The Los Angeles Rams dealt a significant blow to the Baltimore Ravens' playoff hopes with a 20-19 win Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.
Sony Michel made it a one-score game, 16-14, in favor of Baltimore at the 12:09 mark of the fourth quarter. A 34-yard field goal by Justin Tucker gave the Ravens a little more breathing room but left the door wide open for a Rams comeback.
Los Angeles converted a fourth down inside the red zone with 1:00 on the clock. Matthew Stafford then immediately hit Odell Beckham Jr. for a go-ahead seven-yard touchdown pass. The Rams' two-point attempt was unsuccessful.
The Ravens aren't mathematically eliminated from postseason contention, but they'll now need a lot of help in Week 18 to continue playing on this year.
The Rams, on the other hand, can become NFC West champions if the Arizona Cardinals lose to the Dallas Cowboys later in the day.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Rams: 26-of-35, 309 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions
Sony Michel, RB, Rams: 19 carries, 74 yards, one touchdown; three receptions, 25 yards
Cooper Kupp, WR, Rams: six receptions, 95 yards, one touchdown
Tyler Higbee, TE, Rams: six receptions, 69 yards
Tyler Huntley, QB, Ravens: 19-of-31, 194 yards, one interception; six carries, 54 yards
Devonta Freeman, RB, Ravens: 14 carries, 76 yards; one reception, one yard
Mark Andrews, TE, Ravens: six receptions, 89 yards
Duality of Stafford on Display
The 33-year-old is prone to costly mistakes like this Chuck Clark pick-six in the first quarter.
Clark got another interception later in the quarter when Stafford ignored a wide-open Van Jefferson and threw a deep pass in triple coverage to Beckham.
Trailing 13-7 to open the third quarter, the Rams looked poised to take the lead after getting a 1st-and-10 at Baltimore's 11-yard line. But Tyus Bowser sacked Stafford and forced a fumble that was recovered by Justin Houston.
Baltimore with their third takeaway! 🔥 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RavensFlock?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#RavensFlock</a><br><br>📺: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LARvsBAL?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#LARvsBAL</a> on FOX<br>📱: NFL app <a href="https://t.co/nXDy2E5zB3">pic.twitter.com/nXDy2E5zB3</a>
The Rams made a big bet on Stafford in the hope he was the final piece required to deliver a Super Bowl title. Although he's an upgrade on Jared Goff, it's fair to wonder how much really changed for Los Angeles.
The result is a testament to the talent on Los Angeles' roster and Stafford's penchant for late-game heroics. The good can often outweigh the bad with the veteran signal-caller.
Nobody will be surprised if L.A. goes on to win a second Super Bowl. At the same time, the warning signs have been there all along if a backbreaking turnover from Stafford winds up sending the Rams packing.
Shorthanded Ravens Can't Find Winning Recipe
The Ravens tend to use a deliberate approach on offense. They ranked eighth in average drive time (2:55) entering Sunday, per Pro Football Reference. Jackson's injury meant Baltimore would need to muck things up even more to come away with a much-needed win.
The team couldn't have asked much more of Tyler Huntley, who filled in for an injured Lamar Jackson. Outside of his interception inside the final two minutes of the first half, he avoided making catastrophic errors that could hand Los Angeles an easy victory.
But Huntley's limitations were made clear throughout the game, and the gap between him and Jackson was especially clear when the Ravens got close to the end zone.
A 1st-and-goal on the 8-yard line and a 1st-and-goal at the 5 both ended in field goals. The second trip saw a delay of game on third down move the offense back to the 9-yard line before Huntley was sacked for a loss of seven.
The Ravens paid dearly for those missed opportunities.
The Ravens and Rams both return to divisional play to close out the regular season. Baltimore hosts the Pittsburgh Steelers on Jan. 9 at 1 p.m. ET, while Los Angeles returns to Southern California for a clash with the San Francisco 49ers at 4:25 p.m. ET.