The Los Angeles Rams got a much-needed win against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 6. While maybe not the most impressive of victories, it got the Rams back to .500 with an important stretch of games coming up. After a close first half, Rams head coach Sean McVay committed to the run game and Kyren Williams took over with over 150 yards rushing. Let’s get into our 10 takeaways for the game.
1. Defense Needs to be Better Against Mobile Quarterbacks
Over the last two weeks, the Rams have struggled in a sense when it comes to defending mobile quarterbacks. Last week, Jalen Hurts had conversions of 3rd-and-9, 3rd-and-9, and 3rd-and-7 for the Philadelphia Eagles on scrambles. On Sunday, Josh Dobbs had conversions of 3rd-and-10 and 3rd-and-13. That doesn’t include plays where Hurts and Dobbs made plays with their arm outside the pocket by extending the play.
This doesn’t have anything to do with Raheem Morris not playing aggressive enough. In fact, it might be a case of playing too aggressive at times. There have been times where a blitz hasn’t gotten home or the blitzer just missed the quarterback that left a lane open for a scramble. The edges may be getting too far upfield in their rush. Kenny Pickett, Jordan Love, and Dak Prescott aren’t mobile quarterbacks by any means, but they can make plays with their legs. The Rams need to be more aware when it comes to the quarterback escaping the pocket.
2. Rams Lacked Offensive Identity in First Half
The end of the first half marked a full 60-minutes that the Rams offense had gone without scoring a touchdown. Despite not allowing a touchdown on the defensive side of the ball, LA had been outscored 15-6 in their last four quarters of play.
Throughout the first half, you could say the Rams offense had a bit of an identity crisis. Not a single drive lasted longer than 2:16. Time of possession can sometimes be an overused stat, but the Rams offense simply was not sustaining drives as they went 0-for-4 on third down. Some of that is the fault of the play-caller. It took some self-reflection at halftime, but they were able to find their identity after being held to two field goals against one of the NFL’s worst defenses.
3. Cooper Kupp is Still Him
Puka Nacua finally had an “off” game with only four catches for 24 yards. He also had a drop in the end zone that would have been a touchdown. TuTu Atwell also had just one reception for 30 yards. In just his second game back in action, Kupp showed that he still has the ability to make the explosive plays when the Rams need them.
It was Kupp’s 37 yard catch and run that set up the first field goal. Needing some momentum before halftime, Stafford found Kupp deep down the field for 49 yards that set up another field goal before halftime. He then caught the first touchdown on a 3rd-and-9 to give the Rams the lead. When the Rams offense needed a play, Kupp was there to make it. He finished with seven receptions for 148 yards receiving and a touchdown.
4. Defense Continues to Keep Rams in Games
The Rams defense isn’t built to carry the team. Yet, time and time again that’s exactly what they are being asked to do. Los Angeles was very lucky to only be trailing 9-6 at halftime. After a special teams turnover, the defense only gave up a field goal. They also got a stop on 4th-and-5 that kept points off the board for the Cardinals. Despite being on the field for over two-thirds of the first half because the offense couldn’t sustain a drive, the defense kept getting stops and didn’t allow the Cardinals to get in the end zone.
Sunday marked the third time this season that the Rams defense has completely shutout an opponent for an entire half. The second half also marked the fifth half of football this season that the Rams defense hasn’t allowed a touchdown. It’s not always pretty or the most preferred style of defense. However, it works. Raheem Morris is doing a fantastic job with this group. Had the Rams been down 17-6 or 21-6 at halftime, I’m not convinced that the offense is able to get the job done. Instead, the defense kept the game manageable and allowed the offense to turn to a run-first approach that led to them winning.
5. Rams Rookies Continue to Impress
The Rams rookie class continues to come up big for the Rams this season. Steve Avila once again looked good on the left side of the offensive line. Without Bobby Brown, Kobie Turner had a good game as he played was thrown into a little bit of a larger role.
Best rookie OL so far this season: Rams LG Steve Avila— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) October 16, 2023
That doesn’t mention Byron Young who had his third game this season with five pressures and Ethan Evans who seems to get better every week punting the ball. Ochaun Mathis had two pressures once again as well. This is a rookie class that was thrown into the fire immediately and they’ve shown every step of the way that they can handle it.
6. Offensive Line Set the Tone
According to The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue, Rams right tackle Rob Havenstein said after the game, “It wasn’t much of an adjustment. It was just more of a statement. ‘This is what we’re gonna do.’ And then we went out and executed.”
The Rams came out in the second half with eight consecutive run calls. Kyren Williams’ first four carries went for 47 yards. The offensive line, specifically on the right side, set the tone as the Rams played smash mouth football.
“It’s got to feel pretty good for them. I imagine being able to lean on people and move them around, do what you want to do, and then our backs running physical, guys on the perimeter, it’s an awesome thing to be a part of and just happy for those guys. They got that done and did a great job in the run game and the pass game.”
The offensive line started opening up holes in the run game and working as a cohesive unit. Les Snead’s trade for Kevin Dotson looks better and better by the week. The right side of the offensive line was simply dominant. It’s about a mindset as a group and as a play-caller. The second-half was reminiscent of the first game against the Seattle Seahawks. This is how the Rams are supposed to play.
7. Kyren Williams Took Over in Second Half
There have been a lot of doubts about Kyren Williams since he took over for Cam Akers back in Week 2 despite his efficiency ratings and the analytics that said a big game was coming. That game finally arrived and Williams completely took over the second half against the Cardinals.
Kyren Williams had the 2nd-highest graded rushing grade via PFF and most 10+ yard runs (5).— Blaine Grisak (@bgrisakTST) October 16, 2023
According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Williams ranked 3rd in rushing yards over expected per attempt and led in overall RYOE.
Look at all that green on the right side! pic.twitter.com/8Qd4g7LiT8
Williams finished with 158 yards. What makes that even more impressive is that a majority of that came in just one half. His 158 yards rushing were the most for a Rams running back since Akers had 171 in 2020 against the New England Patriots. Akers had only 5.9 yards per carry in that game. Williams’ 7.9 yards per carry were the most for a Rams running back with at least 15 attempts in a game since Todd Gurley in 2015 when he had 8.75 yards per carry against the Detroit Lions.
This was the type of performance that the Rams needed from their running back room and they finally got it. The question never should have been whether or not Williams could be the guy. The question was always, will McVay commit to him and run the ball? That’s what McVay did in the second half and it paid off.
8. Rams Finally Got Bounces to Go Their Way
It felt odd that the Rams finally got some bounces to go their way. Dobbs threw a pass behind Zach Ertz that was tipped and ended up in the hands of linebacker Christian Rozeboom. The Rams have seemingly had so many of those plays go the other way this season.
Later on, Byron Young had a strip sack on Dobbs that ended up being recovered by Quentin Lake. Again, the Rams have gotten close to a strip sack or had a few fumbles not go their way or called back. Luck was finally on the Rams’ side on Sunday against the Cardinals. Hopefully it stays that way for a few weeks.
9. This Needs to be the Offensive Identity Moving Forward
As mentioned earlier, the Rams offense seemingly lacked identity in the first half. There are two times that the offense has looked its absolute best this season. There was the game against the Seattle Seahawks and now the second half of the Cardinals game. In both instances, the spark for the offense was running the ball. Against the Seahawks, the Rams had 37 rushing attempts. On Sunday they had 27, most of which came in the second half.
Statistically, the Rams may have been better in the first half against the San Francisco 49ers or Philadelphia Eagles. However, the offense never seemed sustainable in those games as it’s nearly impossible to throw the ball with that much success over a long period. The offense has looked the most sustainable when they’ve committed to a run game and been successful in merging the two sides together. It’s about running to set up what’s coming next rather than just running because you have to in order to remain balanced.
10. Only the Cardinals, but Chance to Spark a Run
Two things can be true when it comes to Sunday’s win against the Cardinals. Yes, it was only the Cardinals as they were a 1-4 team and have one of the worst rosters in the NFL. At the same time, it was impressive with how the Rams adjusted in the second half and it was a much-needed win to get back to .500.
Coming up, the Rams have games against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, and Green Bay Packers. All three of those games are winnable. This win against the Cardinals has the chance to spark a little bit of a run. This is going to be a good test to see where the Rams are at as a team.