2023 NFL season, Week 11: What We Learned from Sunday’s games
Kevin Patra’s takeaways:
- Matthew Stafford leads Rams to comeback win in return. Stafford looked healthy after missing a game with a thumb injury. The Rams’ offense got off to a wobbly start and struggled for spells after losing Cooper Kupp (ankle) late in the second quarter. But in the money moments, Stafford stepped up, displaying easy gas. After tossing an interception with his team trailing by nine points early in the fourth quarter, Stafford led back-to-back scoring drives. On Los Angeles’ final scoring drive, Stafford launched a perfect dime to Puka Nacua for a 32-yard gain to jumpstart the unit. The Rams enjoyed solid balance from the run game late, churning the clock and setting up the game-winning chip-shot field goal. It wasn’t always pretty for Stafford, who missed a few passes that stymied drives. But in the big moments, he came through. The Rams earned their fourth win this season to hang around playoff position — two of those victories came against division-rival Seattle.
- Geno Smith returns from elbow injury, but Seattle’s win sails wide right. Smith got off to a hot start, leading an 88-yard TD drive. But the offense sputtered, settling for field goals and completely cooling off by the third quarter. Then disaster struck. Smith suffered an elbow injury late in the third quarter with Seattle clinging to a 16-7 lead. Drew Lock entered the game and the offense went nowhere. The Seahawks didn’t earn a first down with the backup in the game. Lock threw an interception on third-and-long, setting up the Rams’ go-ahead field goal. Smith, who’d been trying to work out the elbow on the sideline in the preceding drives, returned with 1:31 remaining and no timeouts. He immediately showed enough arm strength, hitting Tyler Lockett for 13 yards. Three plays later, Smith put one on the money to DK Metcalf for 21 yards, pushing the Seahawks into field goal range. Instead of giving Smith another chance to move the ball through the air, Seattle ran for two yards. After a spike, Jason Myers was set up for a 55-yard field goal. The kicker booted it wide right. Gut-wrenching defeat. There will be a lot of questions for the Seahawks following the loss — from Smith’s status to what to do about an offense that went 1 of 11 on third downs after a 4-for-4 start to the game.
- Rams’ win could have big implications down the stretch. With a young defense and an offense battling through injuries, Sean McVay’s club gutted out the win to remain in the periphery of the playoff picture. Next week’s game against the Arizona Cardinals could determine if the upstart Rams will stay in contention into December or fall off the pace. For Seattle, the loss could be the start of a tumble. The Seahawks fell a game back in the NFC West with a brutal stretch ahead. In the next four weeks, Seattle faces the Niners on Thursday night, Dallas, San Francisco again, and Philadelphia. Smith’s injury will be under the microscope before Thanksgiving night’s tilt in Seattle. The Seahawks also lost running back Kenneth Walker III on Sunday with an oblique injury. If Seattle falls out of playoff positioning, losing twice to the Rams will loom large.
Next Gen stat of the game: Rams QB Matthew Stafford used play-action on a season-high 33.3% of dropbacks in Week 11 against the Seahawks, throwing for a season-high 142 yards on such passes.
NFL Research: With his 35th career fourth-quarter comeback in Week 11, Stafford broke a tie with Pro Football Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas for the sixth most fourth-quarter comebacks in NFL history. The five players that Stafford trails are Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees.
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