Ok, ok, before any panic buttons are pushed let’s all take a deep breath and celebrate the fact that the Rams are 2-1 with a win in the division. They did so with a myriad of injuries on both sides of the ball and once again beat the Cardinals on the road where they’re undefeated in the McVay era.
Was there a lot of angst and frustration? You bet, and we’ll break all of those down but there were a lot of positives in today’s 20-12 win and most of their issues today like they were in last week’s heart attack-inducing win were self-inflicted.
The good news with self-inflicted wounds is that they are the easiest to avoid and the Rams better avoid them because their biggest test of the season is next Monday at San Francisco a place where they haven’t won in three years.
The Rams once again left a TON of points on the board. One of the big culprits was the Rams having six penalties for 35 yards. They, of course, stalled drives that killed momentum. Other issues lie in the play-calling and miscues.
Prior to Cam Akers (more on him in a second), 53-yard drive that put the Rams up 20-9 at the end of the third, they couldn’t run the ball well at all. Akers himself had -1 yards in the first half with Cooper Kupp being their leading rusher at the half where he had a 20-yard touchdown run (the first of his career). Akers did get going and got his first touchdown since his rookie season BUT the Rams failed to seal the game earlier in the fourth after Akers fumbled at the goal line. He had shades of his best self but he once again fumbles as he did in the playoffs against Tampa Bay.
Sean McVay once again leaned on his third-down give-up screens that caused them to settle for field goals. Allen Robinson‘s integration into the offense was once again slowed as he had a dropped TD in the end zone.
Yes, the refs missed a face mask but Robinson and Matthew Stafford weren’t on the same page. Tutu Atwell still doesn’t have a career catch and Stafford overthrew what would’ve been a massive gain if not a score.
The Sunnier Side
On the positive side of things, Stafford took better care of the ball today. He had zero turnovers and showed that he’s not all-of-the-sudden-washed after he demonstrated great awareness and zipped a ball to Kupp for a much-needed first down. They utilized the tight end screen to great effect as he had 61 yards. Ben Skowronek actually led ALL Rams with 66 receiving yards, yes that’s right, the alligator-armed seventh-round pick whom fans were ready to ship out of San Pedro as recently as two weeks ago. He looks much more confident and is asserting himself as a de facto fullback.
Kendall Blanton marked his return to the team with a 28-yard catch and Brandon Powell is working his way into the offense with 27 yards as well. In fact, six Rams receivers had at least fifteen yards receiving which is showing that the Rams aren’t just locking in on Kupp.
The line only allowed one sack which is another plus seeing as how it’s the third starting group they’ve had in as many games. There was a scare where it looked like Rob Havenstein went down with an injury but he was okay. Alaric Jackson and Coleman Shelton did well in their second starts at guard and center respectively and Joseph Noteboom‘s MCL injury doesn’t seem to be hindering him.
Defensively, today was a day where BEND DON’T BREAK caused its fair share of hair pulling and plotzing but at the end of the day they didn’t allow a touchdown. Aaron Donald got his 100th sack (the fastest DT to do so) and Terrell Lewis sacked Kyler Murray as well.
Despite having a rash of injuries in the secondary including Jordan Fuller, Troy Hill, David Long, and Decobie Durant the Rams held the fort down. Rookie corner Derion Kendrick led the team with nine tackles and had a MASSIVE stop on a fourth down.
Jalen Ramsey built off his MOSS’ing that ended last week’s game and had a game that again should remind everyone he isn’t washed. He allowed zero receptions and had eight tackles. He also had his swag back as he wore yellow socks which didn’t match the blue everyone else was rocking. He’ll get fined but he’s okay with calling attention to himself after the first week and a half of the season saw him sullen and in his own head.
The Rams rushing defense only allowed 70 total yards continuing their early season dominance. The passing defense was BETTER today but the Cards were able to pick up too many first-downs simply by defenders playing fifteen yards off the ball. Kendrick and Ramsey did have two dropped picks which would’ve made the game a lot different, and Taylor Rapp had moments where he looked lost, but again given the skeleton crew in the defensive backfield they contained Kyler Murray fairly well.
Special teams were terrific today as they not only recovered the game-clinching onside kick but Matt Gay was PERFECT today. They also had a blocked punt on the opening drive and didn’t make any dumb miscues or penalties. This was a much-improved unit than the one that helped Atlanta nearly steal one.
Overall, fans have to be happy with how everything shook out today. Yes, it was the kind of game that would make many get a Krusty The Clown brand pacemaker but given that the defense didn’t give up a touchdown and the offense found life in the running game. That’s not nothing.
They also have Malcolm Brown on deck which should both give them a guy who can barrel through defenses but also someone who can improve the pass blocking. The line is getting more in sync and the passing game has gotten more diverse. Defensively, they should be healthier next week and the front seven has been stout.
The Rams are still a mess but it’s a mess that’s actually getting cleaner. McVay needs to get into a play-calling groove but prior to that Akers fumble, the offense looked like they shook off their second-half rust. They are still in search of a reliable deep threat with Van Jefferson on IR until after the bye if not longer. Perhaps next week is the week Lance McCutcheon gets utilized but until then they need McVay to be more creative. The Rams are 2-1 and avoided a second-half collapse. It wasn’t pretty but they still got the job done.