Overall, Rams QB Jared Goff had a very solid game. It’s easy to nitpick — yes, his deep ball completion to Cooks was underthrown, he missed a wide open (like, fart in an elevator wide open) Robert Woods for an easy TD, and could have put a bit more touch on another easy 6 to Cooks at the goal line. I won’t ding him too hard for his INT — he did well to avoid a sack on the play, but given that the Rams were likely in 4-down territory due to Greg Zuerlein’s injury, he forced one down the sideline when the game was all but decided. He did make some great throws on the day, and was able to complete a few under duress early in the game. He’s still a young QB, and continues to show development. System QB/$100M man or whatever you want to call him, Goff’s running point for a team that has scored 67 points in 2 games and his early-season synch with Cooks is a thing of beauty. 24/32/354 is nothing to sneeze at.
Clearly, Arizona came into the contest hoping to stuff RB Todd Gurley, and for the most part, they did: except when it counted. Gurley registered 3 TDs on the day, and also converted on 3 2-point conversions, for an outrageous 24 point afternoon. While he was solid in pass protection, as usual, his 2.2 yards per carry and 73 yards from scrimmage won’t get his position group into the A category. Backup RB Malcolm Brown looked great sullying his lunchbox in garbage time, amassing 46 yards on just 12 totes.
Actual targets to actual TEs! After a week one performance which saw Rams TEs Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett receive zero targets, both got into the act late in the contest on Sunday. True, the mark of a good TE isn’t purely receiving — and the Rams second consecutive strong offensive outing is in part a testament to the blocking and/or decoy abilities of the unit. Still, we want to see them get involved to keep defenses honest. A play after lazily giving up in pass pro and allowing Goff to get flattened, Everett made a nice grab and flashed his 2nd round talent with some nice YAC. Later in the drive, Goff rubber stamped the win with a nice 3-yard TD toss to Higbee. It wasn’t a big day, but it was progress.
Incredible day for Rams WRs today. Brandin Cooks had 159 yards on 7 catches (against 9 targets). He hauled in everything that came his way, and could have easily dropped a 2-hundo burger on the Cards if Goff leads him on the deep ball. Think about this: Cooks is pacing 1968 receiving yards through 2 games. Tack on the penalties he drew against Oakland and... Sammy Watkins he ain’t. There’s a reason we gave up a #1 and paid him before his first snap. As we say around here: HE GUD. In the “no slouch” department, take a look at Robert Woods with 6/81 (9 targets) and Cooper Kupp with 6/63 (6 targets) and you’ve got a (unofficial) zero drop, 303 yard afternoon from this stellar unit. Really? You want Josh Gordon?
This unit gets an A- for pass blocking, and a C+ for run-blocking, netting them a solid B. O-Line play requires a little more study — some of it’s going to be scheme versus defense, down and distance, etc., but for the most part the unit kept Goff clean. The only two sacks were avoidable, one was on Goff for inexplicably not throwing it away and the other, as previously mentioned, on Everett. In the run game, Gurley didn’t see much daylight en route to his 2.2 yard average. The broadcast booth did take a moment to give RG Austin Blythe some props, as he demolished a DT on Gurley’s final TD — once again giving rise to the “who will start at RG week 3?” debate. Despite some early pressure, Goff had plenty of time to throw. Malcolm Brown’s late, game-sealing runs were a testament to the OL’s overall strong play, as they continued to put hats on the fatigued Arizona D from whistle to whistle.
Two games in, and it’s clear that this DL is impacting games in ways that traditional DLs do not. It’s sort of a silent rage / quiet domination type of scenario (insert Sosa joke here). Through two games the Rams have registered just two sacks — and just one from the all-world DL of Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, and Michael Brockers. That said, they’ve tallied about 6 holding calls, countless pressures, and have rendered the secondary’s job that much easier with disruptive plays into the teeth of opposing OLs. It’s not as sexy as some had imagined (yet), but it sure is effective. Arizona registered just 3.6 yards per carry today, and Captain Checkdown Sam Bradford had a paltry 3.3 yards per attempt. Clearly, the front of the house is tipping out the back of the house, because this Rams defense is synched up early on. I’d expect the sacks and the forced fumbles to come — with a tough schedule coming up, we’ll need them — but for now, this unit is positively humming.
Quiet day for this group — but in this case, that’s a good thing. Outside of OLB Samson Ebukam’s sack and 2 official QB hits, no single player particularly flashed on this day — in part due to the outstanding play of the DL and the secondary. That’s kind of how this defense is supposed to work, right? While the debate about Cory Littleton’s week one performance is yesterday’s news, I think we’d all prefer a quiet 3-tackle performance to a hotly contested 13-tackle mixed bag. Simply put, this unit just had to flow to the ball today and make plays, and for the most part, they did. As Arizona was just 3-12 on 3rd down, the Ram’s leading tackler (SS John Johnson III with 7) didn’t even come from this group. It’s kind of nice to not have that 68 yard TD run in the first quarter of every game isn’t it?
Arizona QB Sam Bradford didn’t have much time to throw, and when he did, no one was open. This secondary was simply ridiculous today, holding the Cardinals to 90 yards passing, with just 28 of those to HOF WR Larry Fitzgerald (on 5 targets). CB Aqib Talib was particularly feisty on the afternoon with 2 passes defended, and blanketing anyone Bradford appeared to target. Much of the credit, too, can fall to Nickell Robey-Coleman who drew the Fitzgerald assignment for much of the game. The Slot God didn’t do anything flashy, but neither did anyone in red, yanno? Did CB Marcus Peters even get his jersey dirty? SS John Johnson III sure did, with a few plays to shut down early drives along with 7 stops. Also of note: FS Marqui Christian continues to chip in in obvious passing situations and along with 5 tackles, he laid some serious lumber. CB Sam Shields registered his first INT since 2015, which was reminiscent of the one he secured in the preseason — jumped the route and provided a nice return to boot. Scary to think what this secondary will do when a QB actually has time to throw at them — we’ll see if LAC QB Philip Rivers can get one beyond 8 yards downfield next week.
With K Greg Zuerlein shelved before kickoff, the Rams ST unit was in a bit of a pickle. Of course, we can’t forget that P Johnny “Swiss Army” Hekker is on the roster. The ginger-haired All-Pro from Oregon State stepped in admirably today on kickoffs, a FG, and a PAT, and oh BTW averaged 51 yards on 2 punts. Newly signed return man WR JoJo Natson (who needs a nickname, btw... up here in the NW we eat Chicken and JoJos) looked borderline spectacular on the day, averaging 22.2 yards on 6 punt returns, including a 60-yard dash. Sadly, he only had one kick return for 22 yards, but you can blame the Cardinals’ iron-deficient offense for that. Bones’ unit had one flag on the day, but made the most out of a challenging situation and may have found a new star in the mighty-mite Natson. Bravo!
Hard to find anything wrong with a completely dominant 34-0 ass-shackling of a division opponent. That’s two years in a row we’ve shut these guys out — new coach, new QB, same result. Despite limited success in the run game (which was probably surprising given Washington’s success the week prior), Rams HC Sean McVay resisted his inner Mike Martz and stayed with Gurley until the play action game was established. He continued to mix pass and run effectively, and continued to develop the Goff to Cooks connection. DC Wade Phillips also had a gameplan — and it involved completely stymying the Arizona Cardinals at every turn. We block, we tackle, we punt pass and catch, we wrap up, we cover, and we roll deep. We Ram it. This team is for real, and today’s workmanlike approach resulted in an early season triumph before some of the starred attractions on our schedule.