The Rams were able to finish the regular season strong with a 48-32 victory over the 49ers. Up 48-17 early in the fourth quarter, Los Angeles had a clear command of the game essentially from start to finish. Here are five takeaways from a win that secured a first-round bye for L.A.
1) EMPHASIS ON TAKEAWAYS
The Rams ended the regular season with 15 takeaways in their last six games — four of which came against the Niners on Sunday. With San Francisco sporting a young quarterback, defensive lineman Michael Brockers admitted L.A.’s defense felt it might be able to generate those kinds of numbers.
“So we felt if we could get some pressure in his face, there’s no way he’ll be able to complete passes and be able to see who he’s throwing to. And we have one of the best — or the best defensive player in the league right now [in Aaron Donald]. So we knew we could probably get that done,” Brockers said.
Los Angeles ended San Francisco’s first three drives with takeaways, before linebacker Cory Littleton took an interception back for a touchdown in the second quarter.
The Rams were able to score touchdowns on their first two offensive possessions, in large part because they started in the red zone after the defense got the ball.
“It's huge. We started inside the 10 or on the 13, I think, on the second one,” quarterback Jared Goff said. “To be able to get up 14 and just start off — I think 11 minutes left in the first quarter we were up 14-0. To have that is just huge.”
It allowed L.A. to take control of the game from the get-go, in a contest that was fairly smooth sailing from cover to cover.
2) GOFF FINISHES ON A HIGH NOTE
Quarterback Jared Goff’s post-bye week issues were well documented, but he ended the season with a string of two strong games.
Goff completed 15-of-26 passes in Week 17 for 199 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. In the last two games, Goff completed 68 percent of his passes for 415 yards with five touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 126.7 passer rating. That’s much more in line with Goff’s performances from earlier in the season, where the quarterback was a large part of L.A. beginning the season on an eight-game win streak.
“I feel good. I feel great,” Goff said postgame. “Again, for me, it's about wins. Coming off two wins and playing well and being happy with how I played is good and I feel good.”
In his third professional season, Goff finished with career highs in most major statistical categories — completions (364), attempts (561), completion percentage (64.9), yards passing (4,688), and touchdown passes (32). His passer rating was also just a bit higher than last season at 101.1, besting his 100.5 from 2017.
Goff is now only the fourth Rams quarterback to throw for at least 30 touchdown passes — the first since Hall of Famer Kurt Warner back in 2001.
3) TREATING WEEK 17 LIKE A PLAYOFF GAME
One interesting nugget head coach Sean McVay shared with the media after Sunday’s game was that he and the team treated the matchup with the Niners like a playoff game.
“Really, we looked at this similar to the way we approached the Atlanta game last year. It was a Wild Card playoff game — you get to the division if you win the wild card and that's where we're at right now just based on the way these guys have played throughout the regular season,” McVay said.
And that’s true, because the Rams won and finished the season 13-3, they guaranteed themselves a spot as one of the league’s final eight teams, rather than just one of the final 12.
So what did that look like inside the building for L.A. this past week?
“Just a little bit more urgency, more intensity — treating it like that. Treating it like a playoff game which, in our case, it really was, getting us this week off now,” Goff said. “Just having that urgency and that intensity that we did all week in practice. I thought we practiced really well.”
That preparation paid off to the tune of a big victory that will allow L.A. to rest and recover for an extra week.
Check out the best photos from the Rams' Week 17 matchup against the 49ers.
4) NOTEBOOM CAN PLAY IN A PINCH
With All-Pro left tackle Andrew Whitworth exiting Sunday’s game with a knee injury, rookie Joe Noteboom had to play 64 percent of Los Angeles’ snaps at the position.
And given that Noteboom often practices mid-week with the first-team offense in order to get Whitworth his usual veteran rest, Noteboom said he felt quite ready for his spot duty.
“I didn’t feel nervous or anything, just anxious to get out there because I prepare well,” Noteboom said. “In practice, [I] get those reps — the ones reps. So I feel like I was really prepared. The coaches had me prepared, so I wasn’t nervous at all.”
Goff said Noteboom played well once he went in, in large part because of those practice snaps he and rookie center Brian Allen usually get.
“It helps a lot,” Goff said. “Just having that experience with them in practice and being able to have some dialogue with them in practice and have some experience with Brian, obviously, just from taking snaps. It's huge when that happens [injuries]. You never want it to, but it helps.”
5) NEXT UP? REST AND RECOVER
By earning a first-round playoff bye, the Rams will now have the opportunity to self-scout, rest, and recover for whoever they end up hosing in the Divisional Round.
McVay spoke a bit about what that process will look like immediately after the game.
“To be able to have some rest right now, have a couple weeks to get ourselves ready to go,” McVay said. “This week will provide a great opportunity for us to look at ourselves, kind of try to get ahead on maybe the opponent that we anticipate playing in the divisional round.”
But even so, the Rams also now have a chance to enjoy what they accomplished over the course of the regular season — at least for a day or two. Going 13-3, earning the No. 2 seed in the NFC, sweeping the division — those are all significant milestones.
“I think definitely you'll enjoy it tonight and understand how big of an accomplishment that is,” Goff said. “Then, really quickly turn it around and get our sights set on whoever we have to play next and the road ahead of us. That's going to be hopefully very exciting.”
Check out photos of the Los Angeles Rams Cheerleaders + Rams Junior Cheerleaders during their matchup against the San Fransisco 49ers.