After a rocky November, the month of December has brought happy holidays in the form of nothing but wins for the Los Angeles Rams as well as a guaranteed spot in the NFL playoffs.
The Rams are 11-4 and in first place in the NFC West. They’re on a four-game winning streak, capped by Sunday’s 30-23 win over the Minnesota Vikings in the Gopher State and are now seeded second in the National Football Conference behind the Green Bay Packers.
Sony Michel carried the ball 27 times for 131 yards and a touchdown, which helped keep the Viking defense from focusing chiefly on defending the pass.
But the real turning point came at 7:06 of the third quarter when Brandon Powell, lately up from the practice squad, returned a punt 61 yards for a score that proved to be the difference.
Stafford actually had kind of an off-day, passing for 197 yards and a TD, but being intercepted three times which kept the Vikes in the game. Without Cooper Kupp –10 catches for 109 yards – the Rams likely would be mourning rather than celebrating.
Either way, they’d better not be too happy to take their next opponent seriously. They play the Baltimore Ravens (8-7) next Sunday in Maryland, a team perhaps more hungry than the boys from SoFi.
Pride goeth before a fall, especially in the winter.
Chargers lose ground in playoff race
Talk about your key games. After the Chargers (8-7) lost 41-29 to the Houston Texans on Sunday, they really need to make this one count next Sunday when they host the Denver Broncos (7-8). The loser can pretty much count on missing the post-season.
After winning two straight they’ve lost two in a row. With a lot on the line, they can’t afford a fourth quarter meltdown like they did against Houston.
“I just didn’t coach well enough today,” said coach Brandon Staley. The same could be said for the previous game in which the Bolts passed up nine potential points on short field goal attempts in favor of risky fourth-and-goal attempts.
Inside games are not much fun
It’s winter so a lot of the sports action is shifting into arenas, but that hasn’t helped the Lakers get any warmer. After losing five straight games, they’re 16-18 and 11.5 games back in the NBA Pacific Division.
The Clippers, at 17-16, aren’t much better. But, at least they are in fifth place in the Western Conference – the top six qualify for the playoffs – while their stable-mates are in seventh.
As for the Anaheim Duck and Los Angeles Kings, the coronavirus had their schedules all mixed up, but play should resume on Tuesday. That’s good news for the Ducks, who tied for first in the NHL Western Conference (with the Las Vegas Golden Knights) and the Kings, who are a strong fifth.
“Sports Monday” is written by Pete Zarustica.