The Los Angeles Rams opened up the season with a 34-14 victory over the Chicago Bears Sunday night in the first of five primetime games this season. There were many stand outs and areas of encouragement to highlight when the dust settled.
After the win, Head Coach Sean McVay said he was very pleased with the offense. Here’s what else McVay, Matthew Stafford, and other members of the Rams had to say after the game.
Sean McVay on the defense getting timely stops with turnovers and fourth down stops
(00:41) “Great job by the team being able to get the win tonight. The Bears are a really tough outfit. And I thought, you know, defensively what a good job holding up in the first half. The pick by David Long off of the tip from Kenny Young was outstanding. I thought they just made some really key stops on fourth down.”
Aaron Donald and the Rams defense held the Bears to 14 points in the first regular season game with fans attending SoFi stadium. While the defense allowed 322 total yards, including 134 yards on the ground, they got stops when they needed it most, with turnovers and fourth down stops.
Aaron Donald has his first sack of the season pic.twitter.com/5nNEcIKVcz— Yahoo Sports NFL (@YahooSportsNFL) September 13, 2021
Los Angeles got two turnovers; one interception and fumble each, while yielding zero first downs on the Bears’ four fourth down attempts.
Sean McVay was pleased with rushing offense in second half
(02:00) “They did a good job being able to be stout at the point of attack in some of the runs. They were doing some things that kind of forced us to shift in the direction of throwing a little bit early on, and then I thought the balance got back to kind of what we want in the second half.”
Darrell Henderson was ultimately a “winner” in his first game of 2021 as he carried the ball 17 times, averaging 4.4 yards per rushing attempt. He finished with 70 yards on the ground including one yard touchdown to give LA a 27-14 lead late in the third quarter.
The run game struggled early, but as good teams should, pounded the rock efficiently when it was time to close the game out.
The explosive passes have returned to the Rams offense
(02:15) “It’s exactly what we had wanted. And it was from a bunch of different guys. You look at Van (Jefferson) you look Cooper (Kupp), Tyler Higbee has what I think was a thirty seven yard catch. What an individual effort on third down and long for Cooper when we threw him the little bubble screen. Robert Woods made a lot of plays. I thought a lot of different guys made some great contributions, and we still have some things we can improve on.”
Stafford threw for 321 yards, with three touchdowns, each to a different receiver. Robert Woods converted a goal to go attempt, catching a two yard touchdown.
Van Jefferson caught Stafford’s first touchdown as a Ram with a 67-yard score, getting off of the ground after making the catch, and running another twelve yards to the end zone as two Bears defenders failed to touch him.
Stafford’s connection with Kupp was on full display. Kupp caught 7 passes for 108 yards, including a 56 yard touchdown bomb.
He may be still learning the offense, but Stafford looked confident every time the camera showed him talking in the huddle. It was refreshing.
The offensive line gave Stafford clean pockets most of the game
(02:35) “I was really pleased with the offensive line as well. To go against that defense, those guys that personnel…For those guys to come away with just that one sack when we were backed up, is a real credit to them, and I was very pleased with them as a whole.”
The pass protection was very good, and allowed Stafford to connect on 77 percent of his throws, completing 20-of-26 pass attempts. Other than one sack and a few knockdowns against a defense that features one of the best pass rushers on the planet in Khalil Mack, Stafford had plenty of time to find receivers down field.
If the Rams can consistently provide him with that kind of protection, the Super Bowl caliber defense may have finally met its counterpart.
Break us down, QB!— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) September 13, 2021
Inside the locker room after the first W in front of our fans! pic.twitter.com/b1xpJTilqv
Stafford praises o-line for why he went deep early and often
(13:10) “Just a play action on the first one to Van. He did a great job getting behind the defense. The (offensive line) did a great job on that one, I had all day. (I) was able to able to shoot that one down the field to him. He did a great job getting up and scoring, which is always fun. The second one to Cooper, that was a great call by Sean. Perfect coverage for the play. Our guys up front again, gave me a bunch a time. Takes time for guys to get down the field. Cooper did a great job, again just getting behind the defense and I was able to get out there to a decent spot for him.”
Matthew Stafford threw for 321 yards and 3 touchdowns -- with a career-best 156.1 passer rating -- in his long awaited Rams debut on Sunday. Said coach Sean McVay after Los Angeles' 34-14 win: "I loved everything that he did tonight." https://t.co/fObLlAiMyF— Live Sports News (@sports_4news) September 13, 2021
Stafford and the Rams let it be known that there will be no defenses crowding the box and ignoring the deep areas of the field. The offensive line was a key component in this performance, as Stafford praised them for their efforts.
LA continuously threatened the field vertically. The most interesting thing about that is they did it with the receivers who had been on the roster last year in Jefferson and Kupp. The players who Los Angeles expected to stretch the field (DeSean Jackson and TuTu Atwell) combined for 21 yards on two catches.
Stafford on the Rams rallying around him as a leader
(14:25) “This team has embraced me and I really appreciate that. I’ve done everything I can to try to just work as hard as I can and get myself in this team and they’ve wrapped their arms around me. It felt good to go out there and play with them tonight. Such incredible players on this team, I’m lucky to be a part of it. I want to do everything I can to try and lead this team to where we want to go.”
You can tell by watching the Rams defense react when Stafford was on the field that they appreciate what he brings to the table.
LA putting up points really helps lift the burden that the defense had to carry last year, as the 2020 offense didn’t bail out the defense much, if at all.
Van Jefferson on following Stafford wherever he takes the team
(20:15) “It was great. Everyone got involved today. Like I said, it was a great job by all eleven. Matt did a great job of facilitating the ball to everyone. Like I said, this offense can be explosive and we’re just following Matt.”
Defenses will have a tough time keying in on who to stop if the Rams are able to continue to spread the wealth like they did against the Bears. When receivers feel like they can make a big play on any route they run, they are more likely to stay locked in during the game. Stafford playing the role of point guard beautifully helps everyone.
Jalen Ramsey on the Rams having an explosive offense
(32:10 “It was great. I feel like obviously we got things to get better at, the whole team but having them on their side doing their thing as well really takes a lot of pressure off us.”
The Rams defense was able to make plays when needed, as the offense just kept putting points on the score board. Hopefully this year’s offense will continue to complement the defense as the season progresses.
Jalen Ramsey is proud of Jordan Fuller for getting the green dot
(34:10) “I’m proud of everyone in that room. It takes a lot to do what we’re doing. A lot of guys are asked to different roles this year. Bigger roles this year. We got a second year player (Jordan Fuller) who got the green dot, who has a command of the whole defense, calls the plays, still goes backs to his position and sets up the secondary to make sure we’re on our checks the right way.”
Ramsey also credited Darious Williams, David Long, Taylor Rapp and I believe Robert Rochel l (referred to as Scooter) for taking on enhanced rolls. He acknowledged that their versatility allows Ramsey to be used in different positions all over the field.
David Long on “why not me” mentality
(45:00) “I just feel like the last few years I’ve been here, I’ve just been preparing for this moment. So just building off of that, I had a great camp. Just picking up and feeding off the energy of the guys around me...all those guys that are constantly making plays. Just a ‘why not me’ mentality of just trying to go out there and make a play as well.”
If David Long can continue to play like he did against Chicago, the Rams will be able to rest easy knowing the third cornerback position is in good hands going forward. At this moment, General Manager lock like a salary cap savant for replacing Troy Hill, who signed a two year $9 million contract, with a player who will make less than $2 million over the next two seasons.
Read more: 3 takeaways from Rams-Bears