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Los Angeles Rams 20, Cleveland Browns 13: Stout defense powers Rams to undefeated record through Week 3

Yes, the offense seems to be an issue. But the Rams’ defense is playing better than it did all of 2018.

Los Angeles Rams WR Cooper Kupp runs away from Cleveland Browns OLB Genard Avery and MLB Joe Schobert in Week 3, Sep. 22, 2019.
Los Angeles Rams WR Cooper Kupp runs away from Cleveland Browns OLB Genard Avery and MLB Joe Schobert in Week 3, Sep. 22, 2019.
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Whew. That was a game. A weird game. An up-and-down game. But a game.

And one that ended the right way. With a win.

The Los Angeles Rams fought through a jagged, staccato 20-13 win in Week 3 over the Cleveland Browns that highlighted how much work the Rams have to do on offense but how well supported they are on the defensive side.

Let’s start with the offense.

It was...not pretty. The offensive line, especially the interior with redshirt sophomores in LG Joseph Noteboom and C Brian Allen alongside replacement starter RG Jamil Demby didn’t give Head Coach Sean McVay confidence that they could support a downfield passing game to challenge the Browns’ secondary which was staffed with four new starters because of injuries. They showed why in the first half as the Browns shut down the running game and pestered QB Jared Goff in the first 30 minutes. After the half, the O-line looked much better, and the Browns backed off of the blitz. Goff’s night, though, remained inconsistent. He made several fine throws and read the field well. As always, he didn’t allow his mistakes to interrupt his performance or his confidence. But there were simply too many mistakes to abide by for a QB now in his fourth professional season let alone one who recently signed a record-setting contract extension. He ended with two interceptions. It could have easily been four. He’s just not growing past the kind of throws we saw tonight that could have easily torpedoed this one.

Well, except for the defense. Yet again, it was a masterful performance from Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips’ men. Browns QB Baker Mayfield was held under 200 passing yards. None of the Browns’ vaunted passing targets had an exceptional night. And RB Nick Chubb carried the ball more than 20 times and still came up short of 100 rushing yards.

The bottom line is that these two sides of the ball are changing the narrative. The Rams were the second-highest scoring offense in the NFL in 2018. They came into 2019 looking to respond to a depressing Super Bowl showing, but they’ve really stuttered when they have the ball. Instead, the defense has been suffocating. Opponents have been dedicated to limiting DL Aaron Donald, and the Rams’ secondary has made sure that doesn’t give them much to work with.

To this point, it’s a formula that’s worked very well. And it’s hard to see reason to think it won’t moving forward. Especially if McVay can find a way to unlock a bit more of his offense in the weeks ahead.