Three plays. Three offensive plays.That’s how long it took for Matthew Stafford to throw his first touchdown pass as a member of the Los Angeles Rams.
Matthew Stafford faked the handoff to Darrell Henderson and rolled left. The new Rams quarterback set his feet. With all the time in the world, Van Jefferson broke free on the back side and Stafford hit him in stride. The second year player got up and found the end zone to put the Rams ahead, 7-0.
Welcome to the #Rams offense: Matthew Stafford with a 67-yard BOMB to Van Jefferson for the TD.
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) September 13, 2021
Stafford would find the end zone two more times and finish the evening with 321 yards. He was just shy of a perfect passer rating, achieving a rating of 156.1. It’s the highest passer rating for a Rams quarterback since the infamous Vikings game. After playing in Detroit for the first 12 years of his career, Stafford finally escaped. The result? Arguably his best game as a pro.
“A lot of anticipation for this game,” said Stafford. “You know, for me, it’s a new experience for me. A new place, new stadium, new fans. The whole deal. But this team has embraced me and I really appreciate that.”
His 156.1 passer rating set a career high. That’s not all. He also averaged 12.3 yards per attempt which also set a career high.
Two of Stafford’s touchdown passes came from 56 and 67 yards. Jared Goff and two touchdown passes longer that 40 yards all of last season. Matthew Stafford matched him in the first week of 2021. Air yards. The throws down the field were noticeable. Stafford’s average completed air yards of 8.9 led all NFL quarterbacks not named Daniel Jones.
It would be pretty easy to sit here and list every single Stafford accomplishment from last night like how he became the first player in NFL history to win his team debut while passing for 300 yards and three touchdowns, without an interception. Like how he led the NFL in completion percentage over expectation at +9.7%, showcasing how much he adds to the offense. Or how he became the first quarterback since Kurt Warner to throw for 300+ yards and three touchdowns in a Rams debut.
The list goes on.
“I thought he did a really good job,” said McVay. “You know, you could just see, there was a look in his eye. He had confidence in his teammates, he expected to play well. And, you know, he did a great job.”
Prior to the season, Matthew Stafford had a lot of doubters. Was he a good quarterback on a bad team, or simply a very good quarterback. If Sunday proved anything, it’s that coaching and situation matter for a quarterback.
Stafford proved some of the doubters wrong on Sunday. For others, they won’t be sold until it’s a big win against Tampa Bay, Seattle, Arizona, or Green Bay. Stafford will get his chance then in Weeks 3-5. If one thing is for certain, it’s that Stafford took this Rams offense to new heights on Sunday Night.
I just think there are two types of people in the world. The people who knew how good Matthew Stafford was and the people who didn’t.
— JAKE ELLENBOGEN (@JKBOGEN) September 13, 2021
What’s scary is that this is only the beginning. The Rams offense is far from its best right now. As the season goes on, McVay will continue to add and throw more on Stafford’s plate. There should be no doubt that when the time comes, he’ll be able to handle it.
Stafford’s debut was a long seven month wait. However, the wait was 100% worth it for Rams fans. The debut was everything they wanted it to be. Sean McVay has his perfect quarterback and that perfect quarterback had a near perfect debut. What they accomplish together is left to be seen.
Three Word Game Review: Stafford Shocks SoFi
I spent the first 500 words of this story talking about Stafford and don’t expect it to stop. While some might have expected Stafford to have success in his Los Angeles Rams debut, not many could have had what happened on Sunday Night in mind. After not playing a preseason and being in a new offensive scheme, nobody would have faulted Stafford for an average-above average performance.
Instead, the Rams got the best of Matthew Stafford right out of the gates. It took just three plays on offense for Stafford to find Van Jefferson for a touchdown. Then again immediately to start the second half, Stafford found Kupp coming across the middle for another big score. Stafford was one of the best-5 quarterbacks in Week 1 and the MVP season is officially a go!
Player of the Game: Matthew Stafford
Sean McVay gave Stafford a game ball in the locker room and he gets mine as well. It’s hard to quantify how much a quarterback adds to a team. However, completion percentage over expectation does a pretty good job of that. Stafford completed more than 9% of his passes than he was expected. Only Baker Mayfield, Russell Wilson, and Teddy Bridgewater had higher marks.
As mentioned, Stafford had arguably the greatest debut for a quarterback on a new team in NFL history. He deserves this game ball.
5 Takeaways of the Game
1. Coaching Staff Doing a Great Job in Preparation
The Los Angeles Rams improved to 5-0 under Sean McVay in Week 1. That speaks to his ability, and the coaching staff’s ability to prepare their players. What’s more impressive is that while Tony Dungy and the Sunday Night Football crew were talking about the importance of playing starters in the preseason, the Rams don’t play their starters in the preseason.
Additionally, some thought that it might take a few games for the Rams offense to get rolling. While the offense certainly isn’t firing on all cylinders, they did put up an impressive 34 points. Again, that speaks to how well this coaching staff prepares its players and puts them in a position to succeed.
2. Offensive Line Pass Protected Well
There were a lot of question marks surrounding the offensive line this offseason. That was especially the case after the team opted to move Brian Allen back at center and start the 2018 draft pick who hadn’t played in over a year. However, the offensive line rose to the occasion.
“I was really pleased with the offensive line as well,” said McVay. “To go against that defense, those guys, that personnel, when you’re talking about Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn. I got a ton of respect for Akiem Hicks. And so for those guys, to come away with just that one sack when we were backed up is a real credit to them and I was very pleased with them as a whole.”
The offensive line gave up just one sack and it can be argued that Stafford held on to the ball too long on that play. Outside of that, Stafford had all day to throw which bodes well for the Rams offense.
3. Defense Needs to Tighten Up
While Ramsey played well, the rest of the defense needs tightening up as we get closer to the Week 3 clash against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It seems odd saying that as well considering that they gave up a total of 14 points.
However, the Bears seemed to be able to run at will and pick up 5-6 yard chunks. While that’s fine when leading by 13 points late in the game and chews up clock, that won’t be fine when it’s a better team. The Bears ran 69 plays to the Rams’ 50 and almost were doubling them up in the third quarter. Chicago also held the ball for 35 minutes while the Rams had 25 minutes in time of possession.
4. Darrell Henderson Icing The Game
While the Los Angeles Rams were unable to run the ball through the first three quarters, that changed in the final 15 minutes. Darrell Henderson iced the game in the fourth quarter. The Rams running back had nine carries for 58 yards, averaging more than six yards per carry. More importantly, he picked up four first downs during that stretch.
Henderson picked up a lot of criticism this offseason for being someone who couldn’t carry the load. Henderson finished the game with 16 carries for 70 yards which is a respectable 4.4 yards per carry. Additionally, Henderson looked very good in pass protection. It was Henderson who stepped up in the a-gap late to give Stafford time to find Woods on a third-down conversion.
5. The NFC West is Good
This should be no real surprise. The NFC West is really good once again this season. The Arizona Cardinals blew out the Tennessee Titans on the road. Seattle decimated the Colts also on the road. Meanwhile, the San Francisco 49ers were leading big against the Detroit Lions before a late comeback attempt.
The NFC West won its games on Sunday by an average of 16.3 points. The next closest was the AFC West with an average of 7.3 points. It’s quite literally not even close. This division is going to be a bloodbath this season and the Rams will get their first taste in Week 4.
Looking at the Week Ahead
The Los Angeles Rams will head on the road to take on the Indianapolis Colts. It’ll be the second straight season in which the Rams will face Carson Wentz in Week 2. The Colts lost to the Seahawks 28-16 on Sunday with Russell Wilson throwing for 254 yards and four touchdowns. Chris Carson added 91 yards on 16 carries.
The Colts were undisciplined and seem to be recovering from what has been a chaotic offseason. I won’t give my game prediction right now, but the Rams could be looking pretty good as they head into a highly anticipated Week 3 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.