It finally ended.
Thanks mainly in part to the dominating performances of defensive tackle Aaron Donald and rookie running back Todd Gurley, the St. Louis Rams put a stop to their five-game losing streak that had lasted for over a month, defeating the Detroit Lions 21-14.
On Sunday, the Rams finally went back to the successful strategy from earlier in the season of giving the ball to Gurley more than just nine times per game. He ran for 140 yards on 16 carries as well as two touchdowns with an average of 8.8 YPC. Once again, quarterback Case Keenum did not have a good start, only throwing for 124 yards and an interception for a total QBR of 59.7%, but Gurley’s performance bailed him out.
It was the first game the rookie had 100 or more yards rushing since November 1st (Week 8 against the 49ers).
“We may not be going to the playoffs, but we want to bring that momentum into the offseason,” Gurley said.
The defense also played one of their finest games of the season. Cornerback Trumaine Johnson kicked off the scoring when he intercepted a pass intended to Calvin Johnson and returned it to a touchdown, making it 7-0. While Johnson made life hard for the Lions’ Johnson, known as “Megatron”, it was the defensive line, led by Donald, that made life hard for quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Donald, the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2014, sacked Stafford three times, giving him 11 on the season (a career high). Last year, he had nine total sacks. All day, the Rams front four (who had lost Robert Quinn earlier this week) pushed Stafford around and forced him to make erratic throws.
However, until the very end, it remained a competitive game. With 2:05 left in the fourth quarter, Golden Tate caught a two-yard touchdown pass to make it a 21-14 game. Following the touchdown, they successfully went for an onside kick, with all three of their timeouts still in possession. But they could not tie the game and officially were eliminated from the playoffs as they dropped to 4-9.
With the win, the Rams improve to 5-8, although it is still highly unlikely they will make the postseason (they are currently more than five spots out of the second NFC Wild Card slot). But this game still had a lot of positives for a team that’s been more known for its negatives.
They have a short leash to prepare for their next game though, as the Rams face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home on Thursday Night Football.
(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)