It was the best of halves it was the blurst (editor’s note this is a joke) of halves. The Arizona Cardinals led the Los Angeles Rams 9-6 at halftime and the chorus of negativity sang at SoFi and from homes across Southern California. They said negativity was well-earned as the Rams’ offense came to work hungover and or still a little drunk from the night before. Sean McVay was hellbent on throwing his way to paternity leave. The line couldn’t block and outside of Cooper Kupp and Brett Maher, nobody was making an impact. The defense forgot their Zyrtec D and their allergies to tackling running quarterbacks and covering tight ends plagued them at every turn.
Fortunately, the Rams deferred to start the game so they got the ball at halftime and turned it around. It’s unclear what happened. Perhaps the offense took their Pedialyte and someone slapped McVay ‘Rick James style’ or simply showed him all the mean Tweets telling him to “RUN THE BALL”.
Whatever took place, McVay got the message and the offense was firing on all cylinders. They pitched a second-half shutout and are back at .500. There were a lot of positives from today’s game and a few lingering issues that are more features than they are bugs.
Kyren Williams Raises the Offense’s Ceiling
It’s honestly baffling that it keeps taking descents into rock bottom for McVay to run the ball. Every bit of success the Rams have had on offense this year happens when the play-calling is balanced. The reason they blew out the Seahawks, hung with the Niners and Eagles, and won today was the running game.
The offense stalls out when they keep throwing it or doing their annoying third-down screen. McVay was tired of the putdowns so he empowered Kyren Williams to the tune of 20 carries, 158 yards, and a touchdown that was so obvious the refs almost missed it.
They ran the ball nine out of their first ten plays out of the half. The drive ended with a Cooper Kupp touchdown. On their next drive, they ran it again and if not for Kyren having a dumb false start and Tyler Higbee‘s hands being made of Teflon, they’d have sealed the game sooner.
Kyren was an absolute stud the whole second half and because of that, Matthew Stafford stopped getting his ass kicked. The offense was way more efficient, dominated time of possession, and allowed the defense to get some rest. They ran 22 total plays in the first half and in the second half, they ran 22 run plays alone. They scored 20 unanswered points with 255 yards. In the first half, they had 118 yards. It’s amazing what happens when the Rams commit to the run. If McVay can do that for an entire game the offense can really take off this season.
The Rams’ Defense is Coming Together
It took until Week 3 for the defense to get their first turnover. Since then, they’ve managed to force at least one turnover per game. Today, they forced two. One, was a Christian Rozeboom pick, and the other was a Quentin Lake fumble recovery forced by Byron Young.
Byron Young was especially great today. Not only did he have a forced fumble but he also had a sack. He’s been the best non-Aaron Donald pass rusher on the defense. Jonah Williams also registered a sack and he along with Kobie Turner were solid in rushing defense. For as much crap as the defense gets every week, they didn’t allow a touchdown all day.
Ernest Jones once again led all tacklers and Donald once again caused havoc and recorded his seventeenth sack against the Cardinals. Ahkello Witherspoon might not be Jalen Ramsey but he’s been terrific in man coverage all year. He along with Jordan Fuller, Cobie Durant, and Quentin Lake did a great job keeping the Cardinals receivers relatively quiet. Last week they allowed what seemed like a million explosive plays to receivers and they cleaned that up this week.
The only member of the secondary that struggled today was Derion Kendrick who of course committed two boneheaded penalties and of course one of them was right before the half. Luckily, it didn’t result in a touchdown. In a perfect world, Duke Shelley would get Kendrick’s reps as the season goes along but sadly we don’t live in a perfect world. Once the offense got balanced and had long drives the defense was actually able to function the way it’s supposed to.
Cooper Kupp is ALL THE WAY BACK
Kupp was awesome last week but this week was the total package. He had seven catches for 148 yards and a touchdown. He extended drives, he extended plays and was a one-man wrecking crew all day long.
They needed it because Puka Nacua struggled today as he had dropped a touchdown and couldn’t quite get open as well as he normally does. Tutu Atwell had one 30-yard catch but otherwise wasn’t heard from. Hopefully, the offense continues to commit to the run and then the Rams’ three-headed monster at receiver can really take flight.
Kupp had a scary moment where it looked like his ankle was injured but thankfully he was okay. Through two games he’s had 15 catches and 266 yards. He could still wind up as a top-five receiver this year despite missing four games, not bad for a system receiver.
Austin Trammell Might Be Good
The Rams haven’t had much success at returning the ball and have employed Cooper Kupp and Kyren Williams at times. Fortunately, it seems they might have a full-time person at the position. Trammell had an early return for 30 yards. Unfortunately, on his next return, he fumbled it forcing the defense back onto the field and the Cardinals to getting their second field goal of the day. That was the Rams’ only turnover of the day and if Trammell can clean that garbage up he has a future or he’ll be waived by the end of the year. It’s entirely up to him.
Today was the Rams’ season in a nutshell. Frustrating at times but when everything clicks they are FUN to watch. The first half felt like a team playing for a top 5 pick while the second half felt like the team that blew out Seattle and has the potential to get a Wildcard spot.
All they need to do is commit to the run and the offense can truly flourish. Their defense can actually get rest and play with a lead as they’re designed to do. The sky was falling for a while but McVay proved he could chill out and do what was necessary and obvious for this team to succeed. If they can maintain their balance for a whole game they can compete with anybody.