For a fourth straight year, the Los Angeles Rams have started 2-0. It’s the first time since the 1967-70 seasons that the Rams have started 2-0 in four straight years. Sunday’s win against the Colts wasn’t pretty, but it was enough. Here are 10 takeaways from Sunday’s win.
1. Matthew Stafford is Off to a Hot Start
With Matthew Stafford’s 278 yards against the Indianapolis Colts, he now has 599 yards through the first two weeks of the season. His 599 yards rank fifth all-time through the first two weeks in Los Angeles Rams franchise history. He trails just Kurt Warner’s 827 in 2000, Sam Bradford’s 651 in 2013, Warner again with 629 yards in 2001, and then finally Everett with 609 in 1990.
Stafford passed Goff and is the third quarterback in that top-5 list to start 2-0. His 127 quarterback rating is also the highest on that list.
Sunday wasn’t perfect from Stafford. A tipped ball led to his first interception and the offense had three consecutive three-and-outs in the second half. However, he made plays when he needed to and led the Rams down the field to kick the game-winning field goal.
2. Cooper Kupp is One of the Best Wide Receivers in the NFL
We’ll remain on a high note and talk about Cooper Kupp’s game. The Los Angeles Rams wide receiver absolutely took over. It seemed at times as if he was the only Rams wide receiver capable of making a play. Through two weeks, his 271 yards are the third most in Rams franchise history. That number trails just Isaac Bruce’s 323 in 1998 and Henry Ellard’s 329 in 1989.
Kupp caught the opening touchdown of the game and then caught a touchdown in the fourth quarter to give the Rams back the lead. It was also Kupp who came up in big moments on the game-winning drive to set up Matt Gay’s field goal to go up, 27-24.
It’s pretty clear that Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp have a strong connection. If it continues, both could be in for carry years in 2021.
3. More Playmakers Need to Step Up
While Cooper Kupp simply took over the game, more playmakers on offense need to step up. Stafford completed 19 passes on Sunday. Nine of those completions went to Kupp. That’s not a bad thing. However, it seemed as if when the ball wasn’t going to Kupp, nothing else was available.
Robert Woods had a pair of crucial drops. Van Jefferson had a drop on third down. The very next play was the punt snap fiasco that I’ll address later. Woods has been surprisingly disappointing through the first two weeks of the season. Jefferson is just in year two, but he has a lot to prove and needs to find consistency.
The Los Angeles Rams drafted TuTu Atwell in the second round and also signed DeSean Jackson. Both players simply are not being used. The narrative of the Rams wide receivers was that they had a bunch of guys with a wide variety of skillsets. Well, as it stands, three guys with the same skill set are consistently on the field together.
4. Defense Steps Up When They Need To
Poor kickoff coverage led to a strong opening drive for the Colts. Wentz drove the offense all the way down to the one-yard line. Prior to the game, the Colts had the longest current streak in the NFL when it came to coming away with points on opening drives.
Then, Leonard Floyd sacked Carson Wentz on fourth down as the Colts came away with nothing, despite four straight chances at the one-yard line.
On the next red-zone possession, the Colts once again had the ball inside the five. This time it was Troy Reeder who intercepted a shovel pass from Wentz as the Colts came away with zero points.
Leading 27-24, Jacob Eason made an ill-advised throw and instead of finding his receiver, found Jalen Ramsey to essentially clinch the win for the Rams.
Through two games, the Los Angeles Rams defense has yet to allow more than 20 points. After allowing David Montgomery to have 108 yards last week, Jonathan Taylor had 51 yards on 15 carries on Sunday.
The fact of the matter is, if the Colts score a touchdown and a field goal on the two red zone possessions in which they came away with nothing, that’s 10 points. The Rams won by three. The Rams defense won the game on Sunday and yet this is a group that is getting unfairly criticized by the fan base. The defense stepped up when they needed to and the Rams won because of it.
5. Aaron Donald Gets Best of Quenton Nelson
A big reason for the Rams dominating on defense was Aaron Donald getting the best of Quenton Nelson. While Donald didn’t manage a sack, his presence was still felt. The Colts still had to double-team Donald and there were a few potential holding penalties that never got called.
.@rams @AaronDonald97 v @colts @BigQ56 2 great players going at it for much of the night. Here are a few of the head to head matchups #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/foTHNXRymp
— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) September 20, 2021
Donald is the best defensive player in the game and he showcased why on Sunday. He came close to sacking Carson Wentz several times, but the Colts quarterback managed to just escape or just get the ball away. Donald has just one sack through the first two weeks, but it’s only a matter of time before the beast gets unleashed.
6. Offensive Line Performs Well Again
The Los Angeles Rams won this game in the trenches. Stafford was sacked just one time and it was on a play in which Andrew Whitworth got beat pretty badly. Aside from that, the Rams quarterback was kept clean and given time to throw. Darrell Henderson had holes in the run game and came up big in the red zone as the Rams went up 17-6.
There were a lot of question marks coming into the season in regards to the offensive line. Through two weeks against two respectable groups, the offensive line is performing well. Next week brings a true test against the Buccaneers, but this is better than what some fans were expecting.
7. Special Teams is Still a Work in Progress
The Rams special teams has been bad for much of the last two years. If you want to count the later half of 2019, that is fair as well. Special teams reared its ugly head on Sunday and it almost cost the Rams the game. For a second consecutive week, a Rams opponent started the game with a big kickoff return to give the offense a short field.
That wasn’t the big mistake though. The big mistake came early in the fourth quarter. After leading 17-6, the Rams were now leading just 17-14 and went three-and-out for a third consecutive drive. The Colts had all the momentum after a Kenny Young ejection, scoring a touchdown on third down, and then finding luck on a deflected pass to score a two-point conversion.
Punting the ball away once again, the snap hit Nick Scott, leading to a fumble in the end zone. The Colts recovered and took their first lead of the game. The Rams are lucky that it didn’t cost them the game. The offense responded with a quick touchdown drive and regained control. However, it shouldn’t have gotten to that point.
8. Rams Overcame Adversity When They Could Have Crumbled
Over the years, we’ve seen bad things start to happen to the Rams and they crumble in the moment. Heck, Matthew Stafford has been on Lions teams recently in which that exactly happened. Just last season, the Lions led the Bears 23-6 heading into the fourth quarter. Things started to snowball and the Lions lost, 27-23.
At the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth, things started to snowball for the Los Angeles Rams. It would have been very easy for them to crumble in the moment on the road against a well-coached team that made the postseason last year. However, they responded with a touchdown drive and regained control of the game.
While losing the lead was less than ideal, good teams respond and the Rams did just that.
9. Sony Michel Runs Strong in Henderson’s Absence
Darrell Henderson was having a very solid game on Sunday. Henderson had 53 yards on 13 carries and had a strong series of plays in the red zone that led to his eventual score. Sean McVay gave him two more carries over the next three series’. On that second carry, Henderson left the game with a rib injury of which we don’t know the seriousness of.
That left Sony Michel to play in Henderson’s place. Michel had 46 yards on 10 carries and ran strong as the Rams went down the field to kick the game-winning field goal. If Henderson misses time, Michel will be the guy that the Rams lean on. If Sunday showed anything, it’s that he is more than capable of carrying the load.
10. It’s Wasn’t Perfect, but the Los Angeles Rams are 2-0
The Los Angeles Rams stared 1-1 in the face, and somehow managed to come away with a win on the road against a tough Colts team. It might have been a lot closer than Rams fans expected, but the Rams grinded out a win when many teams would have folded.
The win was big as well. Over the next three weeks we’re going to find out just how good this Rams team is. Next week they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The following week they are at home against as they host the 2-0 Arizona Cardinals. Then, in Week 5, the Rams are back on the road as they travel to Seattle.
Those are three teams that will likely be in the playoff picture at season’s end. Matthew Stafford is 2-0 for just the third time in his career. The next three weeks are why the Rams traded for Matthew Stafford. These next three weeks is when Stafford will have a lot to prove to Rams fans and the national media because these are the games that Goff consistently showed up for.