No matter where it goes from here, last Thursday, Los Angeles authored a signature moment in 2022 that will be an indelible part of franchise history.
And it was a distinctly "Rams" thing to do – not just to be the only franchise to place a claim on Baker Mayfield, but then to play him on less than two days of preparation.
Can the Rams build off the rejuvenating momentum he brought with him from the waiver wire?
Will this trip to Green Bay represent another step forward, or are they in store for some mean regression against a Packers team fresh off a bye and back in the playoff hunt?
As far as Mayfield is concerned, no doubt he'll be better situated than he was a week ago. While his big-time throws enabled the Rams to snap a six-game losing streak, beating Green Bay could come down to converting the easier reps he missed versus Las Vegas – playing with the same extraordinary anticipation he exhibited in his Rams debut, without predetermining those reads now that the Packers have game tape to work from.
If nothing else, this trip to Lambeau Field sure feels worthy of prime time again.
What's Cooler Than Being Cool?
The circumstances this week couldn't be more different than last.
After playing the first game of Week 14 on Thursday Night Football, the Rams play the final game of Week 15 on Monday Night Football.
The Packers and the Rams are essentially siblings at this point, having played three times at Lambeau Field in the trailing two calendar years.
It was chilly at SoFi Stadium against the Raiders, sure, but game time temperatures will be in the single-digits in Green Bay.
Las Vegas has the worst passing defense in the NFL; the Packers are actually fine in coverage but might have the worst run defense metrics.
I do appreciate the approach that head coach Sean McVay, offensive coordinator Liam Coen, and quarterbacks coach Zac Robinson are taking with their new starter.
Sure, the extra days are nice compared to what you were contending with last week. But no need to drown Mayfield in an attempt to master every page of the playbook. Rather, put the mini-bye to targeted use, specific to the Packers – an opponent you know well, led by a defensive coordinator, Joe Barry, who you know even better.
"You don't want to just throw the whole playbook (at him) because that's not applicable," McVay said. "You only have a certain amount of plays that you're going to be able to get off in a given week, and I think it's just continuing to build incrementally."
"With there only being four games left, it's one thing to try and learn the base install as much as I can," Mayfield responded to a similar question about his expanded knowledge and familiarity."But you don't want to overflow it because really it's about learning this game plan and what we're trying to do based on the defense and what looks we're going to get."
Mayfield played at Lambeau almost exactly a year ago with the Cleveland Browns – a Christmas Day loss in which he was intercepted four times and sacked five.
Leave the Sleeves
Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner held court at the podium again this week in Thousand Oaks.
Two comments stood out.
Referencing the forecast in Green Bay, Wagner confirmed he will play sleeveless, as he has throughout his career.
"My mindset is the faster you make the play, the faster you get to the heaters," the 32-year old said. "If you're cold, then make a play so we can get to the heaters."
I love that. Three-and-outs win games and regulate body temperatures.
As for his matchup with fellow future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers? Wagner likened it to a chess match.
"I would say that the biggest thing is you have to believe that everybody's open because he sees them," Wagner detailed in one of the better descriptions of Rodgers's mastery I've ever heard. "He knows how to use a cadence to his advantage.
"He has complete command of the offense so he can come up and has the authority to change the whole play. It could be two different runs, but he can just turn into a pass. Sometimes he's in his stance, sees a defender playing off and just gets out of his stance and then throws it to the receiver. Sometimes I don't think everybody knows that that's going on."
For the first time this season, Rodgers will have his entire receiving corps healthy and available, including emerging superstar Christian Watson – with eight touchdowns in his last four outings.
Meantime, I sincerely hope the Rams record won't cost Wagner the ninth All-Pro honor of his career, because it's richly deserved.
(Quick aside: The stars aligning for Jefferson to be wearing a wire as he hauls in the first game-winning touchdown of his life? Unreal.)
Emerging threat Tutu Atwell was our guest on Rams Revealed, and you could tell how much the Triple Crown winner has meant to his development.
"Coop, that's just the type of person he is," Atwell said. "He goes to meetings, sometimes he coaches the meetings."
Van the Man
Speaking of Jefferson, how about the fact that he has exactly three touchdown receptions this year after returning from a rehabilitated knee – and they're all from different quarterbacks, none of them named Matthew Stafford!
For you history buffs, the last Rams player to have a receiving touchdown from three or more different quarterbacks in a season was Brandon Lloyd in 2011 (Sam Bradford - 3, A.J. Feeley – 1, Kellen Clemens - 1). And the last Rams player to have exactly one receiving touchdown from three or more different quarterbacks was Mike Young in 1986 (Jim Everett - 1, Steve Bartkowski– 1, and Steve Dils – 1.)
Thanks to NFL Research for the heavy lifting on that.
Jefferson has also scored in each trip to Lambeau: a 79-yard reception from Matthew Stafford last November; a 4-yard connection with Jared Goff in January 2021; plus a hook and ladder two-point conversion with Cam Akers in that same divisional round playoff loss.
Year of the Backup
I also asked NFL Research for a bit of context on the "Year of the Backup Quarterback."
Think about the current state of the NFC West, for instance. The minute before Russell Wilson was traded to Denver, the division was as stable at quarterback as you could have imagined.
Super Bowl winner Matthew Stafford with the Rams, soon-to-be-extended.
Top pick Kyler Murray with the Cardinals, soon-to-be-extended.
First-rounder Trey Lance, taking over from Jimmy Garoppolo in San Francisco.
And future Hall of Famer (or is he, still?) Wilson in Seattle.
Mr. Irrelevant Brock Purdy and the Niners beat career back-up Geno Smith and the Seahawks on Thursday Night Football. Arizona's Colt McCoy will make his third start of the season in Denver. And Baker Mayfield's first (official) start as a Ram comes on the Frozen Tundra.
It's quarterback chaos!
56 different quarterbacks have made at least one start in 2022 (most since 2010) and 48 have won a game as the starter (most since 1999).
That number will surely grow in the final month, as we already know it's rookie Desmond Ridder's turn with the Falcons.
It was conceivable going into Week 15 that 12 signal-callers would be under center who did not start their current team's season opener. More than a third of the league!
A Tale of Two QB2s
For several years now, the Rams team-building model has been predicated on supporting first Jared Goff then Matthew Stafford with unproven and undrafted free agents, John Wolford and Bryce Perkins.
Backup quarterback is one area of their depth chart where they have conserved draft and financial resources, in order to allocate them toward the likes of Von Miller, Jalen Ramsey, and Odell Beckham, Jr.
This week's opponent is a counterexample. For years, the tension has been palpable in Green Bay. Rather than loading up other positions for the duration of their Hall of Famer's prime, the Packers drafted Jordan Love in the first round of 2020 to be the backup and heir apparent to Aaron Rodgers. Now the former is coming up on his fifth-year option decision; the latter has won consecutive MVPs, but hasn't been back to the Super Bowl since winning it all in 2010.
With that as the backdrop, and with the Rams set to start their fourth (!!!!) quarterback of the season, I asked Sean McVay about how 2022 has impacted his thinking regarding the role of QB2.
"I think this year will force a lot of reflection that hasn't had to occur otherwise," McVay responded on his weekly show. "I don't want to say changing of things, but reevaluating … How do you really want to look at things from a one, a three, and a five-year plan?"
It will be interesting to see where the Rams go from here in assembling their quarterback depth chart. And four more data points from Mayfield will be informative.