Rams Capitalize on Turnovers To Rout Broncos In First Christmas Day Game

Denver Broncos v Los Angeles Rams

Photo: Getty Images

INGLEWOOD (CNS) - The Los Angeles Rams converted four interceptions into 24 points in a 51-14 victory over the Denver Broncos Sunday at SoFi Stadium, their most one-sided victory since the 2017 season opener.

Cam Akers ran for 118 yards and three touchdowns and Baker Mayfield threw for 230 yards and two touchdowns in the Rams' first Christmas Day game in their 86-season history.

The Rams led 17-0 10 minutes, 15 seconds into the game. Matt Gay kicked a 55-yard field goal on the opening drive. Mayfield threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tyler Higbee three plays after cornerback Cobie Durant intercepted a Russell Wilson pass and returned the ball 15 yards to Broncos' 34-yard line.

Akers ran 2 yards for a touchdown two plays after linebacker Bobby Wagner intercepted a Wilson pass and returned the ball 11 yards to Denver's 13- yard line. Wagner and Wilson were teammates with the Seattle Seahawks from 2012 through 2021.

The Rams (5-10) responded to Brandon McManus' 54-yard field goal with 39 seconds left in the first quarter with an 11-play, 75-yard drive culminating with Mayfield's 7-yard touchdown pass to Higbee, the 20th touchdown reception of his seven-season career, all with the Rams, giving him the franchise record for tight ends.

Higbee also holds the Ram records for catches and receiving yards by a tight end.

The Rams increased their lead to 31-3 1:06 before halftime on Akers' 2- yard touchdown run, completing a 12-play, 90-yard drive.

McManus kicked a 49-yard filed goal as time expired in the first half.

The only points in the third quarter came on Gay's 30-yard field goal with 3:49 remaining.

The Rams added 17 points in the fourth quarter on Akers' 4-yard run, Gay's 53-yard field goal and Durant's 85-yard return of an interception of a pass by Brett Rypien.

Mayfield completed 24 of 28 passes, including his each of his first 11. He was not sacked and did not throw an interception.

"Baker had great command," Rams coach Sean McVay said. "(I) thought he played really quickly. I thought he saw the field outstanding."'

Wilson completed 15 of 27 passes for 214 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Greg Dulcich with 8:30 left. Latavius Murray ran for a 2-point conversion as the Broncos (4-11) lost for the sixth time in seven games.

Wilson had three passes intercepted and was sacked six times.

"We have to play smart football," said Denver's first-year coach Nathaniel Hackett. "In the end, we want to be aggressive, but we can't be overly aggressive. He might have pressed a little bit. I got to look at the tape and get a better feel for it.

"But in those situations, we got to be smart with it, whether we're checking it down, whether we're moving on in our progression, whatever it might be. But we just have to do a better job coaching everything for him."

The Rams outgained the Broncos, 388 yards to 323 and led 26-18 in first downs and 36:35-23:25 in time of possession in front of a crowd announced at 71,525, including USC's Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Caleb Williams and Trojans coach Lincoln Riley, who coached Mayfield at Oklahoma, where he won the Heisman Trophy in 2017.

The margin was the Rams' largest since a 46-9 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Sept. 10, 2017, McVay's first game as their coach.

The loss was Denver's most one-sided since Oct. 24, 2010 when it lost to the Oakland Raiders, 59-14.

"That was a bad game, embarrassing game," Hackett said. "That's the first one that we had like that and I know everybody's frustrated. In the end, you can't turn the ball over like we did, especially early in the game. And we got to be sure we're stopping the run."

The NFL announced during the game it was shifting next Sunday's game between the Rams and Los Angeles Chargers out of the "Sunday Night Football" time slot and to 1:25 p.m. with the Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens game getting the "Sunday Night Football" slot.

Sunday was the first time the NFL played three games on Christmas.

From its founding in 1920 through 1951, the NFL season was still underway at Christmas twice -- in 1943 and 1947.

The NFL did not play on Christmas until 1971, when it held two divisional playoff games. The second between the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs remains the league's longest game, 82 minutes, 40 seconds. The league drew criticism for disrupting Christmas dinners.

The league didn't play another Christmas Day game until a "Monday Night Football" game in 1989, including not playing divisional playoff games on Sunday, Dec. 25, 1977. There were NFL games on each Christmas from 1993-95, and again in 1999, 2000, 2004-06, 2009-11, 2016-17 and annually since 2020.

With Christmas falling on a Monday in 2023, it is likely another Christmas Day game will be played that day, but the next one after that would likely be in 2025, when Christmas is on a Thursday, another day of the week the NFL regularly plays.

Denver previously played three Christmas Day games -- winning in 1999 and 2004 and losing in 2016.

When asked about playing on Christmas, Akers said "It was fun, great experience and we got the win. What more can you ask for?"

When asked if it would not have been as great an experience if the Rams lost, Akers said, "For sure."

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