The Los Angeles Rams took down the Dallas Cowboys in their debut game at brand new SoFi Stadium on Sunday Night. Here were my takeaways from their 20-17 victory over the Cowboys.
1. Jared Goff and the Rams offense were a lot better than the score indicated
While the Rams only put up 20 points at home versus the Cowboys, it’s safe to say that’s not a good indication of how well they moved the ball and controlled the time of possession. The Rams possessed the football 35 minutes and 38 seconds to the Cowboys 24 minutes and 22 seconds. Their offense put up 422 yards of offense and balanced their attack very well between 31 passes and 40 carries. The Rams offense went 9 for 17 on third-down conversions and made their only fourth-down conversion attempt.
The issue was the lack of success in the red zone (2-5) and the interception by Jared Goff. While it was a bummer and painful to see the Rams not be able to put more than 20 points on the board, they won the game in the end and they can move onto the next game and clean up their issues moving forward without having to learn a tough lesson.
2. Brandon Staley’s first game as a defensive coordinator went better than anyone expected
If you thought Brandon Staley’s brand new scheme, brand new personnel, and just brand new defense as a whole was going to hold Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, and Michael Gallup to just 17 points on the night…You are likely from the future. This offense is expected to be fantastic this year with Mike McCarthy now taking over as the Head coach. Keep in mind these same players aside from CeeDee Lamb popped off for 44 points on the Rams last year.
For this defense to come out and hold Elliott, Cooper, Gallup, and Lamb to under 100 yards that was a big-time statement from Staley’s bunch. Staley’s defense also came up with two huge fourth-down stops and they held the Cowboys to just 3-12 on third-down. This defense came to play and while it wasn’t a perfect game by any stretch, this defense showed the long-term upside with Staley at the helm.
3. The Rams weren’t afraid to throw rookies into the fire early
Not every rookie saw the fire immediately and notably speaking, third-round pick Terrell Burgess was not seen on defense, third-round pick Terrell Lewis is on the NFI list, fourth-round pick Brycen Hopkins and seventh-round pick Tremayne Anchrum were inactive in this game. However, the one’s like second-rounder Cam Akers who started, second-rounder Van Jefferson who made a big 30-plus yard catch over Trevon Diggs in this game, sixth-round pick Jordan Fuller who had a monster role in the secondary and led the team in tackles, and of course, kicker Samuel Sloman who was named the starting kicker ahead of this game did.
Fuller had a fantastic camp while former second-rounder Taylor Rapp was on the sidelines with an injury. It was so good the Rams added him to the defensive gameplan and it’s clear, Fuller is going to have a serious role moving forward if he keeps playing the way he did.
4. Micah Kiser isn’t Cory Littleton but he’s not a bad linebacker and the Rams can use him
While I was very disappointed to see the Rams let Cory Littleton move on in free agency and sign with the Raiders. I will say Micah Kiser more often than not in this game was a pleasant surprise. I enjoy watching his physicality but one huge thing was the two pass breakups in this game and one that led to a huge third-down stop. Kiser had his issues at times as a tackler and took a poor angle here and there but at the end of the night for it being his first start. I have to say I was a little impressed by Kiser’s play.
5. The Rams have a cause for concern with their rookie kicker Samuel Sloman
This wasn’t the popular move among the fanbase but the Rams stuck with their rookie seventh-round draft pick out of Miami (OH) Samuel Sloman after he reportedly didn’t have a better camp than either of the other two in the three-way kicker battle (Lirim Hajrullahu and Austin MacGinnis) however, the coaches gave him a vote of confidence. Sloman missed his first career field goal which was only from 29 yards out by doinking it off of the left upright. Sloman went ahead and hit the next two field goals but as the broadcast commentators Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth pointed out, Sloman kicked it very low which would be easy for it to be blocked. Sloman appeared to get more elevation on the third kick but even still when you miss the first kick and you are a rookie, fans and analysts are going to be skeptical of you moving forward.
6. The Running back room is up in the air but Malcolm Brown looks like the best back through one game
After the Rams let Todd Gurley go this off-season many questioned if the team would roll with just Darrell Henderson, John Kelly, and Malcolm Brown or draft someone. The team decided to draft Florida State product Cam Akers in the draft with their first pick of the draft in the second round. Akers started this contest but it was Brown who led the way with 18 carries for 79 yards and two touchdowns. Akers flashed his potential but ultimately had an underwhelming game rushing 14 times for 39 yards and adding four more yards on one catch. The surprising thing to some was the fact Henderson only received three carries and then was phased out.
I think a lot of the phasing out of Henderson had to do with slowly easing him back into the offense and a sign that he’s not 100 percent ready and back from his injury he sustained in the first scrimmage game. However, let’s not take anything away from Brown. He was very good tonight and seemed to have that extra cut or wiggle to get by traffic while Akers just didn’t display that tonight. It’s one of those things, as time goes on Akers should figure to start kicking himself in gear but for now Brown is the lead back until further notice.
7. Sean McVay installed a perfect gameplan
Regardless of what is said about the lack of success in the red zone or the 20 points scored. Sean McVay had the perfect plan to stop the Cowboys and beat them on Sunday Night. First off, the Rams played majority nickel coverage to match the Cowboys’ three wideout look with Lamb, Gallup, and Cooper. Second, the Rams gave the Cowboys a heavy dose of runs and quick passes to the flat to force Jared Goff to get the ball out of his hands quickly. Third, the Rams dominated the time of possession by picking apart Dallas on the short and intermediate game. Fourth, the Rams balanced the run and the pass 40-to-31 respectively. Fifth, McVay trusted Brandon Staley’s defense to keep everything in front of them. Dallas played a good game against a perfect gameplan. The fact it was as close as it was is a testament to the talent and coaching on the other sideline.
8. The pass rush off the edge needs work and the wrong guy might be starting
Samson Ebukam and Leonard Floyd set the edge and didn’t struggle too much defending the run but when it came to pass rush, Floyd netted a sack and some pressure off the edge going against an undrafted rookie while Ebukam struggled to get through and to the quarterback. However, late in the game on the final drive, former third-round pass rusher Jachai Polite managed to find himself checking into the game, and while being held by the jersey and facemask he almost took down Dak Prescott. That was all we saw of Polite in this one and I would make the argument that was better than any rep Ebukam showed. It’s not to say Ebukam is bad but he’s a serviceable starter and a better rotational guy.
While Terrell Lewis remains out, the Rams should seriously consider playing Jachai Polite a lot more to see what they have in him. He’s a special talent as a pass rusher from his days at Florida in my mind and he flashed that ability tonight with the almost-sack.
9. The Rams set a bar that should tell everyone they are a playoff-caliber team and more moving forward
The rule for week one is that you don’t make any outrageous claims and declare anything like a division winner or worse a Super Bowl winner. However, I think it’s fair to assume the Rams just beat a very good Cowboys team that will likely win their division and could have arguably beat them by more. With no preseason and a limited offseason in addition to a new defensive scheme installed, the Rams sure looked a lot better than many thought. My first thought was they can be a lot better but this is a high bar to set week one based on how easily they moved the ball and the performance they displayed on defense.
10. The bone uniform set is awesome but the helmets surprisingly don’t show up well on TV
Yes, I know, stick to football! Well, I couldn’t help but notice how awesome the uniforms looked and helmets when shown close up but once the Rams were shown in that broadcast angle it looked like the horns were colored white. I wasn’t a fan of the way the helmets showed up on TV and it was shocking to me. It will be interesting to see if wearing the blue uniforms changes the look of the helmet much. Either way, I was skeptical about their rebrand but the Rams did a nice job and while it could have been better the bone sure looked good tonight inside “The Boneyard” SoFi Stadium.
Reminder: The Los Angeles Rams are undefeated while wearing the bone uniform.