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Los Angeles Rams at Carolina Panthers: 2nd down, second guessing

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Not the prettiest of wins...

Los Angeles Rams v Carolina Panthers Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams defeated the Carolina Panthers, 30-27. The defending NFC Champions marched into the North Carolina with a renewed vigor to this time not only to repeat as the 2019 NFC Champs but this time win the Super Bowl.

The Professor watched eagerly. The starters finally played. The new Rams made their debuts front and center, and the questions surrounding the team got their first answers.

It’s only the first game, but this was an atrocious performance by the Rams. Lucky for us, the Panthers were worse.

Lets delve into the mistakes, miscues, flips and flops which drove the Professor crazy.

Offense

Question: How are the Rams going to handle RB Todd Gurley?
Answer: The Rams chose to spot use Gurley and if this game is any indication, the Rams have been holding back just how problematic his knee really is.

Todd was brilliant in the 4th quarter, and that appears to adhere to the program the Rams intend to use for now employing RB Malcolm Brown to shoulder the bulk of the ground game early through the first three quarters.

Question: Was QB Jared Goff worth an extension guaranteeing him $110,000.000.00 over the next four years.
Answer: Are you kidding?

Goff’s performance against the Panthers was pedestrian at best. He was 23/39 for a total of 183 yards. Compared to QBs Tom Brady, Dak Prescott, Carson Wentz and Patrick Mahomes on Sunday, the Rams should demand a refund.

After reviewing the tape, Goff will see what everyone else saw watching this game—he missed wide open targets at critical moments leading me to question his decision process while in the pocket or he’s just too busy thinking about the money he’s making. The interception he threw was a perfect example of what not do at a critical moment in any game, trying to force a ball into a coverage which took valuable points for the Rams off the board.

Lucky for Goff, when you start from the bottom, you got no where to go but up. Fifteen more games to figure it out and fix it.

Question: How would the Rams’ offensive line perform?
Answer: For a first game in which all the starters played, this was the most positive outcome. Performance wise, the line kept Goff clean. After a slow start they seemed to pick it up, getting the ground game going.

The chemistry will come. Overall they played well against a highly thought of front seven for Carolina. However, RT Rob Havenstein committed the mortal sin of getting a holding penalty when the Rams were marching for a score. The Professor will not tolerate these kind of mistakes—The Rams are the defending NFC Champs, play like it.

Question: How would Cooper Kupp play coming off his ACL injury?
Answer: Didn’t miss a beat.

He looked his usual self.

Overall grade C-

Defense

Question: Will the Rams be better against the run?
Answer: Nope.

Coming into the the game, I mentioned in my preview that the Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey is 70% of their offense. The Rams’ defense was obviously sleeping in class, giving up 128 yards running and 81 yards passing to one player.

I don’t blame DT Aaron Donald. He was silent throughout the game because he was doubled teamed on every play. That means some one else has to step up on that defensive line, and the Rams ILBs have to do better a job stuffing the run at the point of attack.

ILB Cory Littleton had a monster game with 14 tackles and one interception; however, when a safety in S John Johnson III is making 11 tackles, where’s the rest of the defense? It wasn’t just seeing McCaffrey hit the hole, it was also the sloppy tackling that hurt the Rams. If you can’t make a tackle, what are you doing out there in defense in the first place?

Cutting to the chase, QB Cam Newton is not the same Superman quarterback he once was. He made a bonehead play leading to an easy score for the Rams with his lateral (backwards) pass and also threw an untimely interception. He can’t be blamed for the strip fumble, but it was these kind of self-inflicted mistakes that costs the Panthers the game not anything the Rams did.

On another sour point, CB Marcus Peters needs to keep his mouth shut. After Littleton got a timely interception, Peters was flagged for taunting on the play costing the Rams fifteen yards. Had the Rams maintained possession without the penalty, it was a sure bet they would’ve put the ball in the end zone and the game would have likely been over. With the penalty, it put the Rams back. It was actions like this that motivated the Kansas City Chiefs to part ways with Marcus in the first place. I don’t like this kind of stuff if the Rams were ahead 49-0 let alone a close game with the Panthers.

Grade: C-

Special teams

I’m saving the best for last.

A punt netting nine yards and a punt blocked I was informed was an “anomaly” for the Rams special teams.

Anomalies if not corrected become bad habits.

One has to wonder why it is that that when P Johnny Hekker’s 9-yard net punt which was almost blocked, probably tipped, the problem of blocking assignments wasn’t corrected by Special Teams Coordinator John Fassell. The very thing the Rams could ill afford happened: an actual blocked punt happened and it led to an easy seven points for the Panthers putting them right back into the game.

This needs to be fixed immediately. If it requires replacing a lineman on special teams, do it. If it’s an assignment issue and chemistry issue, work on it this week until exhaustion.

K Greg Zuerlein didn’t get a contract extension like Hekker did last week. So he makes a 56-yard field goal and to show his displeasure he misses a 36-yard field goal chip shot when any points on the board would have put this game away. The kick was totally shanked and had no chance the moment he put foot to ball. Nor can you ill afford to kick the ball out of bounds on the kickoff right after your team scores a touchdown. It changes the entire momentum of the game giving the ball to your opponent on their own 40-yard line.

You can’t laugh this stuff off. Special teams makes up 30% of the game.

This isn’t a matter of creating unrealistic expectations. The Rams are the defending NFC Champions thanks to Zuerlein’s kicking in New Orleans. Ask the Chicago Bears who blew their 2018 playoff chances with the double doink.

Grade: F

A win is a win

Let’s face the truth. The Panthers lost this game with their miscues more the the Rams won with their play.

I dismiss anyone who believes that “it’s just the first game” or “the Rams starters were rusty having had no in game experience in the preseason.”

When the whistle blows to start the regular season, all doubts and questions are supposed to be answered. It’s time to forget about the loss in the Super Bowl. The Rams are back better, stronger and more determined to finish the job this time.

It’s a long season, but the Professor demands perfection. I’m not here to sugarcoat what I see, There is simply no excuse for the kind of terrible play I saw.

I’m ready to put this one behind us. take the ‘W” and get ready for the “crybabies” in Week 2.

But I have a plan if the Rams by chance were to lose this game against the New Orleans Saints,

I intend to sue the NFL.

Yeah, that’ll show ‘em.