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Rams turned over a new leaf by surmounting Matthew Stafford’s errors

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Quarterback Matthew Stafford had one of his worst days with the Rams on Sunday, and one of his best.

Stafford threw three interceptions, his most in a game this season, and had a 46.8 passer rating, his lowest in a game in nine years.

But the Rams beat the Minnesota Vikings, 30-23, showing they don’t live and die with Stafford and can win while losing the turnover battle.

That’s a load off a certain right shoulder.

“I guess it’s good to know that we are capable of doing that. I hope not to have to do it anymore,” Stafford said Wednesday after the Rams (11-4) began to practice for Sunday’s game against the Ravens (8-7) in Baltimore.

Before the Vikings game, the Rams were 10-0 when they had a passer rating of 95 or higher, 0-4 when the air went out of the aerial game, and 10-0 when they were even or better on turnovers, 0-4 when giveaways outnumbered takeaways.

The stats were related. In the Rams’ three consecutive losses, Stafford had five interceptions and a fumble, each leading to an opponent’s touchdown. It was a burden for the quarterback to know every mistake spelled doom.

But that was when the Rams were overdependent on the Stafford-to-Cooper Kupp passing connection, before the running game took off with Sony Michel, the defense found its footing and the special teams began making plays.

“Games like last week happen,” Stafford said. “I was happy that we were resilient enough as a team and ran the ball well enough to get the win.”

This time, three Stafford turnovers led to 10 points. The game-changing plays were all Rams: Travin Howard’s interception of a Kirk Cousins pass in the end zone and Brandon Powell’s punt return for a touchdown.

“When you have turnovers, you’re supposed to lose the game,” Rams linebacker Von Miller said. “It just shows you the type of special teams we put in, the type of defense we play, and how resilient the offense is.

“I think we proved something to ourselves on being able to overcome those odds.”

When the Rams, who went 4-0 in December, face Baltimore, which went 0-4, the odds might be stacked their way. Stafford will be working against a defense giving up an NFL-worst 8.2 yards per pass attempt. The Rams will be going against a team that’s minus-10 in turnovers (fourth-worst in the league).

But looking ahead to the playoffs, now that the Rams have clinched at least a wild-card berth, it will get harder. Potential NFC playoff opponents Green Bay, Tampa Bay, Arizona and Philadelphia are all top-10 in yards-per-pass defense. Green Bay, Dallas, Tampa Bay and Arizona are top-10 in turnover difference.

Rams coach Sean McVay saw another reason one of Stafford’s worst games was one of his best: What the quarterback did after the turnovers this time. In the fourth quarter, he completed six of eight passes for 77 yards and a touchdown (a 144.3 rating), leading the Rams to 10 points.

“There’s a lot of guys that would’ve wilted in those types of situations,” McVay said Monday. “This guy didn’t flinch, kept competing. I think his teammates picked him up a little bit and then he made the plays when he had to have them.”

For Stafford, who moved into 12th all-time in passing yards (49,448), it was good to know the burden of winning and losing isn’t all on him. At least not always.

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“It’s not lost on me, the better I play, the better our offense is going to play and the better chance we have to win football games,” Stafford said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself and expect a lot out of myself.

“I expect to play a lot better than I did last weekend, and hope to do that in Baltimore.”


Powell was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week after his 61-yard punt return for a touchdown helped the Rams beat the Vikings. It was the second punt-return touchdown in the NFL this season. Jakeem Grant had a 97-yarder for the Chicago Bears in a loss to the Packers in Week 13. … The Rams plan to practice at SoFi Stadium on Thursday to stay out of the rain. They did that for the first time this season last Friday. … Safety Taylor Rapp (shoulder) and defensive lineman Greg Gaines (hand) didn’t practice Wednesday, and center Brian Allen (knee) was a limited participant, according to the Rams’ injury report. … Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (ankle) was limited in practice after missing two games with an ankle injury. Coach John Harbaugh said he’s “hopeful” the Pro Bowler will play Sunday, but backup Tyler Huntley will be ready. … The Rams placed running back Raymond Calais on the COVID-19 reserve list; he remains on injured reserve. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth was the only player from the Rams’ active roster on the COVID list Wednesday. He went on the list on Christmas Day and missed the Vikings game.

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