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Rams-Panthers: Observations from the must-win game at SoFi Stadium

Despite injury, the Rams managed to do enough

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Los Angeles Rams Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams entered the week feeling a sense of urgency to get back in the win column following back-to-back losses and two stale offensive performances. It wasn’t particularly pretty as the offense again struggled for most of the day and lost another lineman, this time Joe Noteboom at LT. An odd funk was in the air at SoFi Stadium with the Cam Akers drama looming but the Rams were able to take care of business against a team in shambles behind center.

Here are my observations from the game:

• QB Matthew Stafford again had a crushing pick six and should’ve had another the very next series. I think at times he’s rushing his processing. But he pulled it together in the second half and played clean ball and was spreading the ball around to other receivers not named Cooper Kupp. Solid game and a step in the right direction behind center.

• Cam Akers has likely played his last snap in horns which opened play time for a Rams committee led by Darrell Henderson. As usual, I liked what I saw from Hendo in pass protection and I think he was adequate as a runner. Malcolm Brown also had some solid reps in pass pro but offers little as a runner at this stage.

• The offensive line was…largely terrible yet again. RT Rob Havenstein was a false start machine. Jeremiah Kolone is not an NFL starter. Stafford was again hurried with free rushers prancing around seemingly at will. It did seem the line actually improved once Noteboom checked out of the game and things settled down in the second half. Something for this unit to build on but still a lot of work to do if this team wants to win against higher competition.

• Cooper Kupp was again the best offensive player on the field most of the day. There isn’t much I can say that I haven’t said before. He’s one of the best players I’ve ever watched in horns.

• More interesting today was the complementary play of the wideouts not named Kupp. Ben Skowronek continues to outplay his draft position and I thought he showed improved receiving ability today. Brandon Powell has developed into a nice little gadget piece that is especially effective when given the ball in space with a chance to use his vision. I even noticed a solid run from Tutu Atwell.

• Was this the game where Stafford finally developed some chemistry with Allen Robinson? Robinson was finally targeted consistently and used properly with balls placed where he can go up and get them. I really hope this is a sign of things to come following the bye week.

• I forgot the Rams even had tight ends on the field today as Tyler Higbee only reeled in one single reception.

• The defensive line did okay today. Christian McCaffrey is one of the best in the game and definitely had his moments but the Rams were able to limit big plays. The pass rush continues to lack firepower outside of Aaron Donald. Where’s Leonard Floyd? Terrell Lewis? Justin Hollins? This team needs more pass rush juice. I say it every week.

• It’s hard to say how well the secondary played in this game considering the Panthers employed third and fourth string quarterbacks all game. However, anytime a modern offense is held to 110 total pass yards credit must be given.

• Sacks in back to back games for Jalen Ramsey, this time removing PJ Walker from the game. Ramsey plays with a fire and hits harder than any CB in football right now. He also blew up McCaffrey on a screen pass.

• Nothing too notable on special teams. One easy field goal for Matt Gay and one solid return from Powell.

Overall, the Rams did enough to win. It wasn’t pretty throughout. The first half was miserable football but the Rams seemed to figure some things out in the second half. McVay’s play calling improved with more screens and creative reverses to Powell, Atwell, and Skowronek. This is the kind of football the Rams will have to play until the offensive line finds some cohesion and gets healthier. With a San Francisco 49ers loss on Sunday, the Rams are heading into their bye tied for first place in the NFC West at 3-3. With the amount of injuries this team has faced, this has to be looked at as a success.