Life is about moments.
In life we’re given moments and given a chance to respond to those moments. It’s how we respond to those moments that define us. On Sunday, the Los Angeles Rams were given a several of these moments. In those moments, the Rams proved that they were better than the Indianapolis Colts.
Let’s start with the first moment.
The Indianapolis Colts started the game with a long kickoff return that put them in good field position at their own 41-yard line. Just four plays later, the Colts were in the red zone. Not long after that, Carson Wentz and the Colts offense had first-and-goal from the one-yard line.
First down – Jonathan Taylor up the middle for no gain. Tackled by Justin Hollins and Aaron Donald
Second Down – Jonathan Taylor up the middle for no gain. Tackled by Aaron Donald and Ernest Jones.
Third Down – Jonathan Taylor up the middle for no gain. Tackled by Taylor Rapp and Sebastian Joseph-Day
Fourth Down – Carson Wentz sacked at the 10-yard line by Leonard Floyd. Loss of nine yards.
The Los Angeles Rams offense led by Matthew Stafford then marched 90 yards down the field in eight plays to score a touchdown and take a 7-0 lead. Instead of tying the game or taking a 7-3 lead, the Rams stole a possession and made it hurt where it counts – on the scoreboard.
Shall we continue?
After a Matthew Stafford tipped pass was intercepted, the Colts were once again driving in the red zone looking to take the lead. A pass from Wentz to Michael Pittman Jr. put the Colts at second-and-goal at the three.
Second Down – Jonathan Taylor runs left for no gain. Tackled by Joseph-Day and Floyd.
Third Down – Carson Wentz is intercepted by Troy Reeder attempting a shuffle pass to Jack Doyle.
The Los Angeles Rams offense again responded to the big play by the defense. They marched 79 yards in 16 plays to put a field goal on the board and take a 10-3 lead. Instead of trailing 10-7 or leading just 7-6, the Rams were in control.
That theme continued into the second half. While the Colts eventually found the end zone on offense and then took advantage of a special teams miscue to take the lead, the Rams did not panic.
It wasn’t that long ago that Matthew Stafford was on a Lions team that gave up a 23-6 lead to the Chicago Bears last season and went belly up when the pressure mounted. The Seattle Seahawks gave up a 15-point lead at home in Week 2 and lost. The Buffalo Bills suffered a poor sequence to the Steelers at home in Week 1 and lost. Both teams let the bad moments define them.
Without starting running back Darrell Henderson, the Rams trailed for the first time. Wide receivers outside of Cooper Kupp couldn’t seem to make a play and Henderson was done for the afternoon. It would have been easy for the Rams to say, “it’s just not our day.”
Sean McVay admitted after the game, “It was a lot, and a lot of teams would fold in those circumstances.”
Instead, in just four plays, the Los Angeles Rams marched 70 yards down the field. A 44 yard reception by Kupp put the Rams in scoring position. Stafford then found Kupp once again for a 10-yard score to give the Rams back the lead. They wouldn’t give it up again.
The Colts tied the game with a field goal and then Stafford showed why the Rams traded for the former Lions quarterback. In Detroit, Stafford had 38 game-winning drives. While Sunday’s drive in the final five minutes didn’t count as an official game-winning drive, it might as well have been.
Said McVay, “He had a look in his eyes. He relishes those moments.”
With the game tied, Stafford and the Rams took nearly five minutes off of the clock. In for Henderson, Sony Michel rushed for 36 yards. To cap it off, Matt Gay kicked a 38-yard field goal to put the Rams back on top for good.
The Colts took over with Carson Wentz sidelined with an ankle injury. That left Jacob Eason under center and in just two plays he threw an interception to Jalen Ramsey to clinch the win.
“There was a lot of adversity that we hit and there’s no style points in this league,” said head coach Sean McVay. “Finding a way to get a win, I think says a lot about our team.”
Sunday’s 27-24 win against the Colts wasn’t perfect. In fact, it was far from it. However, the Rams played better in the big moments. The Rams easily could have crumbled like they have in years past and they did not.
The Rams overcame their miscues and beat a Colts team that made the playoffs last year at home on a day in which Peyton Manning and Edgerrin James received their Hall of Fame rings.
For the fourth straight year, the Rams are 2-0. Sean McVay has build a tradition and culture of excellence. That’s what helps define them in the big moments.
Los Angeles Rams Three Word Game Review: Way Too Close
The game against the Colts never should have been as close as it was. The Los Angeles Rams led 17-6 and had opportunities to take a three score lead. Instead, they let the Colts back in the game and it almost cost them. Winning on the road in the NFL isn’t easy. It’s not easy either when this is one of the first full crowds that you’ve played in front of in over a year. The Colts went 6-2 at home in 2020 and it was also a 10 a.m. PT start.
Still, the Rams let the Colts back in the game instead of putting them away. The Rams lost a lead after being up by double digits late in the game. Hopefully this an experience that the Rams learn from as the season goes on. Next week the true test begins as the Rams take on a difficult NFC slate over the next three weeks.
Los Angeles Rams Player of the Game: Cooper Kupp
Cooper Kupp absolutely took over the game on Sunday. It seemed as if for most of the afternoon, Kupp was the only Los Angeles Rams wide receiver capable of making a play. Robert Woods had uncharacteristic drops. Van Jefferson dropped a ball on third down that led to the punt miscue.
“I think he’s a really talented player. He understands the game really well,” said Matthew Stafford. “I think it’s probably just more of a testament to him than anything. He’s one of those guys that’s about as overlooked as anybody in the league.”
— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) September 20, 2021
Meanwhile, whenever his number was called, Kupp showed up in a big way. He scored the opening touchdown of the game, had a 44-yard reception on the go-ahead touchdown drive, and he had said touchdown on the go-ahead touchdown drive. He averaged 4.3 yards of separation per catch and 11.3 yards after the catch average against the Colts. Those are top-5 wide receiver numbers.
Through two weeks, Kupp’s 278 yards rank third all-time in the first two weeks in Rams franchise history. His connection with Stafford is special and that will only grow as the season goes on.
5 Takeaways of the Game
1. 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.
2. Los Angeles Rams 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.
Brian Allen is the second rated center in the NFL via Pro Football Focus through two weeks. At the beginning of the season, nobody saw that coming.
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.
3. Aaron Donald Gets Best of Quenton Nelson
A big reason for the Los Angeles 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.
— 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
Looking at the Week Ahead
This is the week that we’ve all been waiting for. The Los Angeles Rams will host the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at SoFi Stadium. The Rams open as 2.5 point favorites. This is going to be a close one and it’s one that could catapult the Rams season.
Last year, the Rams beat the Buccaneers on Monday Night Football. Through the first two weeks, the Bucs have wins over the Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons.
The Rams traded for Matthew Stafford to show up in games like these. These are the type of games that Goff consistently showed up for. Goff’s best game last year might have been in the win against the Buccaneers. One of the biggest knocks on Stafford is that the Lions never had the big win. He’ll get his chance to prove those critics wrong next week.