I do not think that could have gone any better for the Los Angeles Rams. For the first time in SoFi’s history, the stadium welcomed fans into the seats to sit down and watch a spectacle on Sunday night and the Rams won 34-14. Matthew Stafford absolutely destroyed the Chicago Bears defense and cleared any doubts of his ability to play in Sean McVay’s offense.
It feels good to have football back.
It feels even better to have Stafford as the quarterback.
These are the things I learned after the first game of the season:
Jalen Ramsey is being put into a position to make plays
Throughout the offseason there were many speculations on how defensive coordinator Raheem Morris would utilize his star cornerback. By the end of the game on Sunday night, it became much clearer that Ramsey will be all over the place on defense and his whereabouts never quite consistent. Ramsey was busy all night— accomplishing a feat he was not able to do in the 2020 when he finished the game as the lead tackler for LA with seven solo tackles and two assists.
It was one of his most productive games in tackling since his arrival with Los Angeles, which is not a sleight on Ramsey but rather an insight to what Morris has planned for him this season. In the past, Ramsey has consistently covered the opposing teams number one receiver, nearly negating their presence on the field entirely. In this new scheme though, Ramsey goes to where the ball is and so far it has highlighted his tackling ability.
Run defense will need to improve
Chicago looked to have something on offense against LA on the first play of the game when David Montgomery took his first carry for 41 yards and into the red zone. Fortunately for the Rams, Kenny Young was able to get a fingertip on a pass from Andy Dalton that led to a David Long interception in the back of the end zone. Montgomery ended the game with 108 yards rushing on 16 carries with a touchdown, good for an average of 6.8 yards per carry.
DAVID MONTGOMERY IS LOOSE pic.twitter.com/hCQIRSV98G— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) September 13, 2021
It was, however, the first game for a defense that did not see much action in the preseason.
Time will tell how the defense is able to improve in the season going forward, but if the LA’s offense can put up points like they did on Sunday opposing teams will have to play the pass more often, even if they are finding success in the run game. The defense was also on the field a lot—Chicago owned the time of possession for the game with 35:14 compared to the Rams 24:46.
But LA also was said to use “light boxes” on run defense for much of the game and was willing to concede a few yards on the ground if it meant less points on the scoreboard for the Chicago Bears. Does that excuse a missed tackle or getting torched by Montgomery several times?
Though the lopsided statistic did not translate into anything positive for the Bears, and if anything shows how utterly explosive the Rams offense was, coach McVay would have probably liked his defense on the field a little less.
Matthew Stafford makes the passing game explosive
Stafford gave a packed SoFi Stadium something to cheer about on Sunday night when his second throw of his Rams career soared through the air and found second year receiver Van Jefferson deep down the field for a 67 yard touchdown. After a long wait this offseason to see Stafford take the reins of McVay’s offense, it had suddenly become clear why the Rams spent so much to sign him.
If there were any doubters after the first bomb from Stafford, a second one to a WIDE open Cooper Kupp silenced them.
Kupp found himself completely alone deep down the field and Stafford, without hesitation, delivered a perfect pass that allowed his receiver to walk into the end zone untouched. With Stafford at the helm, the Rams offense is going to be explosive—and we haven’t even seen what DeSean Jackson and Tutu Atwell’s roles are in this offense. If Kupp and Jefferson are able to stretch the field themselves, NFL defenses are in for a rude awakening when McVay unleashes Jackson and Atwell.
Stafford had good rapport with his pass catchers
Stafford had only the offseason to get to know his receivers, but it may just have been enough time. Stafford connected with six different receivers against Chicago. Kupp seemed to be his favorite, ending the game with 108 yards on 10 targets with a touchdown. Tight end Tyler Higbee seemed to take some favor from Stafford as well and played a big role on screens during the game. Higbee was targeted six times and caught five of them or 68 yards.
How many times was Higbee targeted six times in 2020? Three times (never more).
How many times did he catch five passes? Once, for 54 yards and three touchdowns against the Eagles.
How many times did he top 67 yards? Zero.
Van Jefferson also had a productive outing and clearly wants to become a household name in the NFL as he finished the game with 80 yards receiving on two catches and a touchdown. There is an obvious comfort that the sophomore has built with Stafford, and it will only get better as the season continues.
The Los Angeles Rams will continue a hot start against the Indianapolis Colts on September 19th, but until then, what did you learn from the first game of the season?