All week long, the narrative for the matchup between the Los Angeles Rams and the Jacksonville Jaguars was simple: the winner will be the team that runs the ball more effectively. Rams fans were hoping that Coach Sean McVay wasn’t going to get too creative and try to get Tavon Austin more gadget plays or too many forced passes to the resident disgruntled receiver for the Rams, Sammy Watkins.
Instead, the Rams did the smart thing and studied the tape on the Jaguars defense and took advantage of the holes in their run defense. It wasn’t pretty, but it was effective. However, that doesn’t mean the game didn’t have any surprises in store.
Let’s take a look at the expected and unexpected aspects:
Expected: The special teams got their mojo back
Anyone worried about the special teams unit was probably paying too much attention to WR Tavon Austin and not to the other guys. Coach Bones has these guys playing at a high level and last week’s game against the Seattle Seahawks was an unfortunate outlier that gave these guys a desire to right the ship. And right the ship they did. WR Pharoh Cooper’s 103 year kickoff return is exactly what the team needed and proved that there’s a lot of youthful speed on this roster. Cory Littleton’s blocked punt and Malcolm Brown’s head-ups recovery that ended up in the end zone was another integral piece to the Rams’ victory. It’s great to get 14 points from special teams, but also pretty stressful that the Rams need those scores to win the game.
Unexpected: Jared Goff didn’t shrink under the pressure
Although his numbers weren’t exactly stellar, Jared Goff still faced off against a top-teir pass rush, lead by the extremely nasty DE Calais Campbell, and didn’t turn the ball over. You could probably give the credit to the coaching staff, but it was a bit surprising to see Jared Goff as a confident game manager, only throwing the ball 21 times, especially when you consider that he threw 47 times against an also stout Seattle defense. Yes, his pocket presence hasn’t improved, but Jared Goff played within the game — he was calm, focused, and did what he needed to do get the win. I’ll admit, I was expecting him to playing more like a nervous freak with the Jags defense.
Expected: WR Robert Woods played like a #1 wideout
When Rams fans get excited about the pass catchers that Jared Goff has at his disposal, Robert Woods sometimes gets forgotten. WR Sammy Watkins and WR Cooper Kupp have the potential to break open a game with a flashy play, but Robert Woods is doing the grunt work, pulling in 5 receptions for 70 yards and 14 yards per catch. To me, I’m expecting Robert Woods to run a crisp route, provide some key blocks to help open the running lanes, and to occasionally make a spectacular catch to get a first down. He’s not a superstar, but don’t be surprised when he sometimes plays like one.
Unexpected: John Johnson got burned, but bounced back
With all the hype that JJ3 has been getting, I was ready to get a first class ticket to the hype train for the Boston College product. However, I was expecting him to have a better angle than this failed move on RB Leonard Fournette. Johnson just looks really slow on tape here.
However, once the Rams defense got into their groove, they didn’t give up any huge plays like this and John Johnson didn’t have any more moments where he was exposed as “too slow to be playing safety.” I’ll admit that I’m a big fan of Johnson, so I don’t want to harp on it too much. But I was surprised that he let a huge run happen on the first play, as if they weren’t game planning for Fournette all week.
All in all, this felt like a throwback game to the days of Fisherball. This was a far cry from the first couple of games where Jared Goff was slinging the ball over the field and Todd Gurley was getting the bulk of his yards as a receiver. This smash mouth style was expected because Sean McVay is a smart coach and he knew that to win against the Jaguars, they had to run the ball and execute a passing attack that didn’t try to do too much. I was happy to see Goff air it out a couple of times to Sammy Watkins, even though it didn’t work out.
Is this the LA Rams that we’ll for the rest of the season? Probably not. I feel like the LA Rams are versatile enough to play in whatever style of play that’ll be the most effective.
And after the LA Rams victory over the Jaguars, I am pleasantly not surprised.