The highly-anticipated matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Rams lived up to every single bit of hype that it was given the past week. The NFL’s two brightest young superstars, Patrick Mahomes and Jared Goff, traded blows in a shootout as neither quarterback shied away from the moment. Both teams combined for 105 points, 1,001 total yards, and 14 touchdowns, but it was the Rams who came out victorious in the end thanks to a few key defensive plays. The Chiefs turned the ball over five times and that propelled the Rams to a 54-51 victory in the last couple of minutes.
Samson Ebukam’s Pressure Helps Secure the Los Angeles Rams Secure Wild Victory on Monday Night
Who Said ‘No Defense?’
While the score might have you thinking otherwise, there were a few big defensive plays that helped turn the momentum to each team during the game. The first turnover came midway through the second quarter when Chiefs linebacker Dee Ford stripped and sacked Goff. Allen Bailey was able to fall on it, giving the Chiefs great field position starting at the Rams 21-yard line. The following play, Mahomes connected with Kareem Hunt for a touchdown pass giving the Chiefs their first lead of the game.
The Rams created their first turnover late in the second quarter when Aaron Donald sacked Mahomes, forced the fumble and Samson Ebukam picked it up and walked into the end zone. That gave the Rams a 23-17 lead and set the tone for both Donald and Ebukam to have a big impact throughout the game.
— LastWordOnNFL (@LastWordOnNFL) November 20, 2018
Coming out of the halftime break, Mahomes was stripped on the Chiefs first possession by Donald and Jonathan Franklin-Meyers recovered the loose ball. With great field position, Goff was able to lead the Rams offense on a 46-yard touchdown drive. Mahomes coughed up another costly turnover in the third quarter on an errant throw that wound up in Ebukam’s hands. The pass was intended for Tyreek Hill in the flat but Mahomes did not set his feet and made a poor throw. Ebukam had sharp awareness in order to catch the ball in mid-air after it deflected off the offensive tackle.
Samson Ebukam with his SECOND DEFENSIVE TOUCHDOWN 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/EG8jOblpdk
— The Sports Quotient (@SportsQuotient) November 20, 2018
The Chiefs were able to regain momentum early in the fourth quarter when outside linebacker Justin Houston sacked Goff and Bailey recovered the ball, running it two yards into the end zone. That allowed the Chiefs to take a 44-40 lead, their first since midway through the second quarter.
The Rams were able to retake the lead with 1:49 left to go in the game, but the Chiefs were getting the ball back with three timeouts left and a red-hot quarterback. However, on the fourth play of the possession, Mahomes tried to take a shot deep and was hit as he made the throw. The pass was a wobbly one and wound up in Marcus Peters‘ hands. Ebukam was the man who applied the pressure on the play and while it may not show up in the box score, it was arguably the most important play he made Monday night.
What a breakout game by 2nd year OLB Samson Ebukam. 2 Def TDs, and this crucial pressure forcing the INT pic.twitter.com/hs0ge5xI6I
— uSTADIUM (@uSTADIUM) November 20, 2018
The Chiefs were able to get the ball back with one timeout and 50 seconds remaining, however, Mahomes threw his third interception of the night to LaMarcus Joyner, sealing the Rams victory.
The Rams New ‘Legatron’
Rams placekicker Greg Zuerlein usually takes on the nickname “Leg-a-tron,” but after Monday night’s win, the nickname may have to be transferred over to punter Johnny Hekker. Hekker has not been very busy this year, but he has come up big when he gets his name called.
He finished the game with four punts but all four of them were booming and flipped the field position in the Rams favor. Three of his four punts pinned the Chiefs inside their own 20-yard line, none bigger than his last one which traveled 68 total yards. Special team plays like Hekker’s may get overlooked in today’s NFL, but field position is so crucial to a defense especially when trying to prevent a last-minute touchdown drive.
The Last Word
The Rams-Chiefs game Monday night was a spectacular display of what the ‘new NFL’ is all about. While the New Orleans Saints and the New England Patriots may say otherwise, the road to the Super Bowl may very well go through Kansas City and Los Angeles. With so many weapons at their disposal, it’d be hard to imagine any team outside of those four reach the promised land. However, it is only a matter of time before other NFL teams adopt the Rams/Chiefs style of play. Considering how many new penalties favor the offense, teams will eventually learn it will be easier to build a championship team on that side of the ball.