What we learned from the Rams' 37-7 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars

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  • Jacksonville Jaguars
    Jacksonville Jaguars
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  • Los Angeles Rams
    Los Angeles Rams
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  • Matthew Stafford
    Matthew Stafford
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  • Sony Michel
    Sony Michel
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INGLEWOOD, CA - December 05 2021: Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) passes late.
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford passes late in the second quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday at SoFi Stadium. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

The Rams’ record improved to 8-4 with a 37-7 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday at SoFi Stadium.

As they prepare for next Monday night’s game against the Arizona Cardinals (10-2), here’s what we learned from the Rams’ victory:

Matthew Stafford is tough

During 12 seasons in Detroit, Stafford played through innumerable hits, sprains and broken bones while toiling for teams that struggled to protect him.

On Sunday, the Rams quarterback appeared to take a direct shot to his chest when a Jaguars lineman barreled into him late in the second quarter. Stafford, 33, lay on the turf for a few moments before he headed to the sideline, and then sat out one play.

He returned and immediately fired what was arguably his best pass of the game, a 19-yard strike to Van Jefferson.

Stafford then passed for three second-half touchdowns.

Sony Michel is a back capable of carrying an offense

Rams running back Sony Michel breaks a tackle by Jacksonville safety Andrew Wingard on Sunday at SoFi Stadium.
Rams running back Sony Michel breaks a tackle by Jacksonville safety Andrew Wingard on Sunday at SoFi Stadium. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

The Rams acquired Michel before the final preseason game as insurance for oft-injured Darrell Henderson.

Michel showed his talent in the second game, when he came on in place of the injured Henderson and helped the Rams defeat the Indianapolis Colts.

On Sunday, coach Sean McVay put the ball in Michel’s hands 24 times as a rusher and three times as a receiver. Michel rushed for 121 yards, the most by a Ram since Cam Akers amassed 131 yards in a wild-card playoff victory over the Seattle Seahawks last season.

And give McVay credit. He has been criticized for failing to give Stafford enough play-action opportunities. Relying on Michel — even using tackle Joe Noteboom as an extra lineman in jumbo formations — created those opportunities against the Jaguars.

Odell Beckham Jr. is starting to heat up

After catching a 54-yard touchdown pass against the Green Bay Packers, Beckham caught Stafford’s final touchdown pass against the Jaguars on a one-yard fade route.

It wasn’t of the spectacular one-handed-grab variety that highlighted Beckham’s years with the New York Giants, but it showed his athleticism and growing confidence. He also had a 27-yard reception.

As Beckham’s role grows, that could help receiver Cooper Kupp. Not that Kupp needs much: He caught eight passes for 129 yards and a touchdown to increase his league-leading totals in all of those categories.

Center Coleman Shelton stepped up in a difficult spot

Brian Allen suffered a knee injury on the first offensive snap, and Shelton played the rest of the game.

It was Shelton’s first significant playing time since the 2019 season.

McVay said Monday that Allen suffered a right medial collateral ligament sprain. He did not rule out Allen for the game against the Cardinals. Shelton will start if Allen does not play.

Aaron Donald will find a way

Rams defensive end Aaron Donald raises a fist.
Rams defensive end Aaron Donald raises a fist after sacking Jacksonville quarterback Trevor Lawrence. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

The San Francisco 49ers and the Packers neutralized Donald, but the Rams’ star defensive lineman broke through with a sack against the Jaguars.

Donald, the reigning NFL defensive player of the year, has seven sacks this season, 92½ in his career.

Leonard Floyd was credited with half a sack against the Jaguars, increasing his team-leading total to eight. Von Miller has yet to record a sack in three games with the Rams.

Brandon Powell might be the answer as a kick returner

Powell, a receiver promoted from the practice squad, returned the opening kickoff 65 yards. The play electrified the SoFi Stadium crowd and led to a field goal.

Rams special teams had some other notable plays — Matt Gay kicked two more field goals and Johnny Hekker averaged 50 net yards for three punts.

But Gay bounced a kickoff out of bounds, and rookie Ben Skowronek was penalized for running into a returner who signaled for a fair catch — mistakes that could sink the Rams against playoff contenders.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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