Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp Lead Rams Past Russell Wilson, Seahawks for Crucial Win

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIDecember 22, 2021

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp (10) celebrates his touchdown catch with teammates during the second half of an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)
AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian

The Los Angeles Rams jumped into the NFC West lead after beating the visiting Seattle Seahawks 20-10 on Tuesday at SoFi Stadium on Tuesday evening.

Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp caught nine passes for 135 yards and both of Los Angeles' touchdowns. His 29-yard snag with 10:48 left in regulation gave the Rams a 16-10 edge:

Los Angeles Rams @RamsNFL

We've said it, and we'll say it again. That 9️⃣➡️🔟 connection is SPECIAL.<br><br>📺 <a href="https://twitter.com/NFLonFOX?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFLonFOX</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/CooperKupp?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CooperKupp</a> <a href="https://t.co/Jc7ow9FI6s">pic.twitter.com/Jc7ow9FI6s</a>

Kupp also broke Pro Football Hall of Famer Isaac Bruce's franchise record of 119 single-season receptions with this six-yard score in the third quarter to cut Seattle's lead to 10-9:

Los Angeles Rams @RamsNFL

.<a href="https://twitter.com/CooperKupp?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CooperKupp</a> broke the franchise receptions record with a TD. Of course he did.<br><br>📺 <a href="https://twitter.com/NFLonFOX?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFLonFOX</a> <a href="https://t.co/tvpetO9GAC">pic.twitter.com/tvpetO9GAC</a>

The former Eastern Washington star set an NFL record along the way too, per Rams staff writer Stu Jackson:

Stu Jackson @StuJRams

Rams WR Cooper Kupp has his 10th-straight game with 90+ receiving yards, a new NFL record. <br><br>That breaks a tie with Hall of Famer Michael Irvin (1995) &amp; current Rams teammate Odell Beckham Jr. (2014) for the longest such streak in the last 70 years, per <a href="https://twitter.com/NFLResearch?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFLResearch</a>.

Both teams traded field goals in the first half, which ended with the score tied at three.

DeeJay Dallas scored Seattle's lone touchdown on a four-yard run with 9:23 left in the third quarter. The Rams countered with the two Kupp touchdowns before Matt Gay, who hit a 55-yard field goal in the first quarter, nailed a 35-yarder in the fourth to seal the win.

Seattle had the ball twice in between Kupp's second touchdown and the final Gay field goal to tie or take the lead, but the Seahawks went a combined two yards over nine plays on those two drives.

The game was moved from Sunday to Tuesday because of a COVID-19 outbreak affecting the Rams, who were able to activate cornerback Jalen Ramsey and edge-rusher Von Miller from the reserve/COVID-19 list before the game.

COVID-19 also affected the Seahawks, who were without wideout Tyler Lockett, running back Alex Collins and cornerback D.J. Reed, among others.

The 10-4 Rams now hold the NFC West lead via the division record tiebreaker over the 10-4 Arizona Cardinals.

The 5-9 Seattle Seahawks' playoff hopes took a big hit with the loss, as they are now two games behind the 7-7 Minnesota Vikings for the seventh and final playoff spot in the NFC postseason field.


Notable Performances

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson: 17-of-31, 156 passing yards, 1 INT

Seahawks RB DeeJay Dallas: 8 carries, 41 rushing yards, 1 TD; 3 catches, 11 receiving yards

Seahawks WR DK Metcalf: 6 catches, 52 receiving yards

Rams QB Matthew Stafford: 21-of-29, 244 passing yards, 2 TD, 1 INT

Rams RB Sony Michel: 18 carries, 92 rushing yards

Rams WR Cooper Kupp: 9 catches, 136 receiving yards, 2 TD


Kupp Makes Case for MVP

Kupp was the best player on the field once again Tuesday as he torched the Seahawks defense en route to leading the Rams atop the NFC West.

It's been a sensational season for Kupp, who has 122 receptions, 1,625 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns in 14 games this year.

Ari Meirov of My Sports Update put those numbers in perspective:

Ari Meirov @MySportsUpdate

<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Rams?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Rams</a> WR Cooper Kupp this season. <br><br>Receptions: 122 (1st in NFL)<br>— Next closest player: 102<br><br>Receiving yards: 1,625 (1st in NFL)<br>— Next closest player: 1,335<br><br>Receiving TDs: 14 (1st in NFL)<br>— Next closest player: 11<br><br>What. A. Season. <a href="https://t.co/unbS4dyJ6h">pic.twitter.com/unbS4dyJ6h</a>

Former NFL wide receiver Torrey Smith believes Kupp could be MVP, which has never been won by a wideout:

Torrey Smith @TorreySmithWR

Cooper Kupp could really be the MVP of the league this year but y’all don’t like wide receivers.

Frank Schwab of Yahoo Sports recognized that Kupp likely won't win it but also noted that some consideration has to be given here:

"Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are battling for MVP, and there's a very good chance one of them wins it. Running back Jonathan Taylor of the Indianapolis Colts has a great case too among non-QBs, and running backs have at least won the award before.
"But voters are going to have take a long, long look at perhaps giving MVP to a receiver for the first time ever."

Pro Football Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe gave Kupp much credit as well:

shannon sharpe @ShannonSharpe

Cooper Kupp is on pace to have the gr8est receiving season in NFL history. Didn’t say he was the gr8est Wr or best in NFL currently, but he’s having a season for the ages. 2k in receiving yds is crazy to even imagine.

The advanced stats would seem to back up Kupp's place in NFL history, with Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders sending this tweet on his DYAR (defense-adjusted yards above replacement):

Aaron Schatz 🏈 @FO_ASchatz

Michael Irvin holds the record with 591 receiving DYAR in 1995, the most value for a WR in FO stats going back to 1983.<br><br>Cooper Kupp now has 507 receiving DYAR. He's on pace for 615 DYAR.<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RamsHouse?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#RamsHouse</a>

Kupp's performance is more notable when considering what the Rams' skill position players have gone through this year.

No. 2 wideout Robert Woods is out for the year with a torn ACL suffered midseason. Quarterback Matt Stafford has played through a litany of injuries.

They lost No. 1 running back Cam Akers before the season. No. 2-turned-No. 1 back Darrell Henderson Jr. has missed three games.

The Rams have generally received steady production from tight end Tyler Higbee and wideout Van Jefferson, but Kupp has been the engine for this entire team.

If you replaced him with a league-average wideout, the Rams could be finding themselves fighting for a playoff spot rather than the division crown and a potential No. 1 seed.

But L.A. is lucky to have Kupp, who is unquestionably the top wide receiver in football and one of the most valuable players in the game today.


Bad No-Call Hurts Seattle, but Seahawks Offense Still Sputters in Defeat

The play of the game occurred with Seattle facing a 4th-and-6 from midfield down 17-10 with 3:21 left in regulation.

Russell Wilson dropped back and found DeeJay Dallas down the field, but Rams linebacker Ernest Jones slapped the running back in the left arm and bodied him as the ball settled back down around the L.A. 32-yard line.

It appeared to be a clear pass interference, but nothing was called. In frustration, Dallas kicked the ball down the field and was assessed a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

Gregg Bell of the News-Tribune provided his take.

Gregg Bell @gbellseattle

4th &amp; 6 Seahawks, 3:27 left: Russell Wilson has unblocked pressure, DeeJay Dallas contacted as the ball arrives. No call.<br><br>Then Dallas kicks the ball way back upfield. 15-yard foul. Rams instantly in field-goal range. <br><br>That was PI. No call.

That gave the Rams the ball on the Seattle 35-yard line, and they chewed up some clock before the final field goal.

Perhaps this game has a different story if PI was called on Jones, but ultimately, Seattle has cemented its first losing season of the Russell Wilson era with the defeat on Tuesday, and it's because of the offense.

The Seahawks' first three drives went for a combined 17 yards. They ended with three punts.

The Seahawks' final five drives went for a combined 50 yards. They ended with three punts, a turnover on downs and an interception.

In the middle, Seattle ended its first half with a field goal thanks largely to a 34-yard Gerald Everett catch. The Seahawks also showed what they were capable of with an 11-play, 75-yard drive, which included a 25-yard Freddie Swain catch, for the team's only touchdown.

But this game was a referendum on a Seahawks offense that has now scored just 20.1 points per game, which now puts them 24th in the 32-team NFL.

Wilson threw for just 5.0 yards per pass attempt. He was sacked three times. Fifty-nine of his 156 passing yards came on just two plays. Any wideout not named DK Metcalf had just one catch for 25 yards on five targets.

Seattle was without its top receiver in Lockett, whose 1,023 receiving yards paces the team.

However, the Seahawks simply need to do better for a defense that hasn't allowed more than 23 points in any of their last nine games. Seattle allowed the fourth-fewest points in football entering Tuesday.

Sure, Kupp went off, but he does that against everyone in the league. The rest of the Rams were largely quiet as they scored just 20 points.

The Seahawks were unable to get any explosive runs, and they only had two explosive passes. They were also unable to sustain any consistent drives for the majority of the game, and that will spell the end of their season.

What's Next?

The Rams are visiting the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET in Minneapolis' U.S. Bank Stadium. The Seahawks are hosting the Chicago Bears on Sunday at 4:05 p.m. in Lumen Field.