The Rams defeated the Denver Broncos 51-14 on Sunday at SoFi Stadium.
What we learned from a victory that improved the Rams to 5-10:
Running back Cam Akers was right: Akers has been through it this season.
Coach Sean McVay called him out for not playing with enough intensity. He was exiled for more than two weeks because of a conflict about his role. The Rams tried to trade him.
But before his absence and after his return, Akers, 23, maintained that the key to establishing an effective running game was sticking with it — and putting the ball in his hands.
Against the Broncos, Akers rushed for 118 yards and three touchdowns in 23 carries.
It was Akers’ first 100-yard rushing effort since he gained 131 yards in a 2020 season NFC wild-card playoff victory over the Seattle Seahawks.
Does Akers feel vindicated?
“Proof in the pudding,” Aker said.
Akers said he never wavered in his confidence.
“I always knew, even with some trouble early on,” he said. “I always knew who I was, know who I am. That’s not going to change no matter what obstacle is put in the way.”
McVay was happy with Akers’ effort.
“He’s playing like the guy that we all knew he was capable of,” McVay said.
Does that mean Akers is doing enough to return in 2023? Or are the Rams showcasing him as new, improved trade bait?
Linebacker Bobby Wagner outdueled Russell Wilson: Wagner and Wilson were Seattle teammates for 10 years, but Wagner never got a chance to hit the nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback during practice.
On Sunday, he sacked Wilson and also intercepted a pass.
“It was cool to pick him off on Christmas as well,” Wagner said. “I appreciate the presents.”
Wagner still holds Wilson in high regard.
“He’s my brother,” Wagner said. “We were together for an extremely long time. We went through a lot of highs and lows together. … He’s impacted me so much in my life, and I’m forever grateful.”
Tight end Tyler Higbee made history: Higbee, drafted by the Rams in 2016, is among the team’s longest-tenured players, trailing only star defensive lineman Aaron Donald and offensive lineman Rob Havenstein.
Higbee caught nine passes for 94 yards and two touchdowns, establishing Rams tight end career records for receptions (299), yards (3,063) and touchdown catches (20).
“Pretty cool,” said Higbee, who has three touchdown receptions in the last two games. “I was aware of a couple of the [records], but not really, like, my concern. Trying to win a football game.”
Higbee caught a nine-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and a seven-yard pass in the second.
“Always awesome getting into the end zone and being able to celebrate with the guys,” he said. “More importantly, excited that we were finishing drives with touchdowns.”
Quarterback Baker Mayfield likes playing at SoFi Stadium: No heroics were required this time.
On Dec. 8, with two days of preparation, Mayfield engineered two fourth-quarter drives to lead the Rams to a win over the Las Vegas Raiders.
On Sunday, with the defense creating turnovers and giving the offense favorable field position, Mayfield coolly completed his first 11 passes and finished 24 for 28 for 230 yards and two touchdowns.
Rookie cornerback Cobie Durant is a playmaker: Durant, a fourth-round draft pick from South Carolina State, gave an early indication of his potential when he intercepted a pass and returned it 51 yards against the Atlanta Falcons.
Unfortunately for Durant and the Rams, he suffered a hamstring injury in that game and ever since has worked to get back to full speed.
On Sunday, Durant intercepted two passes.
He picked off Wilson’s second pass and returned it 15 yards to set up Higbee’s first touchdown.
“I really lost the ball on the first one,” he said. “Lost it in the sun and had to recatch it.”
In the fourth quarter, he broke on a pass by Brett Rypien and returned it 85 yards for a touchdown. Durant said it was his first pick-six since high school.
“We always talk about being tone-setters and game-changers,” Durant said.
Cornerback Jalen Ramsey also intercepted a pass on a day in which the Rams sacked Wilson six times.
Larrell Murchison had two sacks, Michael Hoecht recorded 1½, Wagner and edge rusher Leonard Floyd had one each, and defensive tackle Jonah Williams was credited with half a sack.
The Rams claimed Murchison off waivers from the Tennessee Titans two weeks ago. He made his Rams debut Sunday.
“Just met him 15 minutes ago,” McVay quipped.