Odell Beckham had a breakout game for the Los Angeles Rams against the Arizona Cardinals.
The 29-year-old receiver caught six passes for 77 yards and a touchdown on Monday night.
Cooper Kupp caught 13 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown.
It was a performance that the Rams needed. Matthew Stafford and the offence struggled through the team's three-game losing streak before beating the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 13. Now that we are approaching the final weeks of the regular season, the playoff race is in motion. The Rams are the fifth seed in the NFC. They're one game behind the Cardinals.
For the Rams to go on a late winning streak and build momentum before the playoffs, they will need both Kupp and Beckham to be at their best. They have to carry the offence in the absence of a strong running game.
Fortunately, when they play well together, Kupp and Beckham perfectly complement each other's skillsets.
Kupp is putting up huge numbers this year. He's catching the ball all over the field and lining up in different spots to do so. The Rams use him as a possession receiver but rely on him more than most teams do their number one option. Kupp is a prototype slot receiver. He is very quick and smart enough to diagnose coverages quickly so he is on the same page as his quarterback more often than not.
On this Third-and-6, the Cardinals disguise their coverage which opens a spot for Kupp to turn around at the first down line. He hits the soft spot in the coverage and Stafford hits him with a pass for the first down.
Kupp moves into the backfield for the very next play. This time he runs an option route where he is isolated against a linebacker in space. Kupp can plant to go inside or break outside towards the sideline. When he breaks outside, he has space and Stafford finds him for another first down.
Sean McVay is very smart in how he uses his players. By moving Kupp into the backfield, he generates a matchup that favours the offence and gives the quarterback an easy throw.
Beckham is more of a vertical release receiver than a possession option. He can do those plays too but he's more valuable working against coverage downfield. On this play, he scores a touchdown by beating man coverage when isolated on the narrow side of the field. McVay helps his quarterback again by using motion before the snap.
The motion tells the quarterback that it's man coverage, which means Beckham is one-on-one against the defender with no safety help to his side. Beckham is too quick for the cornerback off the line of scrimmage, putting him in position to catch a straightforward touchdown.
Again, McVay leveraged his receivers and play design to give his quarterback an easy read and easy throw for the touchdown.
Beckham brings this pass in downfield between two defenders. He's not the primary option on this play. Stafford comes off his first read and locates Beckham working on the backside. He initially released outside but turned his route back infield on the other side of the press defender. He can make that catch despite the tight coverage.
When McVay schemes Beckham open, he can take advantage with his athleticism.
Mesh is a popular NFL play design. Offences rely on it on third downs to exploit the man coverage. Beckham runs a shallow crossing route while the other receivers run deeper crossing routes to create traffic in the middle of the field. Beckham is left wide open underneath after beating the cornerback covering him at the line of scrimmage.
Although mesh is a simple concept, the way McVay runs it with all of his receivers releasing downfield makes it particularly difficult to stop. Once Beckham gets underneath, he can easy turn upfield and sprint forward for a big gain.
The Rams are lacking in different areas and their consistency hasn't been there with Matthew Stafford this season. But they have top-end talent on both sides of the ball. Aaron Donald had three sacks on Monday night, so the defence excelled even without Jalen Ramsey. Offensively, so long as they don't lose anyone else after losing Robert Woods and Cam Akers, they will have enough talent to contend with any playoff team.
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