Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams put together an impressive 16-play drive to score on their opening possession and take a 7-3 lead over the Seattle Seahawks. LA felt in control for the remainder of the game and the outcome felt in-hand early into the fourth quarter. The final score was 30-13 and it’s the first victory for Sean McVay’s Rams in 2023.
As consistently impressive as Stafford and the offense was, defensive coordinator Raheem Morris’ unit shocked the Seahawks and the NFL world by stifling Geno Smith and the Seattle offense for most of the second half. It took efforts from a number of rookies and young players looking to make a name for themselves, and in the end the Seahawks came unraveled.
Week 1 in the NFL can often be misleading—and the Rams will face an even tougher test next week against the San Francisco 49ers—but let’s give LA credit for their resounding road win now and worry about the rest of the journey later.
These are the individual players that stood out in either positive or negative ways during the game:
Raheem Morris, DC
Morris has been left on the outside looking in on the recent head coach hiring cycles, but if he can keep LA’s young, unproven defense playing like this consistently over the rest of the season he will have his pick of the openings in 2024.
The Rams relied on a number of first or second-year players in this game on defense: Byron Young, Derion Kendrick, Cobie Durant, Russ Yeast, Quentin Lake, Kobie Turner, largely. Each individual held their own and contributed to slowing down an offense that was explosive at times in 2022 and only added more talent this offseason—including Jaxon Smith-Njgiba to go along with Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf.
No one in the NFL world was expecting this type of performance from Morris’ unit, but they defied all odds.
Did Raheem Morris just hold the Seahawks to 10 yards in the third quarter?— (@TL_LARams) September 10, 2023
Puka Nacua & Tutu Atwell, WR
The FOX broadcast displayed a pretty wild stat that indicated Atwell and Nacua were the first duo age 23 or younger to finish with individual 100-yard performances in the same game since 1958. Atwell and Nacua filled very different roles with LA’s offense, but they were both productive throughout the day and in key moments—and was important with Cooper Kupp ruled out for at least the first four games of the season.
Per FOX broadcast, Puka Nacua and Tutu Atwell are the first Rams duo age 23 or younger with 100-plus receiving yards each since 1958 (Del Shofner and Lamar Lundy)— Stu Jackson (@StuJRams) September 10, 2023
Nacua finished the game with 10 receptions for 119 yards, though he was targeted a whopping 15 times. He and Stafford didn’t seem to be on the same page at times, and it’s somewhat scary to think that there’s room to improve for this duo.
Atwell was more efficient in terms of targets versus receptions. He caught six of eight passes aimed in his direction for 119 yards with the longest going for 44.
Matthew Stafford, QB
The box score doesn’t look jaw-dropping for Stafford on the surface as all three of LA’s touchdowns came on the ground. The veteran completed 24 of 38 attempts (63%) for 334 yards. He mostly played mistake-free football, though he had a potential turnover-worthy play on an errant throw over the middle intended for Atwell.
I’ll be honest. After watching Stafford last season, I thought the Rams were better to turn the page at the quarterback position and I forgot what it’s like to watch the player when he’s performing at his best. Stafford was in control for the entire game in Seattle and he looks reenergized. Let’s hope the Rams can continue to protect him adequately and keep those nagging injuries from popping up, as that is what has hindered his effectiveness in the past.
what a fun 3rd down design from the Rams.— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) September 10, 2023
look at how Tutu Atwell splits his teammates on his release before going vertical. pic.twitter.com/oLIva0jhd5
Aaron Donald, DE
Boy, it was good to see Donald back on the field and wrecking the opposition’s game plan. He’s back and 100%.
Donald recorded a half-sack on Geno Smith.
Bryon Young, OLB
Kobie Turner, DT
We didn’t see LA’s defense with a lead to protect very often last season, and you can see just how important that is for how the Rams have built their roster. Once the Seahawks and Smith became one-dimensional and had to throw the ball often, the young pass rushers in Byron Young and Kobie Turner came alive.
Young flashed his impressive athleticism throughout the game, though you could question whether or not he was making a meaningful impact. The talent is certainly there to work with, and the Rams will be glad to have him when it comes time to chase the more athletic passers of the NFL.
Both Young and Turner were credited with a half-sack each.
Steve Avila, LG
He didn’t stand out to me in a negative way, which says a lot about a rookie lineman in his debut. We will have the opportunity to re-watch the game and get granular with his performance later but he passed the first test.
The offensive line played well overall in pass protection, but their performance in the run game kept them off the “winners” list.
Cam Akers finished with 22 carries for 29 yards (1.3 average) and a score.
Kyren Williams had 15 rushes for 52 yards (3.5 average) and two touchdowns.
There wasn’t much room to work with on the ground, and the Rams had a number of plays stopped in the backfield for a loss. It seemed LA was often tying to setup outside developing players, but the results there were mostly bad and the Seahawks contained the edges. Give Sean McVay credit for sticking with the run game despite the relatively inefficiency in terms of yards per carry.
The offensive line played well, but this is a fair criticism on the day. The test gets tougher next week against the 49ers’s defensive front. Running the ball will be important to take pressure off of Stafford.
Cam Akers, RB
Most of Akers’ carries came late in the game when the Rams were milking away the clock. Williams was on the field much more often than Akers earlier in the game. It’s fair to wonder whether this was a Seahawks-specific plan, or if the team prefers the versatility and pass catching prowess of Williams more at this point.
Akers was supposed to be primed for a big season, but that can’t happen for him individually if he’s spending most of the game on the sideline.
Derion Kendrick, CB
At what point does Tre Tomlinson get a chance outside? Derion Kendrick gets beat BAD on a slant-go and bit hard on the fake. Kendrick can be good depth, but he's shown he's not starting caliber.— Blaine Grisak (@bgrisakTST) September 10, 2023
DK Metcalf left Kendrick in the dust on a touchdown reception along the goal line. He caught Kendrick peeking into the backfield on a run fake. The second-year corner was also called for pass interference later in the game that gave Seattle a fresh set of downs instead of facing a third-and-11 situation.
I don’t see the potential as a full-time starter with Kendrick. I think LA would be better-served playing the higher ceiling defender in Tre Tomlinson and letting him learn from his mistakes in real-time. There will be teams that make the Kendrick pay more than the Seahawks were able to today, even though the touchdown was as not pleasant on the eyes by any means. Give Kendrick credit for sticking in there and maintaining his aggressiveness after allowing the score early.
Brett Maher, K
Maher’s first field goal attempt was blocked, which also gave Seattle advantageous field position. He missed his second attempt before converting his last three opportunities to finish the game. Overall, Maher was three of five on field goals with the longest hitting from 54 yards out. He made good on all three of his extra point tries.