The Los Angeles Rams improved to 6-0 with the uneven win on the road against the Denver Broncos. It was a nailbiter, but good teams find ways to win. For the second consecutive week, the Rams made enough plays down the stretch to finish off a tough opponent on the road.
This was easily QB Jared Goff’s worst performance of the season. He looked a little more like the Jeff Fisher version that went 0-7 than the finely tuned gunslinger we’ve grown accustomed to watching this season. Credit where credit is due: the Denver pass rush was better than our offensive line’s pass blocking. Goff was hurried, hit and sacked more than any game thus far this season. When he did have time, he just wasn’t as accurate today going just 14/28 for 201 yards, with no TDs and an interception off a tipped ball which he threw into a pretty tight window. He didn’t play horribly — his composure remains one of his greatest areas of improvement — but when pressured along with solid coverage, he remains vulnerable to mistakes and risky throws.
Todd Gurley finished with a whopping career high 208 yards on 28 carries, averaging 7.4 YPC and basically chewing up yardage like PacMan after a month on NutriSystem for Men (seriously, though, have you tried one of those tiny pizzas?). Much credit here goes to the offensive line in this area as there were holes for days out there, and Gurley didn’t miss many. Insert any and all football cliches you like: with two more TDs rushing today, Gurley is in the midst of one of the greatest two-year stretches the position has ever seen.
I think I might have cried a little when Cooper Kupp went down with a knee injury. One silent tear made a tiny melancholy splash in my Pabst Blue Ribbon. When he came back, it was pretty much like Rudy had scored the game-winning TD. Though he was benched for (what are believed to be) precautionary reasons in the second half, his absence from the game took the air out the Rams offense for a few series. Robert Woods was once again phenomenal today with 7/109 while Brandin Cooks was held to just two catches and 53 yards. Josh Reynolds was the target on Goff’s lone INT, and also didn’t appear to get his head around on an out route which led to a Goff sack when he was unable to find a second option. On the whole, this unit, and the Rams offense, have had better days as Denver’s secondary was stingy in coverage.
The Rams finally seemed to look TE Gerald Everett’s way today, and he was able to haul in two of his four targets for 24 yards — and also received a look in the red zone. That said, these guys aren’t making much of an impact on the game. TE Tyler Higbee wasn’t targeted on the day, and looked a little shakier than usual with his blocking responsibilities. Nothing to see here: move along.
A tale of two techniques here: if I could hand out separate grades for pass-blocking and run-blocking, I sure would. On the ground, this unit receives an A+, as Gurley went back for thirds at the buffet, and hit the soft-serve machine on his way out the door. Pass-blocking was a different story as Goff was harassed and harried all game long and sacked five times. Opposite Von Miller, Broncos rookie DE Bradley Chubb was a monster notching three sacks. The Rams could have probably helped their line by shading the run/pass balance a little more towards a guy getting 7.4 yards a carry, but, you know: 6-0.
Injury notes: let’s hope LG Rodger Saffold’s knee injury isn’t serious. Andrew Whitworth also left the game, but was back a few plays later.
Overall, the DL had a really solid game holding the Broncos to 60 yards rushing (77 below their season average), keeping Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman well in check. Looks like they shored up the run D after last week’s tough go.
Aaron Donald got a nice sack, chasing down Broncos QB Case Keenum (and landing on him, like a feather), and the line got consistent pressure and a good push up the middle, making life difficult for the former Ram. Also, someone else who makes life difficult for Case Keenum? Case Keenum. This unit rattled him some, but he did throw a lot of errant passes from clean pockets, which were gifts, not the result of some ferocious pass rush. Ethan Westbrooks and Jonathan Franklin-Myers flashed a bit, and Michael Brockers was having a big first half before a shoulder injury scare seemed to slowed him down.
This unit was also strong today, although game flow had quite a bit to do with it. With the improved run fits and discipline from the DL, Rams LBs were able to flow to the ball and make some plays. Plus, Denver offers little from the TE position to scare you. Cory Littleton was strong today, defending a few passes and wrapping up well on his four tackles (though he did inexplicably hold up on a blitz when it looked like he had a potential sack). In his second game back, Mark Barron logged just one tackle, but was solid in coverage. EDGEs Samson Ebukam and Matt Longacre continue to do little to impress (Longacre went out early with an injury) — but there are rumors that the NFL is considering officially adding a new position group next year, the MEHDGE, at which point these two are going to Hawaii. (I’ll be here all week)
Pick your poison:
Sam Shields and Troy Hill will get burned the same amount. Difference is that Shields will at least have a few positive plays mixed in there.— Dylan Cardwell (@TheRamsReportIG) October 14, 2018
Troy Hill is a PFF All-Star, but he’s a disaster between the lines. After giving up a few 40-yard pass plays and generally being shredded by WR Emmanuel Sanders, Hill was eventually benched for the (also toastable) Sam Shields who at least didn’t make any glaringly bad plays. We miss you so very much, Aqib. Get well soon. Do you need to me to start a GoFundMe for your vitamins? Cuz you know I will.
Troy Hill probably has a great PFF grade right about now!— Sosa (@QBsMVP) October 14, 2018
I digress: Marcus Peters looked a lot more like himself today, and though he was involved in a mix-up with Hill that led to the Broncos first TD, they didn’t pick on him much (again, Keenum’s not exactly Drew Brees). The Rams safeties likely had their best day of the season today. SS John Johnson III had a nice INT off a tipped pass, and Lamarcus Joyner finally decided to join the party with a sack, some very physical tackling (he’d finish with 7) and strong coverage.
Dear Cairo: Even though you bricked a critical PAT last week, we still embraced you because you sacked up and hit the game-winner. Today, your missed FG almost cost us the game. Again. Yes, you connected on the chip shot to put us up two scores late, but really, we’re going to need you to make the other one, too, okay? We might need you to start coming in on Saturdays.
Winning on the road in the NFL is hard enough without shaky placekicking. Get well soon, Legatron. On a positive note, Johnny Hekker hit all three of his punts inside the 20, with one inside the 5. Coverage units were strong, return game was forgettable.
This was not HC Sean Mcvay’s finest hour. I’ll try to look at the bright side here: he’s still learning on the job in year two, and the thought that he’s still getting better should frighten the rest of the league (nod to SeattleRams for that positive take). On the not-so bright side: he had a back who couldn’t be stopped, a QB who was getting mauled, his stud slot receiver on the bench (and his replacement looking lost), and yet he continued to throw the ball, with less than desired results. Sometimes, you just have to know when to downshift and let your high-powered offense purr a little bit. Personally, I think you run it on that 3rd and 6 play that resulted in the INT — you’re up 20-3 late and your D is on cruise control. Today we forced some things, and the results were decidedly mixed.
Defensively, Wade Phillips did a nice job fixing last week’s leaky run defense, and probably told #22 to keep his eyes on his man a little more. He also mixed in a few more blitzes, which led to the near-miss by Littleton and Joyner’s killer takedown. It’s hard to complain at 6-0, and make no mistake, the Rams were in control the entire game — but this one could have and should have been a lot easier.