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More Wolford, Please

January 5th, 2021 · No Comments · Football, NFL, Rams

I might have suggested the Los Angeles Rams would take a page from the “psyching ourselves up” playbook and lecture fans and the media about “how nobody believes in us,” ahead of their game against Arizona on Sunday.

But we couldn’t go there because Rams fans, perhaps more enthusiastic than informed, apparently helped bet a team without its leading passer or receiver … into the role of 4.5-point favorites over the Cardinals of Kyler Murray — though Murray hardly played, after tweaking an ankle.

I did not see how the Rams could score enough points to beat a middling opponent, given that QB Jared Goff was out with a broken thumb and Cooper Kupp, the team’s top receiver, was sidelined by Covid-19 protocols.

But they pulled off an 18-7 victory, thanks to their league-leading defense, which scored nine points, and an unknown quarterback named John Wolford; a guy making his first appearance in an NFL game turned in an unexpectedly competent performance.

Competent to the point that I would like to see Rams coach Sean McVay have Wolford taking snaps against the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL wild-card playoffs round Saturday.

To explain:

–Goff has struggled for a month, and his performance is unlikely to improve with that broken thumb — on which surgery was performed a week ago Monday. (Take a moment and consider what sort of jury-rigged cast he would have on his thumb. And he would throw accurately with that?)

–The Rams running game, with Goff leading the offense, has disintegrated because he cannot stretch the field by escaping the pocket or making direct runs, and he is not getting sufficient protection from his offensive line. Oh, and just about all the team’s running backs are hurt.

–McVay’s offense looks stale in Year 4 of his career as a head coach, all of which came with Goff at QB. Defenses don’t bite on the fakes, and it’s not like peak-level Todd Gurley is still playing at running back to take pressure off the QB.

–Wolford is healthy. His right thumb is not broken, and he can run. The Rams may not need much of a typical running game if Wolford escapes the pocket often enough to move the chains — which is what he did early in the Arizona game, as he got comfortable.

–Wolford seems to be a high-energy, can-do sort of guy. He is known for being the first guy to the practice site and the last to leave. He had been preparing for his opportunity, to the point that teammates talk nonstop about it, even before Sunday’s victory.

–Wolford’s first appearance began with an interception, and I thought “uh-oh, this is going to be bad,” but he soon bounced back and finished 22-for-38 passing for 231 yards, and ran for 56 yards on six carries, and by the end of the game the Wake Forest alumnus looked like he belonged there.

I would expect McVay to be coy about his quarterback situation, though he already said, last week, that Goff should be able to play — if the Rams made the playoffs.

I like Wolford ahead of Goff, also, because the Seahawks haven’t already seen Wolford eight times in four seasons — including twice already this season.

Either way, this is a “free-play game” for the Rams. It is hard to think of them beating the improved Seahawks, and it is even more difficult to imagine what sort of scenario would be required for Rams fans to hold up their team to criticism — in this situation, against Russell Wilson’s team, on the road, perhaps in bad weather.

And if the Rams somehow win, they get the winner of the Tampa Bay-Chicago game, a matchup that would not be as extreme as the one coming Saturday afternoon.

That could mean a place in the NFC championship game.

Hey, a guy can dream. John Wolford could tell you about it.


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