NFL Monday Morning Madness (Tuesday Edition): Rams outlast Chiefs + NFL MVP race

They share explosive, transcendent offenses. They share prolific young quarterbacks. They’ve literally shared players (Marcus Peters, Sammy Watkins). And yes, they even used to share states (Missouri).

On Monday night the Chiefs and Rams put on a show to the fullest extent at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. With an expected litany of points scored, millions of viewers still should be wowed by the insanity that transpired in the Rams’ 54-51 victory.

Is this the beginning of a diehard Rams fanbase building up in LA?

If so, it begins with Jared Goff’s cool-as-ever game-winning drive in the final minutes — with no timeouts — to send Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs (9-2) home, with their second loss of the season.

“It felt like Texas Tech and Cal,” Goff said he told Mahomes after the game.

Mahomes was brilliant on his own, notching nearly 500 passing yards and throwing for six scores. But he had five turnovers, including two interceptions on his final two possessions, in the game’s final two minutes.

In the first game in NFL history that featured both teams scoring at least 50 points, there did happen to be seven turnovers, and three defensive touchdowns.

Aaron Donald strips Patrick Mahomes
Aaron Donald recorded two strip-sacks of Patrick Mahomes in Monday’s win over the Chiefs. (Screenshot: NFL on ESPN)

But it was the Rams (10-1) who received the biggest boost from their defense, no matter how little. Aaron Donald — the NFL’s best non-quarterback — and Samson Ebukam – two defensive touchdowns — helped separate the two squads by making their mark in three different Mahomes turnovers, with two resulting in scores.

The league has obviously been shifting to become more offensive-centric for the past few decades, but something happened in the Eagles’ 41-33 victory over the Patriots in Super Bowl LII.

Where is the defense? Is it even needed anymore to win a championship. The answer is yes, but only sort of. Brandon Graham’s strip sack of Tom Brady last February was virtually the only big defensive play made in the contest, and it won the Eagles the game.

The NFL sure seems like it’s ushering in a new era. For however long that lasts, Super Bowl-caliber teams have offenses such as the Rams, Chiefs and Saints — and to a lesser extent, the Steelers and Patriots.

And the team with the most consistent offense, experienced head coach and quarterback, and/or closest to average defense wins. Last season, the Eagles played their part. This season, the Saints look like a much better version of last year’s Eagles. Especially after their 48-7 drubbing of Philadelphia on Sunday. They’re the Super Bowl LIII favorite. But in Pittsburgh and New England, two teams with the potential to run rampant on offense, and mightily improve on defense, are lying in the weeds.

But for tonight, the Rams and Chiefs put on a spectacular show for the ages. Or perhaps one of the inaugural shows of a new age. Time will tell, and our first example begins in the post-Thanksgiving push to Super Bowl LIII.

NFL MVP Race

1. Drew Brees — Brees is on pace to have perhaps the most efficient season a quarterback has ever had, at age 39. Where have we heard that before? (See: Tom Brady’s 2016 season at age 39).

2. Patrick Mahomes — Consider this, the Chiefs have averaged 45.5 points per game in their two LOSSES. Nonetheless, Mahomes’ five turnovers in the loss to the Rams puts him here for now. He may be battling Todd Gurley for the Offensive Player of the Year award at this point, if Brees keeps up his pace.

3. Jared Goff — Goff passes Gurley with his extraordinary performance to lift the Rams over the Chiefs. The quarterback position is clearly more important, as Gurley had a forgettable performance in a game where the Rams scored 54 points.

4. Todd Gurley — Yes, QBs are more important. But that doesn’t mean you can’t marvel at Gurley’s incredible season. He’s the best non-QB OFFENSIVE player in football. Aaron Donald, his teammate on defense, would be the best non-QB overall.

5. Andrew Luck — The Colts have risen from the dead, winning four straight games after starting 1-5, to pull even at .500. Luck is back, and the Colts are a force to be reckoned with in 2019 and beyond. And perhaps, the rest of this season.

Honorable mention: Aaron Donald, Antonio Brown, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, Ben Roethlisberger

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