s 4.0 sacks are the most by an interior linebacker since Will Witherspoon had 7.0 back in 2007.
3) BLYTHE THE ERASER
If there’s been a bit of a surprise on the Rams’ offensive unit this season, it’s been right guard Austin Blythe.
Perhaps it’s not entirely fair to call hi ma surprise, though, given how effective he was in spot duty for the 2017 Rams. Still, Blythe was not expected to be a starter until former guard Jamon Brown was suspended during the summer for two games to begin the year. Blythe played so well those first two weeks that there was no reason to take him out of the lineup.
On Sunday, Blythe again proved why that was the right decision. Midway through the fourth quarter, Blythe pancaked vaunted Detroit defensive tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison to spring running back Todd Gurley for his first touchdown of the contest.
It’s not everything, but for what it’s worth, Pro Football Focus ranks Blythe as its No. 4 guard in the league. There’s certainly an argument to be made that Blythe should be a Pro Bowler with his outstanding 2018.
4) TALIB’S SUCCESSFUL RETURN
There was a noticeable difference in Los Angeles’ defense in the first half on Sunday’s game with the renewed presence of cornerback Aqib Talib.
While Talib played only 26 snaps in his return, the Rams allowed only 108 yards and three points in the first half to the Lions.
“I think it was evident the effect he can have on a game,” safety John Johnson said. “We were kind of lights-out early, everyone was comfortable, everyone was at-ease, the communication was there, so you could tell he’s a vital piece to our defense.”
Detroit’s first half drive chart: punt, field goal, punt, punt, punt.
That’s the kind of production Los Angeles’ defense will need going forward down the stretch.
5) NEXT GOAL UP
The Rams are the first team to clinch a division this early since 2011, and there’s more out there for the club.
Players have noted that this division title feels a bit different than last year’s in part because of the team’s expectations. But that also likely has to do with the fact that in 2017, L.A. clinched in Week 16. Now, there’s still a quarter of the season left.
So what can the Rams accomplish this week? If they defeat the Bears, they’ll clinch a first-round bye in the postseason. And that’s significant.
“It's a big deal,” McVay said Monday. “To be able to earn the opportunity in your 13th game of the season to be able to, at the worst, clinch a No. 2 seed. It means that you'll be able to watch that first week of the Wild Card round is a huge deal to us. So, it's certainly going to be a great challenge. The Bears have been an excellent team throughout the course of this year and present some challenges in all three phases, but that's definitely – that's the next step. That's something that we're working towards and if we take care of our business this week, then we have a chance to do that.”