Everyone knows the Los Angeles Rams‘ 2022 season hasn’t gone as planned. The defending Super Bowl champs came into the year hoping to repeat but instead saw themselves eliminated from postseason contention before Christmas.
But as bad as things have been for the Rams this season, L.A. fans can take solace in the fact that at least they aren’t the Denver Broncos!
The Rams hosted the Broncos on Christmas Day in a matchup that the NFL was expecting to have playoff implications. Much like the Rams, the Broncos made win-now moves last offseason in hopes of getting back into contention with the main one being the blockbuster trade for Russell Wilson.
But you just never know what’s going to happen in an NFL season as the Christmas Day game between L.A. and Broncos wound up being meaningless with both teams sitting at 4-10.
One team treated the game as anything but meaningless, however, as the Rams came out and dominated the Broncos in every facet of the game to earn a 51-14 victory.
The Rams forced four turnovers as Wilson was picked off three times. Then on the other side of the ball, Baker Mayfield was nearly perfect, completing 24-of-28 passes for 230 and two touchdowns, both to Tyler Higbee who set the franchise record for touchdowns by a tight end.
Cam Akers also had his best game, carrying the ball 23 times for 118 yards and three touchdowns to go along with two catches for 29 yards.
It was perhaps the most convincing win in the Sean McVay era, and it came in a game that the Rams were without Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Allen Robinson and Aaron Donald, among many others.
Rams are discovering some things for the future
The Rams still sit at 5-10 so it’s not like this can be a win that can propel them to the playoffs and build momentum for the rest of this season.
What it did do though was give the Rams’ young players some valuable experience. It is also giving the coaching staff an opportunity to evaluate those guys, figuring out who is a building block moving forward into 2023 and beyond.
And based on the last few weeks, the Rams are actually finding some pieces. Cobie Durant is looking like a solid find at cornerback after being taken in the fourth round in 2022. He had two interceptions on the day, including a pick-six in the final minutes to cap off the victory.
L.A. is also starting to get a pass rush and that’s thanks in part to Michael Hoecht (1.5 sacks) and Larrell Murchison (2.0 sacks).
Akers’ performance was already mentioned, but it’s important to remember that he’s still just 23 years old and 17 months removed from repairing a torn Achilles. Akers is finally looking healthy and as explosive as he was pre-surgery. Thankfully, the Rams didn’t dump him for nothing at the trade deadline because he may be one of the answers at running back for this team in 2023 and beyond.
Wilson and Hackett are a disaster
Now, on the other side of the coin, you have the Broncos.
They traded trade quarterback Drew Lock, tight end Noah Fant, defensive lineman Shelby Harris, two first-round picks (2022 — No. 9 overall — and 2023), two second-round picks (2022 — No. 40 overall — and 2023) and a 2022 fifth-round selection to the Seahawks for Wilson and a 2022 fourth-round pick last offseason.
Not only did they make that trade, but they then signed Wilson to a five-year, $245 million extension with $165 million guaranteed. The first out of that contract won’t be until 2027 as his dead cap hit in 2026 would be $31 million. It will be interesting to see what Denver does considering all of Wilson’s teammates are already fed up with him. Not to mention that he was thoroughly outplayed by Mayfield, who has been with the Rams for just three weeks and has already been cast off by two other teams.
The Broncos’ other big move of the offseason was hiring Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett as their new head coach. It hasn’t even been a year yet, and both of those moves are an absolute disaster.
As things currently stand, the 4-11 Broncos will be sending the No. 4 overall pick in the 2023 draft to the Seattle Seahawks. And they likely will be looking for another new head coach as well.
The Hackett hiring couldn’t have been worse and that has never been more evident than on Christmas Day when McVay coached circles around him with a roster full of practice squad players.
So Rams fans: I know things have been bad. But again, at least we’re not the Broncos!