Rams vs. Chiefs highlights, takeaways: Rams prevail 54-51 as the Game of the Year exceeds the hype
Everything you need to know about L.A.'s rollicking 54-51 win
The Monday Night Football battle between the 9-1 Los Angeles Rams and the 9-1 Kansas City Chiefs could not have possibly been more hyped, and everything we thought it could be, it absolutely was. It was billed as the Game of the Year, and it somehow exceeded even the highest of expectations.
The field was stacked with stars and it seemed like every single one of them managed to make a huge play at some point. The two teams dented the scoreboard right from the jump, combining for 105 points -- the third-most in NFL history. In the end, it was the highest-scoring game of the 773 Monday-nighters that have ever been played. It was the first game ever where both teams scored 50 points or more, and also the first where a team scored 50 and still lost.
Between the two of them, the Rams and Chiefs gained 1,001 yards -- 827 through the air and 174 on the ground. They combined for 144 plays, seven turnovers, seven punts, and 14 touchdowns, 11 of them offensive and three defensive.
The Rams prevailed 54-51 in a game that went back and forth for the entire evening -- a game that featured six lead changes, and four in the fourth quarter alone. Each team had two consecutive scores twice, but neither managed to string together three in a row, and as a result, the game was close for most of its running time.
If this is the future of the NFL, as many observers on TV and Twitter declared before, during, and after the game, well, we're all in for a show and we should just sit back and enjoy it.
This was an instant classic and one of the best football games you will ever see. It had everything you could ask for, and so much of it. Jared Goff and Patrick Mahomes showed exactly why they are two of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL. Sean McVay and Andy Reid showed why they are two of its best coaches. Todd Gurley and Kareem Hunt showed why they are two of the best running backs. The various weapons each quarterback targeted -- Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods and Josh Reynolds and Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett and Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce and Chris Conley -- all made their impact on the game. Aaron Donald and Justin Houston and Marcus Peters and Dee Ford and Chris Jones and Lamarcus Joyner, even in a 54-51 game, managed to shine as well.
Even after the Rams went up 13-0 early, you knew the Chiefs would be heard from. It didn't take them long to respond, with Tyreek Hill making big plays down the field. The Rams stalled in the red zone on their next drive and then suddenly, the Chiefs took the lead with a field goal drive of their own and then a huge defensive play and yet another score. Kansas City had a chance to extend its lead near the end of the half, only to see the Rams end up with a defensive touchdown. Naturally, the Chiefs drove right back down the field for another touchdown, and after the second missed extra point of the game (one by each team) it was all tied up at 23 at the half.
The second half only brought more big plays and more scores and more incredible feats from each team. Nine different players found themselves in the end zone by the end of the night. Four of them -- Tyreek Hill, Chris Conley, Gerald Everett, and Sam Ebukam -- got there twice. Just about the only thing this game didn't have was time for anybody involved to catch their breath. It was that good.
Listen to Brady Quinn and Will Brinson break down the Chiefs-Rams insanity on the Pick Six Podcast.
Here are a few more things to know about LA's 54-51 victory.
Get your nerd on
This game featured two of the NFL's most creative offensive minds (Sean McVay and Andy Reid) emptying out their playbooks in order to put their best playmakers in position to, well, make some plays.
As we detailed in our preview of the contest, Jared Goff had the NFL's second-best passer rating against man coverage this season. The Chiefs play more man coverage than almost any other team. One of the best ways to beat man coverage is with crossing routes, so the Rams did just that in order to take advantage of the Chiefs through the air early and often.
Despite the fact that the Chiefs had the NFL's last-ranked run defense in DVOA coming into the game, the Rams came out with a pass-heavy game plan (13 passes on their first 16 snaps, resulting in two touchdowns), and found a ton of success with it. Later, they managed to beat the Chiefs with the screen game, which they'd struggled against all year.
Kansas City, meanwhile, repeatedly took advantage of Rams corner Sam Shields being in coverage on Tyreek Hill. Most of Hill's catches and both of his touchdown grabs came with Shields in coverage.
Not only that but the Chiefs scored the season's first screen-pass touchdown against the Rams with this gem to Kareem Hunt.
All-Star refs call a ton of penalties
There was so much hype surrounding this game that the NFL wanted to make sure absolutely all of the conditions were absolutely perfect. Not only did the league move the game from Mexico City to Los Angeles due to poor field conditions at Azteca, they also assigned ato the game to ensure it was called as well as possible.
According to NFL reporter Ed Werder, the league also made the rare decision to change the officiating crew just days before the game. The Monday night showdown was originally assigned to referee Jerome Boger and his crew, but due to the change, Boger will now be replaced by referee Clete Blakeman.
Although Boger has been pulled, three officials from his eight-person crew will still be working the game. Line judge Rusty Baynes, back judge Tony Steratore and field judge Dale Shaw will work under Blakeman.
On Blakeman's end, he'll have two of his normal crew members there with umpire Ramon George and down judge Dana McKenzie. Overall, the eight officials working in Monday's game will be coming from four different officiating crews, according to ESPN.com.
Naturally, the all-star crew called about a hundred penalties and also missed some pretty blatant calls in the first half, including a tipped ball that negated a pass interference penalty in the end zone but forced the Chiefs to use a challenge in order to have the call reversed.
The flags did not stop flying after halftime. All told, Blakeman and company threw 21 flags, resulting in 195 yards worth of penalties. And that figure doesn't even include the flags that were thrown and picked up (more than one) or the penalties that were declined. There was a lot of yellow laundry out there, folks. They also missed a rather obvious call on an incomplete pass from Patrick Mahomes, which was initially ruled a fumble but then overturned upon review.
Young stars at QB reach incredible heights despite turnovers
The quarterbacks combined to complete 64 of 95 passes for an incredible 891 yards and 10 touchdowns. They also combined for seven turnovers, but they were so good that they those turnover totals were completely overshadowed.
Let's start with Mahomes, who was 17 of 20 for 244 yards and three scores at the half. He had only one turnover at halftime, but four in the third and fourth quarters, including both a pick-six and the game-ender. Still, he showed absolutely everything in his arsenal all night and was about as good as a quarterback could be for much of the game.
He finished the night 33 of 46 for 478 yards, SIX touchdowns, three picks, and two lost fumbles. He made plays from inside and outside the pocket, on schedule and while on the move. He hit screens and slants, deep crosses and fades and posts. He showed off perhaps the strongest arm in the league, repeatedly.
And as good as Mahomes was, Goff may have somehow been even better. The Rams' young star was 14 of 21 for 172 yards and two touchdowns before halftime, and 17 of 28 for 241 yards, two more touchdowns, and a rushing score in the third and fourth quarters. He also had two turnovers, as he was strip-sacked twice.
But like Mahomes, he was so good otherwise that it sort of didn't matter. He absolutely lit up the Chiefs' secondary on all kinds of crossing routes, and repeatedly picked out which player would be popping open due to the natural picks set as the Chiefs played man coverage for almost the entire night. He stuck throws into impossibly tight windows all evening, from early in the first quarter to the end of the fourth.
These two kids are flat-out superstars and we're lucky to be watching them work.
Skill players show off their skills
The quarterbacks get most of the headlines, and rightfully so, but good lord was there a ton of skill-position talent in this game. And pretty much everybody wound up making an impact. Just look at these lines from the prominent skill-position players involved:
- Kareem Hunt: 14 carries, 70 yards, 3 catches, 41 yards, TD
- Tyreek Hill: 10 catches, 215 yards, 2 TD
- Travis Kelce: 10 catches, 127 yards, TD
- Chris Conley: 7 catches, 74 yards, 2 TD
- Todd Gurley: 12 carries, 55 yards, 3 catches, 39 yards
- Brandin Cooks: 8 catches, 107 yards
- Josh Reynolds: 6 catches, 80 yards, TD
- Robert Woods: 4 catches, 73 yards, TD
- Tyler Higbee: 6 catches, 63 yards
- Gerald Everett: 3 catches, 49 yards, 2 TD
I mean ... GOOD LORD! Absolutely everybody got in on the action, and it was absolutely incredible. The ball was flying all over the field all night long, with free runners and giant passing lanes and just a ton of big plays. Nobody had a bigger night than Hill, who has become the master of the big play during his short time in the league.
This was a very special game.
Defensive stars show out
Of course, this game featured stars on the other side of the ball as well. And even though there were a ton of points and a ton of yards and a ton of, well, everything, most of the defensive stars involved managed to make some pretty huge plays as well.
Dee Ford, who came into the game ranked second in the NFL in pressures, got things started with a strip-sack of Jared Goff. The play set up the Chiefs with good field position, and they got a Kareem Hunt touchdown on the ensuing drive.
Later, Aaron Donald -- the only player in the league who had more pressures than Ford coming into the game -- beat Cameron Erving inside to come away with not one but two strip-sacks of Patrick Mahomes. The first of those resulted in a touchdown for Sam Ebukam, who we'll get to in a second.
Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones stepped up with a sack for the seventh consecutive game, turning a Rams drive that seemed like it was sure to end in the end zone into one that resulted in a field goal. (Jones also later so completely destroyed the Rams' offensive line and then Jared Goff that he was held like three times in two seconds and still ended up getting a sack, but the Chiefs accepted the penalty instead, for some reason.) On the following Chiefs drive, however, Ebukam came away with his second touchdown of the game. A Patrick Mahomes pass hit right tackle Mitchell Schwartz in the head and bounced into Ebukam's arms, and then Ebukam trucked his way across the goal line.
With the Chiefs trailing be three in the fourth quarter, Houston got in on the action, strip-sacking Goff. Jones was providing pressure up the middle and prevented Goff from stepping up in the pocket, so Houston took advantage. The play ended with Allen Bailey in the end zone.
Naturally, perhaps the biggest play of the game came from Marcus Peters. With the Chiefs down three points and just south of two minutes left in the game, Peters came up huge. He's been struggling for most of the season, but he came away with a monster interception of Mahomes, whose downfield pass fluttered in the air when he was hit by Ebukam as he attempted to release the ball.
A last-ditch attempt at a game-winning drive by the Chiefs also ended in a pick, with Lamarcus Joyner coming down with the ball as Mahomes rolled out to his right and attempted to chuck the ball downfield in desperation.
This game was supposed to be played in Mexico City, so both teams are on their bye next week. (Anytime a team plays "overseas," they take their bye the following week. The game was moved back to Los Angeles due to poor field conditions at Azteca.) In Week 13, the 10-1 Rams return with a trip to Detroit to take on the Lions, who will be coming off a 10-day break of their own after playing the Bears on Thanksgiving. The 9-2 Chiefs' opponent in Week 13 is the Raiders, who just got their second win of the season with a last-second field goal against the Cardinals.
Feel free to relive in the incredible action in our live blog of the festivities below.
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