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Rams special teams still struggling to find their footing after Week 1 win

L.A. gives up two long returns and has a field goal blocked vs. Seattle

Los Angeles Rams v Denver Broncos
Punter Ethan Evans has been a bright spot on Rams special teams
Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

It’s been a heady two days for Los Angeles Rams fans. After damping the national narrative as one of the NFL’s worst-rated teams, much love has been heaped on L.A.’s offensive explosion, as well as a surprisingly stingy defense. Who’s left out? The special teams unit, that’s who. Sadly, there’s not much left over these units


Because the struggles of all the preseason special teams units have officially bled into the real games. In a game where the offense and defense were dominant, the Rams gave up two long returns, a blocked kick, and mustered 15 yards of return yardage.

In a couple of interesting additions, the Rams signed punter Brandon Wright to the practice squad and upgraded kicker Bret Maher to the active roster

There were indeed some bright spots, but the shine is mostly low wattage, casting the special teams in a dingy color. Let’s review how things went versus the Seattle Seahawks.

Snaps, holds and kick blocks

Another good game for long snapper Alex Ward, his snaps were right on target and appeared to have good velocity. Ethan Evans did triple-duty, punting, kicking off, and holding on FGs and PATs. The holds were all quick, steady and looked on film to have the laces out. The Rams did not appear to have any block plays on versus the ‘Hawks. Maybe they’re saving them for later or more likely they are still working bugs out of the return game.

Field Goals and PATs

The Rams were keeping place kicker Bret Maher on a short leash, not naming him to the active 53 even though there were openings. He was called up off the practice squad as one of L.A.’s weekly standard elevations. Against Seattle, Maher converted three of five field goals and all three PAT attempts, getting rewarded soon after the game with a roster spot.

Fans will likely think a 60% conversion rate deserves a side-eye, not a reward, but realistically, the two failed attempts were tough sledding.

Both misses came in the 1st half, the first was a 57 yard attempt blocked from right up the gut. Tremayne Anchrum was next to the center with Rob Havenstein to his left. The Seahawks ran a slant rush and with Anchrum following the movement and not getting a pad on anybody, defender Jarren Reed shot gap. Havenstein didn’t have the lateral speed/agility to get a hook into him and Reed burst through for the block. At the end of the half, Maher got off a 56 yard attempt, but it sailed wide right.

After the intermission, Maher struck gold three times, from 38, 45, and 54 yards. All three were well-struck and solidly between the up rights, as were the PATs. No just squeezing them inside the posts.

Los Angeles Rams v Seattle Seahawks
Bret Maher converts one of his three field goals
Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Kick offs

Ethan Evans again handled kick offs and he was busy with seven total boots. The first five of those sailed through the end zone for touch backs, and with less than five minutes left in the game, two were returned.


The first return was taken by ‘Hawk returner D.J. Dallas on the one yard line and returned 34 yards. Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson almost made a great stop from behind the play, there was an obvious hold on Hummel near the ball and a very possible block in the back on Ronnie Rivers. All close, but no cigar. That said, there was a problem with spacing that created a hole for the returner. The second return was with 10 seconds in the game, a bounding short kick that was picked up by a forward blocker and returned 16 yards to close the game.


Two possible chance’s for L.A. Kyren Williams ran a short kick back for seven yards, just getting to the 25 and Ronnie Rivers called a fair catch on another short boot. Williams took the kick on a dead run, but ran into a sea of defenders. It looks on film as if the Rams blockers were expecting a fair catch and not really blocking. Was it a case of miscommunication, poor blocking or scheme? Rivers didn’t take a chance on the next attempt and called for the fair catch right away.



Evans had a quiet day punting. With the Rams having scoring opportunities on eight of nine possessions, Evans had only one punt on the day, early in the 2nd quarter. He uncorked from the Rams own 15 to the Seattle 31, for a total of 54 air yards. It was angled well, between the numbers and sideline, less than 10 yards from the side stripe. A missed tackle led to an 18 yard return.


On said return, gunner Jason Taylor decided to engage with a blocker within 10 yards of the catch instead of tracking the football through the air. This split second spoiled his angle and the returner gained outside leverage. Taylor wasn’t able to wrap up on the tackle, slipping off the returners inside hip and leg. No other Rams cover player filled in the outside lane and D.J. Dallas scurried down the sideline for 18 yards before being knocked out of bounds.


L.A. didn’t force a Seattle punt until midway through the 3rd quarter, but it jump-started a string of four straight 2nd half possessions of boots. Two bounced into the end zone for touchbacks and another flew out of bounds. With less than five minutes in the game, Kyren Williams got a chance for a return. Although it was angled well towards the side line, there looked to be some early room. The Seahawks gunner held his outside leverage while other defenders were well-spaced into a tight area, forcing Williams to cut a bit inside plow straight ahead for seven yards.

Any improvement over the preseason?

In total numbers, maybe. But considering how dominant the Rams offense and defense were and how few total special teams plays there actually were, you can’t really make a case for much, if any, improvement. One possible punt return and and giving up one long return, two possible kickoff returns and allowing one long return, a blocked field goal, and accumulating 15 total return yards doesn’t really inspire confidence.

It may very well be that the Rams can go all season with certain aspects of mediocre/poor special teams play. In theory, you can call fair catches on all kicks and not incur damage. The kick block mistakes can be fixed as long as the snaps and holds are consistently good and that seems to be the case, so far. But coverage, particularly on punts, can cost not only possible points, but more importantly, field position. Well-coached teams will look to exploit these weaknesses, starting this Sunday against the hated San Francisco 49ers.