Expected: Jared Goff threw the ball a LOT
When it was announced that the New Orleans Saints were going to bench their starting cornerbacks, RB Todd Gurley probably knew that he didn’t need a full night’s rest on Saturday night (he ended up with 17 carries). Coach Sean McBae smartly drew up a script that had Jared Goff slinging the ball all over the field, with 43 passing attempts. Even at halftime, McBae acknowledged that he needed to run the ball more in the second quarter, but on the first drive, Goff kept throwing the ball as if he didn’t have any other option. It was a great performance by the second year QB, showing that he’s capable of elevating his game when he needs to.
Unexpected: the defenses shined more than the offenses
I really thought this was going to be a one of those games where both defenses were going to be gassed and the score was going to be something along the lines of 41-38. Drew Brees is the type of guy that always throws for 350+ yards, but things change, I guess. The Rams only scored 26 points against an Saints secondary that was riddled with injuries, mostly because of the strong defensive line play, mainly DE Cameron Jordan. Giving OT Andrew Whitworth his worst game of the season, Jordan was dominant at times, racking up 2 sacks, 4 hurries, and 2 batted passes.
Expected: the Rams defense gave up a huge play for a touchdown
While every NFL defense gives up touchdowns, the Los Angeles Rams have developed a habit of giving up at least one huge play that goes for a touchdown early in the game that usually causes the defense to tighten-up for the rest of the game. This week, the Rams allowed RB Alvin Kamara to march down the field for a 74-yard touchdown. However, both Kamara and RB Mark Ingram were kept in check for the rest of the game. This reminded me of what happened with RB Leonard Fournette in Jacksonville earlier this season.
Unexpected: The Rams were solid on defense without blitzing much
ESPN reported that according to Pro Football Focus, the Rams blitzed 11 percent of the time against the Saints on Sunday. That’s a lot less their average blitz rate of 40%. I think this was a smart move, as Wade Phillips put his trust in guys like Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn to still pressure the quarterback, which they were able to do, while eliminating the chances of Brees getting a deep ball into the end zone. Another telling stat? Drew Brees only threw for 96 yards in the first 3 quarters. Yes, the fourth quarter was a little bit of a mess for the defense, but the game was pretty much in hand at that point.
Expected: Todd Gurley still found a way to be effective
Even with all of Goff’s passing attempts, Gurley was able to make the most of his 17 carries, accumulating 74 yards on the ground and 54 receiving. What was impressive about Gurley’s runs was how dirty he was willing to get -- he was just attacking the defense over and over. His runs weren’t highlight worthy, but Gurley kept getting 1st downs when the Rams needed it.
Unexpected: WR Cooper Kupp and WR Sammy Watkins stepped up big time
Cooper Kupp, coming off a massively disappointing game last week in Minnesota, delivered a monster performance on Sunday, catching 8 balls for 116 yards.
WR Sammy Watkins wasn’t a slouch either, nabbing a touchdown catch early on in the game and getting one of the game balls at the end of the game. I was hoping for more from Watkins, but he still had a great game, 4 catches for 82 yards — I was just hoping for more catches (he had 9 targets). I guess as the Rams win more, our expectations keep getting downright greedy.
So, this game had a lot of typical elements with some surprises thrown in. Honestly, I was worried about this game and by the end of it, I came out feeling a lot better about this team. This coaching staff is pretty elite and these players are playing hard for them. I’m very excited to see what happens this season.
Who’s House? Well, I think you know.
And the NFL is learning that answer as well.