When the Los Angeles Rams face the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, it will be just the second time that Sean McVay as a head coach has faced Gus Bradley as a defensive coordinator. It was September 23, 2018 and the Rams sort of destroyed the L.A. Chargers 35-23. The Chargers quarterbacks coach at the time, Shane Steichen, is now the head coach of the Colts and he tabbed Bradley as the defensive coordinator.
The pair are looking to get off to a 3-1 start if they can beat McVay this time around.
Though that 2018 game was close in the third quarter after Philip Rivers found Mike Williams for a touchdown to cut L.A.’s lead to 28-20, the Rams soon went up 35-20 on Jared Goff’s third touchdown throw of the day. And L.A. had been driving down the field all game long with success against Bradley’s talented defense.
The Rams didn’t punt until midway through the fourth quarter and their six drives previous to that all went for at least 55 yards. This after a 46-yard opening drive that ended in a lost fumble. After that turnover, the L.A. Rams had touchdown drives of 80 and 75-yards, then a 64-yard drive that ended in a Goff interception inside of the Chargers 10.
But immediately after the interception, the Rams blocked a Chargers punt and Blake Countess returned it for a touchdown to give his team a 21-6 lead in the second quarter.
Against Bradley’s defense, Goff threw for 354 yards, Robert Woods had 10 catches for 104 yards, Todd Gurley had 105 rushing and 51 receiving, and Cooper Kupp had 71 yards with a touchdown. Kupp, one of the last remaining players from that roster, won’t be playing on Sunday.
But Aaron Donald will.
There aren’t many remaining Rams defensive players from last season, let alone from 2018, but AD is still around. One of his teammates from the 2018 roster, Samson Ebukam, now plays for the Colts and he’s off to a hot start with two sacks in his first three games.
Colts fans are encouraged by Steichen and Bradley’s start with Indianapolis, getting to 2-1 despite quarterback Anthony Richardson missing the last game and half of the one before it. The defense has been good in two of three games but struggled against C.J. Stroud’s Texans.
Surprisingly, we don’t have much evidence in the history of Sean McVay against Gus Bradley. There was also a 2014 contest between the Jaguars and Washington in which McVay was the offensive coordinator and Bradley was Jacksonville’s head coach and that was an even more striking victory for McVay: 41-10.
Sunday’s game will be an important opportunity for both to get the better of the other.