The Los Angeles Rams picked up another victory to move to 7-1 on the season and defeated the Houston Texans 38-22. LA got on the board first and never looked back, pulling most starters after taking a commanding 38-0 lead after three quarters.
The Rams did not play down to their competition on Sunday. This was a dominant team win on offense and defense, with a number of positive individual contributions helping shape the victory for Los Angeles.
Darrell Henderson, RB
Darrell Henderson and the offensive line set the tone and built early momentum for the offense by establishing the running game. After the first several drives Henderson had already accumulated 60 yards with an average per carry over 10 yards.
The third-year running back finished with 14 carries for 90 yards (6.4 average) with a touchdown and then contributed a 3-yard touchdown reception also.
Aaron Donald, DT
It usually takes a lot for Aaron Donald to make the “winners” list, just because he sets such a high bar with his individual performance each week.
Rookie quarterback Davis Mills was under constant duress on Sunday afternoon, and much of this was driven by a dominant performance from the Rams’ star defensive tackle. Donald finished the game with 1.5 sacks and a tackle for loss.
Ernest Jones, ILB
Rookie inside linebacker Ernest Jones earned the start for LA after the team traded veteran Kenny Young to the Denver Broncos ahead of the league’s November 2nd trade deadline.
Jones performed admirably in his first full game, recording his first career interception and bringing a “thump” to the middle of the Los Angeles defense. The rookie also had a half sack on the day.
Jones was also called for an illegal use of hands penalty that negated an interception by corner Dont’e Deayon.
Rams LB Ernest Jones had himself a day! pic.twitter.com/bP9j36v5ku— Jake Estes (@dynasty_jake) October 31, 2021
Van Jefferson, WR
The rise of second-year Van Jefferson is a big reason why the Rams haven’t had much of a role for disgruntled veteran DeSean Jackson. Jefferson has earned the third receiver role and has made a number of plays in key moments this season.
While he only contributed three catches against the Texans, Jefferson’s 68-yard reception from quarterback Matthew Stafford was a thing of beauty. The receiver also had a long reception in Week 1 against the Chicago Bears for Stafford’s first touchdown as a Ram.
Lonnie just got toasted by Van Jefferson pic.twitter.com/GcdxaVV3Fv— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) October 31, 2021
Jefferson injured his knee on the long completion, but early indications are that he’ll be ok.
A couple postgame injury updates from Rams HC Sean McVay:— Stu Jackson (@StuJRams) October 31, 2021
- WR Van Jefferson is going to be OK.
- “Not sure” what it is with WR TuTu Atwell’s shoulder, more clarity tomorrow.
Leonard Floyd, OLB
Leonard Floyd is quietly putting together a great season for Los Angeles. While at times he gets overshadowed by star players Donald and Jalen Ramsey, Floyd is a formidable third threat for the Rams defense.
The veteran pass rusher added another 2 sacks against Houston, which brings his season total to 6.5 through 8 games.
Robert Woods, WR
In recent seasons the threat of Robert Woods as a rusher had resulted in a number of chunk plays; however, this element of the offense had been missing through the team’s first seven contests.
This changed on Sunday, and Woods rushed 3 times for 22 yards and a touchdown in addition to the 3 receptions for 35 yards and a touchdown he added through the air. Rushing attempts are an easy way to keep Woods involved, since he has not been involved as heavily as he was in recent years.
Deayon recorded one of the prettier interceptions you’ll ever see - the only issue is the rookie linebacker Jones was called for a penalty that negated the play. The veteran corner has great ball skills and it’s clear that he should have some sort of regular role on the defense, even though he is woefully undersized.
Donte Deayon is that guy, really been impressed from what ive seen so far pic.twitter.com/cZVoYnG7MP— John K (@kwasy123) October 31, 2021
Ben Skowronek, WR/ST
It didn’t happen until the game was out of reach for Houston, but rookie receiver and special teams ace Ben Skowronek recorded the first catch of his career from Stafford. The rookie finished with 3 receptions for 30 yards, with his longest being a catch for 20-yards.
Skowronek is also one of the team’s primary special teams contributors. He downed a punt inside the opponent’s 5-yard line and he has done multiple times this season. It’s encouraging to see the young player carve out a role on special teams while he learns the ropes on offense.
Red Zone Offense
There were three consecutive drives by the LA offense that stand out in a not-so-positive way.
After scoring on the opening possession, the Rams were faced with a fourth and goal situation on their second drive and opted to go for it. They called a play similar to how they scored the opening touchdown; however, this time Stafford’s pass sailed through the hands of Henderson - turnover on downs.
On the third drive the Rams were inside the 10 yard line but were forced to settle for a field goal.
LA was also stopped by the Texans defense the following drive, but the Rams were awarded a new set of downs on a questionable defensive holding call. Stafford and the Rams scored on the following play.
First off, Sean McVay deserves credit for his process and decided to go for it on fourth down in the red area. The coach cannot grow discouraged with the decision because of the result, because more times than not the decisions he made on Sunday were the right ones. The offense just had issues with execution at times in the most important area of the field.
The Rams’ schedule of the last three games was fairly cushy - defeating the New York Giants, Detroit Lions, and Houston - but they will need to be at their best starting next week when they host the Tennessee Titans. If you’re looking for areas of improvement, the red zone offense is a fair place to start.
Tutu Atwell, WR/PR
McVay does not call out his players very often, but this week he publicly admitted that he would like to see “an increased sense of urgency” from rookie receiver and punt returner Tutu Atwell.
"I'd like to see him have an increased sense of urgency," -- Rams coach Sean McVay on rookie second-round pick Tutu Atwell.— Lindsey Thiry (@LindseyThiry) October 27, 2021
Unfortunately, Atwell did not seem too inspired from the coach’s criticism, as he looked uncomfortable when given a chance to return punts. Atwell had 3 return opportunities but netted only 2 yards on the day.
At this point, Skowronek is solidly running ahead of Atwell in terms of the offensive depth chart, which is a significant cause for concern.
Atwell also suffered a shoulder injury in the team’s victory, but no immediate update was available after the game. It would be hard to imagine the Rams getting worse at punt returner should Atwell miss much time, though the options as the roster currently stands are slim.
LA’s special teams units over the better part of the last two years have not been nearly as good as the standard set by former coordinator John Fassel, who now coaches for the Dallas Cowboys.
The Rams gave up their second onside kick recovery in as many weeks, which effectively counts as a turnover for the team. While the poor play in the third phase of the game has not yet directly resulted in a loss for Los Angeles, it’s clear that this level of performance is not a good sign for future outcomes.
John Wolford, QB
Backup quarterback John Wolford received playing time for the second time in three weeks. In his first appearance against the Giants, Wolford attempted 2 passes for 0 completions and an interception. This outing was not much better - the reserve signal caller dropped back 3 times and was 1 of 2 passes for 5 yards and a sack. The incompletion was a questionable play where the defender had an opportunity to make a play on the ball.
While the Rams are not running their full offense with Wolford in garbage time, you still want to see the quarterback play better in his limited opportunities. At this point it is fair to question if the Rams have a reliable backup in Wolford.
We also saw Bryce Perkins earn a roster spot after a strong preseason. Could Perkins challenge for the backup role in the near future, or has Wolford been better behind the scenes?