Riding the strengths
Say what you will about this team, but they find ways to ride their strengths and compensate for their weaknesses. The offense scored a whopping 7 points. For context, they were playing one of the top defenses in the league.
When the No. 1 offense was sputtering, the team rallied around their adapting defense and their consistent special teams play, which included the elite leg of K Greg Zuerlein. Greg the Leg may have only had two field goals, but they came from 56 and 57 yards when the team needed a ball through the uprights.
The special teams rallied together and scored a combined 20 points.
Another positive tangent? WR Pharoh Cooper returning all punts and kick-offs. WR Tavon Austin is having a better season offensively, but he was a liability on special teams. He was almost guaranteed to have at least on drop as a punt-returner, and I’m a bit shocked they waited this long to cement Cooper as the all-around return man. Cooper looked great, and his kick-off return was entertaining as all hell.
Offense is still strong
The lack of scoring and first downs are glaring problems from Sunday. But the offense as a whole still looked like a consistent unit.
QB Jared Goff may not have been throwing for more than 300 yards. But with this team, he doesn’t have to. He only needs to complete his passes and avoid the turnovers, which he did against the top cornerback tandem in the league, and one of the strongest pass-defenses. When the pocket was collapsing, he extended plays and made a few runs to get the first down rather than force throws under duress.
RB Todd Gurley continues to carry the offense when they need him most, racking up more than 110 yards on the day. Unlike RB Leonard Fournatte, Gurley spread his production throughout the game and carried the offense when the passing game couldn’t.
The Rams defense learns quick
Fournette ran for 130 yards on Sunday. But what’s the most impressive part of that stat is that 100 yards came in the first quarter. For the rest of the game, the Rams defense clamped down on the future All-Star and forced the team to go with their worst attribute, QB Blake Bortles.
The Jags defense looks familiar
Their defense reminds me a lot of the Rams defenses of a few years ago: a Top-10 unit that is dragged down by an underperforming offense that relies soley on its running game. In other words: Fisherball.
The defense stopped the highest-scoring offense for most of the day and kept the unit to 10 points and Goff under 200 yards. The Jags managed to shadow the Rams best receivers, and forced Goff to rely on WR Robert Woods, who had five catches on the day.
The Rams offense had two receivers with more than one catch the entire game. Those two were Woods and WR Cooper Kupp.
They brought Goff down five times and held the offense to 12 first-downs and kept them to a pair of red-zone trips, and only one of those ended with points.
A brief thought
I cannot think back to a recent time when a Rams team was in first place through consecutive weeks. I can’t even think back to a time in recent memory when the team was 4-2.
And the best part about this? The team could just as easily be 6-0.
The team lost twice by a combined score of 13 points and a catch here or there. Fix those, and this is a completely different team. This goes to show you just how talented and good the team is, record aside. This is an new-look team that still uses a lot of Fisher’s own players. It’s not like they cleaned out the roster completely and started from scratch. They took the players left behind and made the most of them.
It’s still early, and a lot can happen between now and the end of the season. But knowing this is where the team stands after playing some pretty strong defenses and teams in general, fans should feel really good heading into the bye week following Sunday’s game.