There’s something special about being 2-0 at the beginning of the season. Coffee tastes a little better, work weeks seem to fly by a little faster. Everything just seems to be going right. Though there was some stress in Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts, the LA Rams came away with their second win of the year and gave fans an aura of complacency for at least one more week.
These are the things I learned from Sunday...
1 - Stafford can clutch when it matters most
It may be overstated by much of the media, but Matthew Stafford’s ability to come in clutch at the end of the games will prove invaluable to the Rams as the season moves on. Against a playoff-caliber defense on Sunday Stafford put together one of his most impressive drives yet in a Rams uniform, and it did not even end with a touchdown.
After watching their lead slip earlier in the game after uncharacteristic football from both the defense and special teams, Stafford and company trotted on to the turf in a tie game. With 7:22 on the clock starting at their own 25 yard line, Stafford’s first pass to Robert Woods fell to the turf. In a wild game that was up and down for LA, that first incompletion to Woods led to an eruption of cheers in the packed Lucas Oil Stadium that could have easily raddled a quarterback, but for Stafford, who ranks eight in forth quarter comebacks all-time with 31, the moment was not too big for him. On a loud second and 10, Stafford went to Woods again who this time was able to secure it and gain 14 yards and a first down.
The most best play of the game for Stafford may have come on third and 1, three plays after the completion to Woods. Stafford took the snap and back stepped as he scoured the field for his receivers, but Deforest Buckner had other plans for the quarterback as he broke through two LA guards. With one of the top pass rushers in the league bearing down on him, Stafford backpaddled to create some space between him and the defender and zipped a pass to Kupp on the sideline that he turned into a first down.
Though the drive did not end in six, Stafford proved once again why the Rams gave up so much to get him this offseason. He can win the ugly games. Even as uncharacteristic football caused the Rams to lose their 11 point lead on Sunday, he made the plays that he needed to in order to win the game.
2 - The Rams Defense is not the same as last year, and that’s ok
Though the Los Angeles Rams might not have the best defense in all of football this season, their ability to make opportune plays will always have the Rams in a position to win the game. The Rams defense made two goal line stands against the Colts on Sunday and also sacked Carson Wentz three times.
The first came in the beginning of the game when Wentz went seven for seven and was able to lead his team to the one yard line. A near perfect drive from Wentz ended in disaster when LA’s defensive line stuffed Jonathon Taylor three times and then sacked Wentz on forth and one.
Defense with an early statement! pic.twitter.com/hTQdIY9m3E— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) September 19, 2021
The second goal line stand came in the form of an interception. On third and goal at the three yard line, Indianapolis called a designed shovel pass play that go blown up by Donald when he got in the way of intended receiver Jack Doyle and an errant pass fell into the arms of Troy Reeder.
Jalen Ramsey was then able to seal the victory with an interception deep into the fourth quarter.
The Rams defense will not have to lead in every statistical category to win games this season with an improved offense to back them up. If they can capitalize on opportune moments and get the ball back to their electric offense, LA will be competitive in every game this season no matter the opponent.
3 - Tutu Atwell and Desean Jackson aren’t in the plan yet
It may just be the Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and Van Jefferson for the majority of the season. Neither second round pick Tutu Atwell nor free agent signing Desean Jackson got much playing time on Sunday against the Colts and neither of them recorded a reception. The more surprising story is Jackson not getting any targets after an offseason focused around the Stafford-Jackson deep ball connection, though it would seem that Kupp and Jefferson are doing just fine getting open downfield.
It is a 17-game year, however, and McVay might just be resting his speedy receivers until the right moment. A matchup against the reigning Super Bowl Champions next week may just be the time to open the playbook a little more and unleash Jackson and Atwell. For now though, I’ll take comfort in the idea that McVay’s offense this year has not come to its full potential, which is might be a scary thought for the rest of the NFL when the Rams come to town.
4- McVay uses the pass so he can run
The running game has yet to come into its own in the first two games for the Rams, and an injury to Darrell Henderson may continue to make a mess of the backfield. Typically offensive coordinators use the run to set up the pass, but after two weeks it feels as though McVay uses the pass to play the run by utilizing his receivers as running backs on screens.
Those wide receiver screens on the outside may show up in the stat sheet as receiving yards, but they are more in tune with the Rams rushing attack. McVay does not utilize his running backs until late in the game, which was seen in the Rams second to last drive against the Colts that featured seven rushes and only four passes. I’m sure McVay would not mind having a strong running attack on the beginning of his games, but keeping his backfield healthy seems to be effective after two wins thus far.
What did YOU learn about the Rams this week?