By Cedric Williams
The Los Angeles Rams got a great night from its offense, a not-so-great night from its defense, and a flat-out poor performance from its special teams in a 41-39 victory over the NFC West rival San Francisco 49ers on Thursday night.
Both teams just kept scoring. And neither defense seemed able to stop their opponent’s offense.
It was a wild ride and a whole lot of fun. But it left most unsure of exactly what type of team these Rams are.
Are they a high-powered offensive juggernaut similar to the “Greatest Show on Turf” Rams team like the ones that played in St. Louis a couple decades ago? Or are they a team with a timid defense that’s unable to stop anyone?
Not sure? We aren’t, either. But those were the teams, offensive and defensive, that the Rams sent out there Thursday night. And that’s why we’ve got high grades for the offense, but low grades for the defense and special teams following last night’s action.
The list of offensive stars for the Rams on Thursday night could go on and on, but the most prolific performances were delivered by QB Jared Goff and RB Todd Gurley, who each had a hand in three touchdowns apiece. Goff completed 22-of-28 passes for 292 yards, the three TDs, and a 145.8 passer rating.
Gurley, who was only about the length of the football away from scoring a fourth touchdown, finished the night with 149 total yards (113 of them rushing) to go along with his three touchdowns.
As a group, the Rams put up 418 total yards and appeared to simply wear out the San Francisco defense, which was coming off a dynamite performance last week against Seattle where the Niners held the Seahawks to just 12 points. This week though, LA bombarded San Francisco with big plays that helped generate 26 first downs and 41 points, which proved to be just enough for the visitors to pull out the win.
Early on, it seemed like the Rams “D” would also have itself a good night. CB Nickell Robey-Coleman, who was starting in place of the injured Kayvon Webster, intercepted a pass on the first play of the game and returned it to the 3-yard line to set up Gurley’s first TD of the night, which came on the next play.
For most of the game after that though, the LA defense struggled. It gave up 421 total yards and five touchdowns to a San Francisco team which came into the night having not scored any touchdowns in either of its first two games.
On the bright side, the defense did come up huge on a San Francisco two-point conversion attempt, which would have tied the score had the Niners been successful. Instead, DT Michael Brockers intercepted a tipped pass, which allowed the Rams to keep the lead. A couple of minutes later, with the game on the line, fellow DT Aaron Donald made his presence felt when he sacked San Francisco QB Brian Hoyer on a 4th down play that effectively ended the game.
Still though, the Rams defense is going to have to be consistently better than what it showed Thursday night.
Special Teams: F
Other than Greg Zuerlein connecting on all seven of his kicks (5 PATS and 2 FGs) and Johnny Hekker averaging more than 56 yards on his punts, the Rams special teams were abysmal on Thursday. There was a key offsides penalty that helped keep a drive going that would eventually lead to San Francisco’s first points of the night. Tavon Austin muffed a punt that led to a score. There was a fumbled kickoff that led to another score. And the Rams failed to field an onside kick, which gave San Francisco possession of the ball near midfield with more than two minutes left on the clock and a chance to take the lead.
Fortunately, the defense stepped up and held the 49ers off to allow the Rams to escape with the win. But just like the defense’s performance on Thursday, LA’s special teams can’t have another night like last night, because better teams will take advantage and the promising 2-1 start this Rams club has gotten off to will go down the drain quickly.
It’s clear that new coach Sean McVay’s offense is much better now than the one he took over from last season. Once the worst offense in the league, these Rams have scored 107 points in their first three games, which is the second-most in franchise history. But the defense is still lagging behind and almost stunningly has been gashed by a previously struggling opponent for the second straight game.
Up Next: LA now has 10 days to get ready for its next game, a showdown on Oct. 1 against the Dallas Cowboys. And it should be very interesting to see exactly what the Rams decide need to be tweaked, fixed, or outright changed as they head into the meat and potatoes part of their schedule.