Week 11 saw a lot left to be desired by Rams fans after being spoiled for most of the season. We saw them start slow against a Houston defense in week 10, only to come out and put up 24 points in the second half. This would not be the case for the Rams in week 11, especially with the pass rush the Vikings possessed. Though the Rams stated that they practiced for the noise leading up to the game, they didn’t show that they planned well for it and it cost them. This week we will see our first “D” grade for a player that was thrust into action but was not ready for it.
Aaron Donald – Donald could probably have his own category every week, but because the Rams’ pass-rush was practically neutralized outside of him, he is first on the list. It seemed like he was in the backfield on every play and getting Vikings quarterback Case Keenum scrambling out of the pocket only for him to find an open receiver that snuck away from coverage. Outside of getting the sack, Donald made it a very unnerving game for his opponents and blew up many plays. Despite a very questionable call on him for roughing the passer late in the game, Donald’s performance was one of the best among his position in week 11.
Andrew Whitworth – Whitworth was tasked with lining up against one of the NFL’s best edge defenders in Everson Griffen, who is top five in the league with 10 quarterback sacks and has been credited with 11 tackles for loss on the season. What did Whitworth do? He gave Griffen his first game of the season without a sack and kept him away from his quarterback for the most part, while also opening up holes for running back Todd Gurley, despite his lack of touches due to game-flow. With Jared Goff under duress for a good portion of the game, Whitworth kept things from getting out of control.
Lamarcus Joyner – Switching from cornerback to safety can come with some growing pains for some players, but not for Joyner. To be fair, he was recruited to Florida State to play the safety position before he switched to cornerback, but the transition this year could not be going any smoother. He was at it again on Sunday, making plays all over the field and keeping his presence in the back of Keenum’s mind. Even though he played all but one play, Keenum only threw into Joyner’s coverage once and with him batting the pass away, that’s all he needed to see to not do it again. Even when he’s not making plays he’s in the back of his opponents’ minds; whether it be in the passing game or the running game with his monstrous hits.
Robert Woods – Though he was unable to get into the end zone against the Vikings, Woods caught eight of his 10 targets for an average of 10.1 yards per catch. This brought his completion percentage since week six to 78.9, the highest among any receiver with at least 36 targets. A third of those 81 yards he racked up, 28, came after the actual catch, which was more than running back Todd Gurley and tight end Tyler Higbee had in total yards.
Trumaine Johnson – Johnson played a very sold game on Sunday facing off against one of the most dynamic duos of wide receivers in the league in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. He saw them rack up a whopping two catches for 20 yards when covering the two, while they combined to catch eight passes for 135 yards against other coverages. His performance kept the ball going to the opposite side of the field, though they couldn’t get the two stopped, resulting in my first “D” letter grade below.
Dominique Hatfield – The NFL is often times called a “Next Man Up League.” Hatfield may have been the next man up, but he was not prepared for the challenge. With the Rams only down by seven and the game still in reach, Hatfield was playing soft coverage against one of 2017’s most explosive wide receivers in Adam Thielen. That can work, but when you come up to make the tackle you can’t get juked out of your cleats and give up a 65-yard touchdown pass. That’s exactly what happened to Hatfield, which resulted in a two-touchdown lead against one of the best defenses in the league with 10 minutes to go.
With the Rams losing their third game of the season, the room for error has just dramatically shrunk. They will face a Saints team in week 12 that just had a ferocious comeback against a Washington team that beat the Rams in week two of the season and are now one game ahead of them in the standings. The Saints will be without one of their best pass rushers on Sunday, with edge defender Alex Okafor out for the rest of the season. His backup will get to face off against the Rams’ best pass blocker in Andrew Whitworth, so look for Jared Goff to have time to throw, a situation that has resulted in great results for the Rams. One thing is for sure, there will need to be a lot more “A” performances for the outcome to be different for the Rams.