We learned a lot of things on Sunday. Not among them? The meeting of the minds on the Los Angeles Rams kick-return near the end of the first quarter. First the Rams committed two penalties, then they didn’t, then they both sides committed penalties, which off-set, but then the Rams had to start the drive from their own 2-yard line?
It will be 100 years in the future and we still won’t understand what the hell that was. Jay Gruden looked even more confused and frustrated than usual during that conundrum.
Why not just keep it simple and just re-kick the ball? Because this is the NFL and everything has to be more difficult than it has to be. From concussion findings, to handling investigations surrounding domestic abuse, to overtime rules. Everything is hard all the time because NFL is family or something.
Back to the 27-20 loss to Washington on Sunday.
This loss revealed that things are okay
It’s either the dumbest or the most comforting thought I’ve had in a long time following this team. This team isn’t just different in how it responds to the positives, but how it responds to negatives like losing a tough game or continuing to not find common ground on an extension for the best player.
The Rams got punched in the mouth by Washington’s run-game, an aspect of their offense that was a non-factor in their opening loss to the Philadelphia Eagles last week. Early in the game, the Rams were down 13, which was basically a death sentence in the Jeff Fisher days.
But the team continued to fight back using something a lot of good teams use: competence.
With Fisher, the Rams would have fake-punted the ball 10 times in the same drive just to kick a 55-yard field goal to end the comeback campaign. Head coach Sean McVay used the fake punt one time and then relied on his offense to score and fight back to within striking distance. A few bad penalties halted what might have been a comeback win.
A few mental mistakes erased and the Rams win this game. Even allowing more than 200 rushing yards couldn’t keep the Rams down. This team fought back to the bitter end.
I’ll also leave this here:
I'm far more appreciative of Sean McVay's "I can do much better" approach (honesty) to Jeff Fisher's "we'll get that fixed" diversion (lie).— Brandon Bate (@NoPlanB_) September 18, 2017
Gurley is back
RB Todd Gurley was never really gone. He was there the whole time, in our hearts.
On Sunday, Gurley rushed for more than 80 yards for the first time since Sept. 25, 2016. Part of me can’t help but think a talented passing game made the opposing defense play on their toes, which helped Gurley a bit as he fought his way to 88 rushing yards on the day.
It was a passing game he was a very big part of, too. Not only was he catching passes, but he was leaping fools and looking like his old self again.
Even in a loss, the Rams are fun to watch again
Sunday was very strange. Even in the first half, the Rams kept the game compelling and kept me interested throughout the game. The second half was the most exciting part of a Rams game since C Tim Barnes fell on all of those fumbles in Seattle in 2015.
QB Jared Goff made some bad mistakes, but he kept his offense afloat throughout the relentless pressure he received on Sunday. His tenacity says a lot about him as a player and a future leader on this team.
Offensive rookies are the real deal
I took the Indianapolis Colts game with a grain of salt because the Colts were hopeless dolts. So, when everyone (but Gurley) turned in stunning performances, I was hesitant to buy into it.
Now, I give the offensive rookies my full attention.
TE Gerald Everrett and WR Cooper Kupp were the first two picks in the draft for the Rams, and they’re already big contributors for the offense. Everrett had 95 yards on the day and was big when the Rams needed him to be. Kupp is so good that Goff threw a pass to the ground and Kupp still caught it.
Even WR Josh Reynolds is breaking his way into playing time with the offense, and special teams. Reynolds was the one who caught the pass from P Johnny Hekker on the fake-punt that kept the comeback alive for Los Angeles.
The defense isn’t invincible, but they’re no pushover, either
Last week, I said I didn’t fully buy into the 46-9 routing of the Colts because Indianapolis are so terrible. The Colts offense wasn’t fully intact and they looked lost out there.
Washington was a different story. They came out to play, and so did their running backs. They had three different backs rush for more than 60 yards in the game, and two of those backs rushed for more than 75 yards each.
The defense was beat quite a few times on receiver screens and short passes that wound up gaining big chunks of yards. The pass-rush registered two sacks and didn’t seem to be too much of threat to QB Kirk Cousins.
But the pass-defense stayed the course and kept passing-attack to a minimum. The Rams defense surrendered 27 points, which is a solid outing considering Washington looked to be running all over them.
Like McVay, I trust defensive coordinator Wade Phillips to have the major problems with the run-defense fixed in time and definitely by this coming Thursday against the San Francisco 49ers.