In an exhilarating Monday Night Football shootout that saw two of the best young quarterbacks in the world play each other to a near-stalemate, it was the Rams defense that made the difference and earned them the 54-51 win over the Chiefs. Specifically, it was second-year linebacker Samson Ebukam—a fourth-round pick out of Eastern Washington—who seemingly made all the significant plays that L.A. needed to slow down Patrick Mahomes.
With the help of Aaron Donald—the one defensive player everybody would expect to stand out—Ebukam made his defense look great even as they also gave up six TDs, thanks to three huge plays that gave L.A. the edge. The first came late in the second quarter, with the Chiefs leading 17-16. Donald got in on Mahomes for the strip sack, and the ball popped out in perfect position for an alert Ebukam to leave his blocker to scoop it up. He’d enter the end zone untouched, and because of that play the game would go to the half tied.
In the third, with the Rams up three, Ebukam made maybe the play of the game, snagging a brilliant interception while engaged with his blocker and then running it back for another score. Right at the goal line, Patrick Mahomes made an ill-conceived effort to stop the 245-pound linebacker and found himself quickly bowled over on the ground, his team now losing by 10. No mere quarterback would stop Ebukam last night.
His impressive play wasn’t done there. As both sides kept scoring and neither team broke free, defense became more and more important, and it was the Rams who stepped up and forced turnovers on each of KC’s final two drives. On the first, see if you recognize the guy who wills his way to Mahomes and creates a weak throw. (It’s Ebukam, still fighting even though the Chiefs’ attack has surely exhausted everybody on the field by this point.)
It feels a bit silly to sing praises about the Rams defense in a game that was absolutely dominated by both offenses, but without Samson Ebukam, the Chiefs likely come away from that game victorious. He and his fellow linemates might know that they’re not the main event, but the hype behind the offense was just motivation for them to steal the show.
“As a defense, we’ve been getting a lot of criticism because our offense is so good,” Ebukam said after the game. “So everybody on the D-line, we decided to just put in a little extra today and then everybody else followed.”