The Rams defense got off to a great start, unsurprisingly lead by Aaron Donald. Donald forced a strip sack and set the Rams up inside the red zone for their first offensive play. The Rams failed to fully capitalize on the opportunity behind a third and long screen that fell short of the sticks. Greg Zuerlein came on for the short attempt and nailed it, no surprise there. An untimely drop by a Texans receiver killed a somewhat successful drive that got started by strong Texans run game. The upcoming Rams drive netted a loss of one yard and Johnny Hekker was brought on for his first punt of the day. Good work by the Rams defense on a short field forced another Houston punt. Trumaine Johnson nearly landed a pick six on a throw that was rushed by Connor Barwin, but he couldn’t make the catch. The Rams were set to take over from their own four. Todd Gurley made a nice run to kick the Rams off on the ensuing drive. However, Goff took a poor sack and then made two throws that only netted a few yards in the coming plays. Hekker came on to punt once again, a great punt. On the ensuing drive the Texans drew a questionable pass interference call that set them up in Rams territory. The Rams defense came up huge, including Michael Brockers drawing a holding call, and backed the Texans up for a 34 yard field goal. The Houston kicker shanked the fairly short attempt, and it seemed as though momentum shifted towards the Rams.
The Rams drew a penalty before the drive began, and then Gurley took a screen out of the backfield for a huge gain. Great downfield blocking be Rodger Saffold helped open things up for the Rams running back. Gurley then took a first down handoff for another 15 yards, Saffold doing great work. Cooper Kupp got demolished trying to block Jadeveon Clowney and Gurley went down for a loss of seven on the next play, a tough matchup for the young receiver. Goff got outside and scrambled for a gain of six on the next play, setting up third and long yet again for the Rams. Gurley was targeted yet again out of the backfield on third down, but the pass fell incomplete. Zuerlein came in on fourth down and proved why he is called Mr. Automatic, nailing the attempt. A long Texans drive and a Tom Savage touchdown pass gave the Rams the lead, after poor coverage by John Johnson III.
Tavon Austin took an end-around reverse towards the sideline for a nice gain and got absolutely smoked by a Texans defender. Gurley took the second down carry and set the Rams up for a third and short opportunity. Gurley just barely picked up the first down on a catch out of the backfield on third down. After a false start penalty Lance Dunbar got in on his first snap as a Ram, not receiving the ball. Tyler Higbee got hit hard on second down, Kevin Johnson once again laying the wood. Nothing was there on third down and Goff was forced to check the ball down to Todd Gurley, coming up short of the first down. The Rams faked the punt on fourth down and came up short of the first, setting the Texans up in good field position.
The Rams defense almost stopped the Texans, but a holding penalty by Nickell Robey-Coleman extended the Texans drive. However, Mark Barron came up with a clutch interception to prevent any points for the Houston.
The Rams took over with a good distance to go and not a lot of time on the clock. Goff strung together a few incompletions, finding Woods, Cooper, and Higbee in quick succession to get towards field goal range. The drive stalled out, but got far enough for Zuerlein to nail a 50 yard attempt. The Rams took the lead once again, heading into the half.
To kick off the second half the Rams hurt themselves with a false start penalty on Rob Havenstein, but Goff came back and found Kupp for a 19 yard gain. Goff followed that play up with an intentional grounding penalty, backing the Rams up 10 yards. A screen for Gurley picked up just a few yards on second down, setting up third and long. On third and 17 the Rams drew Houston offsides, but still faced third and long. Goff’s pass for Gerald Everett was incomplete, facing heavy pressure to his left side. Hekker came on to punt, once again. The Rams defense was called to action once again, and had an interception returned for touchdown called back thanks to a holding penalty. Penalties on the Texans backed them up, and the Rams defended the pass well. The Texans were forced to punt, and Pharoh Cooper reeled it in surprisingly close to the goal line and got nowhere.
Gurley took a carry for just two yards on first down, getting the Rams out to their own six. Woods took the top off the defense on the following play on Goff delivered a strike to his wide open receiver, a 94 yard pitch and catch touchdown. Zuerlein nailed the extra point, of course, and put the rams up by two scores. The Rams defense came through with a solid three-and-out on the ensuing possession, and the Rams gears kept turning. A booming punt and a penalty on the Rams backed them up close to their own endzone yet again. Gurley got the Rams going with a first down on the first play of the possession, and then Woods reeled in an eight yard grab. Kupp caught an out route on the ensuing play and picked up the first down. Goff failed to escape a collapsed pocket on first down, and the Rams were set for second and long. Woods made a few defenders miss on a short catch on second down, then Kupp did enough to get the first down. After a Lance Dunbar drop and then an Austin carry, the Rams faced a manageable third down. Goff got sacked once again on third down, forcing Hekker to come back for another punt.
After stuffing the Texans on the first play of the possession, Savage threw incomplete twice and Houston was forced to punt. Cooper got a great return, getting across midfield and giving the Rams offense great field position. Austin had nowhere to go on the first play of the drive, giving the Rams a loss of five yards. Goff found Sammy Watkins down the middle of the field on second down, giving the Rams a first down in the red zone. They called Watkins’ number again on first down, catching a screen pass and following Andrew Whitworth into the red zone for a score.
Savage got smoked on first down and fumbled, setting the Rams up just outside the 10 yard line. Woods took a swing pass on the first play of the drive and made one guy miss, getting into the end zone for his second touchdown of the day aided by great blocking by Watkins.
A penalty on Nickell Robey-Coleman gave the Texans a first down just before the end of the third quarter, extending their drive. The Rams shut the Texans drive down shortly after that, declining a holding penalty on Houston on third down. Cooper caught the punt right around the 10 yard line and the Rams offense took the field once again. Austin got to the edge on the first play of the drive, but was stopped for no gain. The Rams drew the Texans off on second and 10, getting in a more manageable spot. Gurley went for a couple yards on second down, setting up third and short but Saffold went down with an injury. Goff found Gurley underneath for a quick third down conversion. A rare Whitworth holding penalty was called on first down setting up first and 20, but Gurley picked up a first down on a huge carry on the ensuing play. After a timeout, Goff found Woods deep down the field for a gain of about 30. After a loss of a few yards on first down, Woods caught another pass to get a few back. The Rams then faced third and long and Goff found Kupp on an out route, but the young receiver was unable to pick up a first down. No surprises on fourth down, Zuerlein stepped up and nailed the field goal attempt from 33 yards out.
The Texans once again picked up their first first down of the drive on a penalty, a pass interference call on Kayvon Webster. DeAndre Hopkins made a great catch over Webster on second down for the Texans, getting Houston into Rams territory. Hopkins got his third straight target on first down, going for another first down. On his fourth straight target, Hopkins reeled in a fade route but was out of bounds. C.J. Fiedorowics was unable to haul in a third down pass, and the Texans left the offense on the field for fourth down. Blake Countess made them pay for that decision, getting the interception and returning it outside the Rams 25.
Dunbar took the carry on first down, going for just a yard up the middle. His second carry went for about 12 yards, a good run to the outside. Dunbar was stuffed on the ensuing play, unable to find room to run. His number was called once again on second down, slipping through a crowded front for about seven yards. Yet again Dunbar got the ball on third down, finding plenty of space and going for about 10 yards before wisely going down to keep the clock running. The Rams took to victory formation after that, ending the game with a dominant 33-7 win.
The Rams played a poor first half, but still found a way to win in dominant fashion. Goff had another great game, going for over 350 passing yards and three touchdowns. Speaking of touchdowns, Woods had two and Watkins had one. It was great to see Watkins get involved with a screen pass, that is something to be on the lookout going forward. Woods was excellent, hauling in a 94 yard bomb and fighting his way into the endzone on a fake reverse. It seemed as though Gurley didn’t even have a successful day, but he still found a way to get over 130 all-purpose yards.
The Rams defense had a great game, especially considering the amount of short fields they were handed. Even facing tough penalty calls, the Rams continued to fight on the defensive side of the ball, and found their way to a few turnovers. The defensive front did a great job with the run game as well, especially as the game continued to go on. LaMarcus Joyner had a great game, laying some big hits and defending the pass very well.
I would be remised if I did not mention Dunbar’s first game. The Rams running back ran the ball well to seal the deal in his first action of the season, and filled in quite well for Malcolm Brown.
Samson Ebukam saw extended action in the absence of Robert Quinn and performed quite well, forcing a fumble on Savage and setting the offense up for a touchdown. The young outside linebacker is still raw, but is flashing the talent and athleticism the Rams drafted him for this year.
The Rams face the Minnesota Vikings next week, a tough matchup. Case Keenum is under center for the Vikes and is performing nicely alone with one of the top defenses in the NFL.
The Rams will need to get to work tomorrow, preparing for a matchup with another 7-2 team. Until then they (and you Rams fans) can celebrate the great win they had today.
– Andrew Kelly is the Managing Editor for cover32.com/Rams and covers the Los Angeles Rams. He also writes national and fantasy content for cover32. Like and follow on Follow @Andrew_K47 Follow @cover32_LAR