From Wentz to Brady, Rams defense look for the stop

Not all NFL games are alike. One week a team can look pretty awesome in a lopsided win. The next week more than likely that same team will meet up with much more resistance from another ballclub while winning the ugly way.

But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how you win as long as you’re able to pull out the “W.”

The Los Angeles Rams are undefeated after two games into the regular season, running through the Chicago Bears at home and squeaking by the Indianapolis Colts on the road. They’ll be going for three straight wins against Tom Brady and the Super Bowl champions Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

A tall order? It depends on how you look at it. The glass is either half full or half empty when it comes to seeing how the Rams performed the first two weeks of the season. Week 1 was a solid overall win for Sean McVay’s team against the Bears. Dominating? No. Convincing? Yes.

What many expected, Matthew Stafford delivered with a 321-yard and three touchdowns performance in an outstanding debut wearing a Rams uniform in the team’s 34-14 win at SoFi Stadium. So, let’s move on to Week 2. The Rams played The Traveling Man and paid a visit to Carson Wentz and the Indianapolis Colts.

Like Week 1, the end result had the Rams prevailing. Los Angeles won a close one, pulling out a 27-24 road win. There were a couple of big takeaways from the Rams’ victory. First, wide receiver Cooper Kupp is looking like he’s going to have a big season. For the second week in a row, Kupp went over the 100-yard mark in receiving.

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp hauls in one of his nine catches against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021. Kupp had 163 yards and two touchdowns in the Rams’ 27-24 win. Photo credit: Los Angeles Rams

Against the Colts, Kupp went wild, catching nine of Stafford’s 19 completed passes during the Sunday afternoon matinee game for 163 yards and two touchdowns. In his press conference the day after beating the Colts, McVay said Kupp is simply making the most of the chances he’s getting.

“I think Cooper has done a great job maximizing his opportunities,” McVay said. “What (QB) Matthew (Stafford) has done a really good job of is getting the ball where the coverage dictates. There are certain times where it might be calling some plays with Robert or (WR) Van (Jefferson) or (TE Tyler) Higbee, or our backs being a primary and it hasn’t always gone there.”

McVay continued, “Cooper has maximized his opportunities, but I think one of the benefits of our offense is the ball gets spread around. We’ve got a lot of guys that can make plays and so that’s definitely something that we’re going to look to do is making sure that we get everybody involved, we utilize their skill sets accordingly. But certainly, Cooper has demonstrated why he’s a special player in this league the last couple of weeks. I’ve been pleased with that.”

In two games, McVay’s offense has totaled 61 points. That’s an area where McVay is excited about, especially with the deep-ball capabilities of Stafford. His enthusiasm with the team’s defense, a unit ranked No. 1 last season, maybe different.

Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey (5) is on his game. Photo credit: Los Angeles Rams

Through 16 games in the regular season in 2020, the Rams defense limited their opponents to just 281 yards and 18.5 points per game. The secondary, also ranked No.1, was pretty stingy, holding the opposition to only 190 passing yards a game. In two games this season, the Rams’ overall defense sits at No. 12.

In the course of those two games, the Rams have surrendered 338 yards per game with 162 coming by way of running the football. Last season, the Rams’ defense gave up less than 100 yards per game (91.3) to opponents rushing the football.

McVay doesn’t sound too alarmed about if his defense is giving up too much yardage.

It’s continuing to just monitor it,” McVay said. “It is a clear, cut philosophy, but then there’s also some change ups. You look at some of the times that we send some more guys forward on some first downs that led to a sack. So, I think it’s a balance.

“Then, figuring out, ‘Alright, how much do we want to be reactionary as a result of. alright, this is the approach that they’re going to take.’ I think what’s definitely been illustrated, particularly in the red area the last two weeks, is having four drives that come away with no points where we got two turnovers to fourth-down stops,” McVay added.

With two straight wins, defensive coordinator Raheem Morris will have his hands full in trying to slow down Brady and the offense of the Buccaneers in Game No. 3. So far, McVay likes the job Morris is doing.

 “I think (Defensive Coordinator) Raheem (Morris) has done a really nice job these first two weeks,” McVay said. 

Featured Image Caption: Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald (99) doing work against the offensive line of the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021. The Rams defeated the Colts, 27-24. Photo credit: Los Angeles Rams