The Rams began their season with a bang, defeating the Colts 46-9 on Sunday. It was a victory of shocking proportion, even against a crippled Colts team that featured Scott Tolzien under center. Regardless of opponent, in order to win by such a large margin a team must play well in all facets of the game. The Rams did just that; succeeding on offense, defense, and special teams.
Jared Goff got his first win in his eighth start of his NFL career. He played very well, making smart decisions and putting balls in the right spot on time for his receivers to make plays. His only touchdown was a well thrown ball into the end zone for Cooper Kupp, leading Kupp into space on a well-run route. Goff was not forced to make many difficult throws, but that is hopefully not what he will need to be in the Rams offense this season. Much of Goff’s success can be attributed to his offensive line, he received very good protection in the passing game. Goff was sacked once and hit one additional time. Outside of those two plays, Goff often had adequate time to make his reads and throw the ball.
Running back Todd Gurley struggled in the run game, averaging just over two yards per carry. However, he still amassed 40 yards and a touchdown on the ground. The touchdown may have been Gurley’s best run of the day, fighting through many tacklers for a five yard goal line score. The Rams offensive line certainly struggled opening holes for Gurley inside, as he ran more effectively to the perimeter. Somewhat new to his game this season, Gurley was very effective in the passing attack as well. Gurley caught five passes out of the backfield for 56 yards, taking one pass for 23 yards. This is great for the Rams offense, touches for playmakers like Gurley are always a good thing. Rams backup running back Malcolm Brown also made an appearance, running hard and scoring a touchdown after Gurley was pulled due to the significant lead.
The Rams new wide receiving corps was on full display Sunday. Four receivers, three tight ends, and running back Todd Gurley all caught passes for the Rams on Sunday. Without a doubt, the Rams have a vast majority of targets. Sammy Watkins and Rams rookie Cooper Kupp looked particularly sharp, apart from Kupp’s lone drop. They seemed to be quarterback Jared Goff’s go to targets, along with Robert Woods. Kupp recorded the Rams only touchdown reception of the day, beating the Colts secondary on a post route for an 18 yard score.
Rams wide receiver Tavon Austin, one of three Rams who was on the roster last season who caught a pass, appeared in game action for the first time this year. Austin was held out for most of the offseason due to a hamstring injury, he only recorded one catch Sunday. Just making it to the field against the Colts was a big step for Austin. Rookie tight end Gerald Everett had the longest catch of the day, a 39 yard contested catch down the sideline on a pretty throw from Goff.
The Rams defense had a record-breaking opening day performance. They are the first team in NFL history with two interceptions returned for a touchdown and a safety on opening day. The Rams secondary, which looked rocky at times throughout the preseason, looked very strong against poor quarterback play. Trumaine Johnson and Lamarcus Joyner both recorded touchdowns on interceptions, Johnson also forced a fumble. The defense came out guns blazing under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, recording four sacks. Robert Quinn got in on the action, even after not seeing any action all preseason. Tyrunn Walker saw a lot of time, despite being listed as a backup on the Rams depth chart. The Rams were stout defensively, aside from a deep pass allowed just after Jacoby Brissett took over at quarterback for the Colts.
Possibly the most important part of the game for the Rams defense was just after the Tavon Austin muffed punt, when the Colts took over deep in Rams territory. The Rams held on and forced the Colts to attempt to attempt a field goal, which was missed by Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri. This play had the potential to shift momentum towards the Colts, but the Rams defense held tough and did not allow that to happen.
The Rams have featured one of the most consistent teams in the NFL for many years, anchored by All-Star punter Johnny Hekker. Incredibly strong in coverage, the Rams did not allow a single return yard on Sunday on their nine kickoffs and five punts. Hekker seemed to be dropping punts wherever he wanted. He received praise from former star punter Pat McAfee for his ability to spin the ball by turning the ball sideways, a tactic never used by punters due to its difficulty. Greg Zuerlein kicked the ball incredibly well, forcing touchbacks on every kickoff. Additionally, “Greg the Leg” was three-for-three on field goals, including a 50 yarder. He also knocked through five extra points, not exactly a given in today’s NFL.
The Rams were great on Sunday, an exciting start to the McVay era. The Rams may have played the Colts without Andrew Luck, but a victory of such substance means something, regardless of who the team is playing. The Rams look to come out just as strong next week against the Washington Redskins. The Redskins are coming off a tough loss to the Eagles and will be looking to bounce back against their former offensive coordinator turned Rams head coach. Without a doubt, the Rams players will want to win this one for McVay.