The Los Angeles Rams much hyped season had its red carpet premiere tonight and to say Matthew Stafford lived up to the hype is an understatement. From the opening drive fans were treated to the kind of explosive plays they could only dream about a year ago. Stafford showed exactly why Sean McVay coveted him so much and was willing to trade multiple picks and Jared Goff back in March.
Stafford threw a 67-yard bomb to Van Jefferson on the first drive and from then on the Rams offense pretty much rolled the entire night. That said, much like Dune’s hyped premiere at the Venice Film Festival, the takeaways ranged from “ABSOLUTE RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE” to “Uneven disappointment”. As great as Stafford and the offense were and as bend and don’t break as the defense was in the 34-14 victory, there were still some lingering questions that the Rams need to answer ASAP.
The positives were clear and present. Matthew Stafford finished his opening night with 321 yards and 3 touchdowns completing 20/26 of his passes. The 67-yard touchdown and the 56-yard touchdown to Cooper Kupp (108 yards and a TD) demonstrated an offense that can score at will.
Tyler Higbee also had himself a night with 5 catches and 68 yards.
The passing game was as great as advertised and his 156.1 passer rating was the highest for any QB in a debut game. Sean McVay wanted explosion in his offense and he got it by the barrel full.
The running game struggled early with the offensive line having trouble opening up lanes for Darrell Henderson until the third quarter. Henderson finished his night with 70 yards and a TD but there were a lot of drives that threatened to stall both because of shaky run blocking and McVay not balancing out the offense.
Defensively things were frustrating because, on one hand, the Rams held Chicago to 14 points but on the other they allowed the Bears to dink and dunk for long stretches. Yes, that’s a tenet of the type of defense the Rams play wherein they take advantage of teams trying to make big plays but the Bears were content to carve up the Rams bit by bit. The Rams got away with it tonight but against better offenses like the Green Bay offense that ended the Rams season last year or Tampa Bay’s offense this year, they may find trouble.
Raheem Morris didn’t adjust well and it allowed the Bears to hang around longer than they had any right to. The run defense, specifically on the line, allowed David Montgomery to get 108 yards and a touchdown. They didn’t have much of a pass rush for the majority of the game and while it’s always great to see Aaron Donald get a sack, it came in garbage time.
Jalen Ramsey made himself known early and often both showing why he’s a STAR corner but also an honorary linebacker. Rookie Robert Rochell also made an impact by having a big pass break up on another ill advised Bears fourth down. Also, David Long had a pick on the Bears opening drive.
The Special Teams unit looks MUCH improved from last season as Matt Gay nailed all his kicks and Johnny Hekker looks like himself again. That said, it’s still a little weird that Cooper Kupp is returning punts when the Rams drafted Tutu Atwell this year. The Rams still don’t seem to have that settled but they did have Jake Funk returning kickoffs so that should be fun going forward.
The tackling also improved after a bumpy opening return for the Bears and the offense showed that while the punting has improved that unit isn’t likely to see much action.
Overall, the Rams were as advertised and for the offense to be as good as it was despite not taking a snap all preseason is HIGHLY ENCOURAGING. Sony Michel is going to progressively worked into the offense which hopefully dovetails with better run blocking.
Brian Allen in particular struggled, giving up a sack and had a bad holding penalty that negated a Cooper Kupp first down. Conversely, Rob Havenstein looked much improved from last year as he kept Khalil Mack at bay for most of the night.
Defensively, the explosiveness needs to improve but the Rams got a lot out of Justin Hollins and Kenny Young. Raheem Morris needs to get a better feel for calling the game especially with much more explosive quarterbacks coming down the pike.
The big takeaway, of course, was Stafford and how good that offense looked tonight. Stafford looked like the quarterback that was promised. Onto Indianapolis!