As a Rams-advocate, anything I write pro-Rams here is in danger of ‘making excuses’. But I write them as I see them. I’m a Dallas-advocate, as well, but I sense I’ll be pretty hostile towards the current Cowboys disaster. I have no interest in defending a position for the sake of defending it. I’m only trying to find clues for fantasy and handicapping purposes…to line my own pockets. I don’t care about any team colors. So, any pro-Rams outlook here…I don’t intend it to re-shape this game. I think the Rams might be one of three best teams in football and I don’t believe the Vikings are…so, I re-watched this game from the standpoint of wanting to prove either of those thesis’s wrong. There’s no value in holding onto a wrong position.
I want to focus on one play in this game that was a pivot point and has some ripple effect/deeper meanings. It involves Cooper Kupp, and it’s not what you think.
It’s not that Kupp fumble at the 1-yard line…a drive that was destined to give the Rams a 14-7 lead in the 2nd-quarter, and would have changed the entire complexion of this game because if you make Case Keenum/Mike Zimmer play from behind…you’re very likely to win. Mike Zimmer is every NFL coach in the past 10-30 years…try to get a lead, and then run the ball/run the clock and play good defense and try to let time expire on your lead. It’s also the reason I cannot take the Vikings seriously as a Super Bowl contender.
That’s not the Kupp fumble I want to discuss…although it was huge.
With 12:51 left in the 4th-quarter, the Vikings had just taken the lead 14-7…after nearly two quarters of play without a score by either team. The Rams were trying to answer back down 7. 3rd & 10 from midfield. Consider all the circumstances…
The Rams came out of the gates quickly to take a 7-0 lead in this game on their very first drive…right down the field, no problem. After that, the two teams exchanged fruitless punches all games. Both teams playing good defense and missing on their offensive opportunities. It was anyone’s game going into the 4th-quarter tied 7-7. Minnesota had just taken the first lead. The crowd was hyped. Just a few more stops and the Vikings might win this game and take a huge step towards home field advantage. 3rd & 10 from midfield warranted a pass, for sure…and the Vikings were going to bring the pressure.
Goff dropped back, his blocking held, and Goff flicked the ball 30-yards with barely moving his feet…he whistled the pass between two defenders and put it right on Cooper Kupp, who had to make a small jump up and come down with the brilliant pass. The ball clanged off Kupp’s hands. The Rams were forced to punt. The ensuing drive, the Vikings threw a quick, short pass to Adam Thielen, who then wheeled around past the defender and turned it into a 65-yard TD…and it was ‘over’, just like that.
Back to the Kupp drop… Three things:
1: Obviously, if Kupp makes that catch the whole complexion of the game changes. A massive 3rd-down conversion deep in Vikings territory. Minnesota momentum halted and a possible tie-score. There’s always woulda/coulda/shoulda plays in a game so, I’m not saying this one cost the Rams the game…but it was a dagger.
2: I mention this dagger because Cooper Kupp delivered two daggers to his own team in this game. His catch and then fumble at the 1-yard line in the 2nd-quarter was another gift of momentum shift to the Vikings courtesy of the Kupp. He drove the final nail dropping the key 3rd-down 30-yard pass in the 4th-quarter.
I mention the two daggers because Cooper Kupp has now delivered multiple daggers to this team all season. Kupp was the one who dropped/couldn’t catch the late game, game-winning TD pass versus Seattle. Kupp has mishandled several passes this season…and almost always in key spots – 3rd down conversions and near/in the end zone. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “Ohhhh, Kupp is usually so sure-handed. You won’t see that much from him.” I’ve heard that so much I think it’s his catchphrase now.
The Rams may have a Cooper Kupp problem. He may have the Amari Cooper ‘yips’.
I looked up the NFL leaders in ‘drops’ this season (before this game/week), and Kupp was nowhere to be found -- I should go into business judging ‘drops’ for myself because I know Kupp should be among the league leaders. Going into this week Marqise Lee had the most drops of any player (6), FYI. One more than Amari Cooper. Cooper supposedly has 5 drops this season…I think I’ve seen him have 5 in one game in 2017. ‘Drops’ are an incredibly subjective stat.
I’m adjusting Kupp on our upcoming dynasty stash list…because there may be an issue here. If Robert Woods is hurt (was in a sling post-game), everyone is going to rush to Cooper Kupp. I might not.
3: Considering all the backdrop of this one play…the loud, raucous stadium…the good-great defense…a known passing play – Jared Goff stood in the pocket and barely stepped into the throw…he flicked it 30- yards right in the most perfect of spots. Only where Kupp could catch it, and between two defenders.
Jared Goff is special.
I’ve been cackling about how good Goff is since Week 2. I don’t know if I’ve done him enough justice. He may be the best young QB of all of them.
Mitchell Trubisky, I think, is Goff with 100x the physical tools/frame.
Jimmy Garoppolo is an amazing talent but want to see more NFL work.
In-season, I’m not sure I’ve seen a better young QB than what Jared Goff is doing this season. Better than Dak 2016. Better than the Russell Wilson breakout. Better than Andrew Luck’s one great season. As a connoisseur of QBs…Goff is the best young QB IN-season I’ve ever seen (Trubisky and Garoppolo may outshine him…but not yet).
Jared Goff is the next Tom Brady, walking among us right now…and he has his Bill Belichick in Sean McVay, only better than Belichick for offense. The future of 6pts per pass TD leagues at QB may very well be Jared Goff (+ Sean McVay). Don’t hedge your bets in dynasty. Don’t think “I’ve got Trubisky (and/or Garoppolo) so I’m good with the young QBs.” What these guys will be worth in a year is going to be huge appreciation from today’s value. Trubisky might get a good coach in 2018, or not…Goff already has one.
No TD passes for Goff this week, so the world is going to scoff and go back to their ‘Goff can’t cut it’ beliefs. It’s another week to change 2017 and 2018+ destinies in fantasy football – acquire Goff while the prices are still low.
Week 12 Goff/the Rams have the Saints, who just lost their top CB. Arizona Week 13 is fine. Week 14 with Philly will be quite the showdown. Week 15 at Seattle with a broken Legion of Boom will be fine for Goff. Week 16 at Tennessee is sweet to finish. The Rams will go 5-1/4-2 the next 6 weeks and finish with 11-12 wins. Losing to the Vikings may haunt them for a 1st-round BYE. Week 14 vs. Philly is their chance at retribution/a BYE. It’s a great stretch ahead for Goff.
The Vikings…they won. They’re good. I just watch them every week and think ‘they’re good’ but I cannot take them seriously for the title with Case Keenum. All this ‘Keenum hype’…every football analyst crowing to ‘give him the job!’ reminds me of the same morons that were wanting Cleveland to pay Brian Hoyer 50-70M+ a few years ago when he got the Browns off to like a 4-2 start. Ohh, how they loved Hoyer. Ohh, how they loved a nice season start from Ryan Fitzpatrick in Buffalo many moons ago.
I guarantee you if the Vikings go down two scores in a game ahead and Keenum has thrown a bad pick – Teddy Bridgewater is going in…even if next week. If Bridgewater is OK, physically and mentally post-serious injury…then I could take the Vikings seriously. Minnesota is headed to 11-12 wins as well this season. The Eagles-Vikings-Rams will be in a dogfight for the playoff BYEs the rest of the season. Philly and Minnesota have the upper hands today.
The Rams offense in Philadelphia in January is a huge problem…but would be fine facing the Vikings in Minnesota/the dome. Even though the Vikings are a dome team now…they’re built for slugging games out.
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- The Rams might have a ‘Cooper Kupp problem’. He’s cost them at least one win this year (SEA), maybe this game too. But I really believe the Rams have a Todd Gurley problem.
The problem is – he’s not very good. Or, I should say…he’s not as good as everyone thinks. I don’t know if his knee issues have come home to roost and have taken him back from his peak college performance, or if we were all fooled on the college tape – Gurley was good/produced his first few NFL games in 2015, then ended that season terrible…and that led to an awful season in 2016, I mean – putrid. This season he’s been great as a pass catcher but so-so as a runner. Facing any type of respectable run defense Gurley is a wasted carry nearly on the level of a Melvin Gordon…’C’ running backs who have ‘B’ moments, but everyone thinks they are ‘A+’ talents.
Gurley has no pop in his legs. He doesn’t make people miss. He is a solid RB, a big, physical RB who goes as far as the hole will take him. He can run people over but he can’t juke them or outrun them.
However, EVERYONE thinks Gurley is this force of nature. He’s very, very plain. He’s all sizzle and little steak. He has great numbers, but that’s somewhat a function of the offense. He’s not bad…he works fine. He’s just not ‘wow’. With 8-9 minutes left in this game, the Rams were in hurry-up mode. They needed a score to cut the game to a TD deficit and hope to get the ball back. As they embarked on this crucial drive, Goff hit Woods for a 9-yard gain on 1st-down. 2nd & 1, a great spot to be in. Gurley was stuffed on 2nd-down and then stopped in the backfield on 3rd-down. The Rams had to punt and try to squeeze two more drives in the game…it never happened.
Gurley is a ‘gem’ for fantasy…this offense and his volume carry the day. However, this offseason, I’d look to deal Gurley for David Johnson + ___, because I think it has come to that now. People are claiming Gurley as an MVP.
Against Seattle and Minnesota, this season: 29 carries for 80 yards…2.8 ypc, and ‘blocking’ is not an issue or excuse anymore.
-- Jerick McKinnon (14-48-0, 5-12-0/7) seems to have lost ground to Latavius Murray, but not really. I’m still a buyer…definitely cheaper now.
JMK out-snapped Murray 45-33 in this game and out-snaps him most games. McKinnon was second on the team with 7 targets. He’s definitely worth having as an RB2.
I’m more worried about Murray falling off, but he is the main goal-line guy so he has value as well.
-- Robert Woods (8-81-0/11) is CLEARLY Goff’s go-to guy now. Kupp cannot be trusted as much. Sammy Watkins (3-36-0/4) seems to barely be a part of this offense.
I thought Woods was good, but he’s moving into borderline ‘great’ for what he does…and the luck of being paired with Goff + McVay, he might be a WR1 of the future…the one WR with the relationship with Goff. I don’t think this is a ‘temp’ thing with Woods. Only Kupp could nudge him out of the way for ‘Goff’s heart’ but the way Kupp is going…not happening.
-- Rams rookie DB John Johnson (8 tackles) is emerging for IDP...6.0 tackles in his last 4 games, as he grabs more and more playing time. He played 96% of the snaps in this game.
-- One other quick note – Adam Thielen (6-123-1/9)…how good was that scouting call? I said he was Minnesota’s Jordy Nelson with no Aaron Rodgers to work with. Actually, he’s a better WR than Jordy, at their peaks, and is spinning gold with Case Keenum…a true sign of greatness.
He’s not just having a ‘good season’. He’s arguably…the BEST wide receiver in football.
Ahh…what…who… You don’t agree? Think about it.
Think about what would happen if Minnesota gets a real QB.
Snap Counts of Interest…
45 = McKinnon
33 = Latavius
44 = Higbee
19 = Everett
05 = Lance Dunbar
02 = Tavon Austin
10 = Jaleel Johnson