INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson got back together Sunday, near the end of their first season apart following a decade together. Wagner and his Los Angeles Rams were the only ones who enjoyed the holiday reunion.
Wagner first intercepted a pass by his longtime Seahawks teammate, setting up the Rams' second touchdown drive in their 31-point first half. Wagner also sacked the Broncos quarterback right before halftime, settling a longstanding bet between these good friends.
“I told him that if we ever played against one another, I’d get him,” Wagner said with a grin. “It was cool to do that. It was cool to pick him off as well on Christmas. I appreciate the presents.”
Wagner's holiday cheer was only part of a comprehensive thrashing delivered by the Super Bowl champions who haven't given up on their lost season just yet.
Baker Mayfield threw two touchdown passes to Tyler Higbee, Cam Akers rushed for 118 yards and a career-high three TDs and the Rams routed the Denver Broncos 51-14 for their second victory since mid-October.
Mayfield went 24 of 28 for 230 yards in another standout performance for his second win in three starts with the Rams (5-10), who produced the best game of their dismal season on Christmas.
“That's what you work toward,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “To see it come to life on a night like this, you're really happy for them. They deserve that.”
Rookie Cobie Durant punctuated the festivities when he returned his second interception 85 yards for a touchdown, picking off Brett Rypien with 4:08 left to cap the Rams’ first 50-point performance under McVay since their famed 54-51 victory over Kansas City in 2018.
For at least one more week, Los Angeles avoided becoming the first defending champion to lose 11 games. Even with the NFL's 32nd-ranked offense coming in, Los Angeles is now the second team to score 50 points this season, joining Dallas earlier this month.
“To play a complete game like this is really special,” Mayfield said. “Everything was there for us today.”
In his Los Angeles debut, Larrell Murchison made 2 1/2 of the Rams’ six sacks of Wilson, who passed for 214 yards with three interceptions for Denver (4-11). The beleaguered Wilson was not sharp in his return from a one-game absence with a concussion, throwing interceptions to end Denver’s first two drives.
“We haven’t really had an experience like that (where) we were trying to catch up like that so far here,” Wilson said. “Just became a snowball effect. … The bottom line is that I let us down. It can’t happen, and it’s been disappointing.”
The Rams improbably racked up 261 of their 388 yards before halftime and eventually scored on their first eight drives against Denver's above-average defense, already matching their full-game season high in points with their 31-6 halftime lead.
Denver trailed 41-6 before Wilson hit Greg Dulcich for the Broncos' only touchdown with 8:30 left in the latest frustration-building loss in a season full of them under rookie coach Nathaniel Hackett.
“I think that they’re upset for all the losing," Hackett said. “We all are. Every one of us. It’s unacceptable. That’s not what we’re about. That’s not what we were going to do. We went in with the mindset that we were going to be able to win this game, but in the end, we weren’t ready.”
Akers continued his late-season surge by producing the Rams’ first 100-yard rushing game of the season, while Higbee led the passing attack with 94 yards on nine catches for an offense missing its top three wideouts due to injury.
Higbee became the Rams' career franchise leader in scoring catches by a tight end with his TD catch in the first quarter for his 19th career score. Akers then scored two snaps after Wagner made a long return of his interception across the middle.
The Rams’ 17-point first quarter was their highest-scoring opening period since Week 6 of McVay’s first season in 2017. They subsequently scored touchdowns on four consecutive drives for the first time in McVay's tenure.
Los Angeles led 31-3 at halftime, and Ramsey picked off Wilson's long heave to the end zone on Denver's opening drive of the second half. The Rams' pressure on Wilson improbably was led by Murchison, who signed with Los Angeles 13 days ago after Tennessee cut him.
Any Christmas cheer evaporated during postgame handshakes when angry Broncos edge rusher Randy Gregory threw a helmet slap at Rams offensive lineman Oday Aboushi, who responded with a slap of his own. Tempers eventually cooled on a rough day for Gregory, who got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after LA’s third touchdown and later extended another Rams TD drive with a roughing-the-passer penalty.
“Talked with Randy, talked with all those guys, and we can’t show our frustration,” Hackett said. “We've got to take our frustrations out on the field the right way.”
Murchison left in the fourth quarter with a neck injury. ... Dulcich was ruled out with a hamstring injury late in the fourth quarter.
Broncos: At Chiefs on Sunday.
Rams: “At” Chargers on Sunday.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL