All preseason football does is make me want the real thing.
Yes, we’ll all watch the preseason games — at least some of them — to get our football fix, but in July, early August, I have a personal tradition of rewatching full games, condensed games or game highlights of NFL teams.
It’s a sickness.
Honestly, it’s amazing what you forget about the season. Like, I know I watched every Ram game last year, but in doing the re-watch, things come up and you’re like, “I didn’t realize that happened,” or players make plays out of the blue.
Sometimes Troy Aikman even says something interesting on the broadcast (reader: he never says anything interesting).
I’ve spent much of my free time the last couple of weeks rewatching the Rams’ 2021 Super Bowl winning season, so you don’t have to. Here’s what should not be forgotten.
Ernest Jones Made Play of the Year
The regular season is a long slog. Injuries are inevitable and slumps happen. The Rams were hot early in the year, but the Arizona Cardinals were even hotter. The Cardinals dumped the Rams at SoFi and led the division by two games with five games left when the two teams met in Glendale.
It was time to worry about the Rams; they were 7-4, lost three in a row, but then destroyed the Jaguars and were 8-4 entering the Arizona game.
The Cardinals were 10-2 and on fire; they led 3-0 and were inside the Rams’ 10 when Jones intercepted a Kyler Murray pass near the goal line.
I know it’s just one moment, but the Rams got the ball and scored and whatever momentum the Cardinals had was gone. The Rams would win the game 30-23, win the division (it’s totally overlooked how the Rams won the division outright despite being down two games with five left) and dust the Cardinals in the wild card game 34-11.
To me, that one play spurred the late season surge for the Rams all the way to the Super Bowl.
DeSean Jackson Sighting
This was one of those, oh yeah, he played for the Rams. Jackson only finished his Rams career with eight catches for 221 yards, but he gave them a deep threat early in the year before being waived. The Rams gave him a Super Bowl ring and he deserved it.
Face it, Ram fans, noisy road fans in SoFi Stadium is always going to be a storyline. And it’s true, upon the rewatch, there were some games when it’s loud for the Rams on offense at home.
But you know what? This isn’t just a Rams thing. This happens all over the NFL. Thanks to secondary ticket markets, NFL fans can and do travel to see their teams play in big numbers.
SoFi was a destination spot for football fans, it was new, it was Los Angeles, and it’s a great trip for any family or fan.
Here’s the other thing, Ram fans travel too. At MetLife Stadium against the Giants, when Cooper Kupp caught passes, Ram fans were cheering “Cooooop” all the time. That played out every road game for the Rams. So the Rams fan base is alive and well thank you.
Matt Gay Was Clutch
Aside from one mishit in the Tampa Bay game, Gay, the Rams kicker, was steady as the sun. Here’s the thing about kickers in the NFL, you don’t really notice them unless they’re bad, and when they are bad, it forces coaches and players into making bad decisions Gay, in his third year, was an incredible 32-34 on field goals.
The Rams’ offense is fast and predicated on scoring a lot of points and just letting the defense make enough plays to be a factor. Field goals aren’t as good as touchdowns, but they add up if you make them. Gay made almost every one.
Who Will The Rams Miss?
I forgot how important Sony Michel was for the Rams in 2021. He was a great back in the offense, able to catch the ball and he just always was in the right place at the right time. Michel is now with the Dolphins.
The other player who stood out was Van Jefferson. The wide receiver was the big play threat and what that meant was that defenses couldn’t roll up on Cooper Kupp or Tyler Higbee all game.
This is what NFL teams need from their wide receivers these days, you need one or two masters of the intermediate route (that’s Kupp) and at least one field stretcher (Jefferson).
Now, Jefferson just had knee surgery in training camp and is out for a while. The Rams without him in 2022 is a scary thought.
The Bucs Game is Nuts
The Rams beat Tampa Bay and Tom Brady in Week 3; Lord, the Bucs wore those awful all-pewter jerseys that day. So in the NFC Divisional Round, they weren’t scared of facing the Bucs at all. That’s a big thing if you want to beat them.
I forgot how chippy the playoff game was, Stafford kicked Ndamukong Suh but Suh got flagged. The Rams clocked Brady late, Brady chirped to the refs and Brady got the penalty.
After all that, the Rams led 27-3 in the third quarter. 27-3!
Then things just get sideways. Rams strip sack Brady, but then the Rams snap the ball about 15 yards over Stafford’s head. There’s a late hit on Eric Weddle. Gay misses a field goal that would clinch it.
Akers fumbles and all of the sudden it’s 27-27 with 42 seconds left. America groans. Not Tom Brady again.
Then Stafford hits Kupp deep, and they like that so much, they do it again. It’s like the Bucs thought the Rams were going to play for OT.
Gay drills a 30-yard field goal to win it. Just an insane game.
Best Players Are Super
The Super Bowl has been digested and analyzed plenty. To me, the biggest difference was in the key moments, the Rams best players made the big plays.
Cooper Kupp was the games’ MVP and honestly, I think he should have been the NFL MVP. He was that good. And of course, Aaron Donald made the play at the end of the game forcing Burrow into the final incompletion.
What I had forgotten was the play before that play.
Remember, the Bengals are at midfield, it’s second and one and Joe Burrow throws incomplete deep for Jamar Chase.
Now it’s third and one. Easy. The Bengals run off tackle, the Rams defense should be soft, but no, Donald and Greg Gaines push through and stop Samaje Perine for no gain.
If Perine gets the first down, it changes the game.
Now it’s fourth down. The Bengals can’t run the ball here. They just tried and got stopped. They have to pass, and Donald gets in on Burrow, forcing him into a quick throw that’s incomplete. Game over. Put a ring on the Rams.
That fourth down play will go down in Rams history, but the third down play shouldn’t be forgotten. It was further proof of the Rams’ greatness in 2021.