The Los Angeles Rams hit the road for the first time this season in Week 2, taking on a quality opponent in the Indianapolis Colts.
While it wasn’t pretty, and Sean McVay and Matthew Stafford even admitted as such, the Rams were ultimately able to come away with a 27-24 victory to improve to 2-0 on the young season.
That was a game that Super Bowl contenders win despite playing poorly, so it’s a good sign that the Rams were able to do so. They understand that they have to be sharper moving forward though, and I discussed some of the issues as well as what went right in my weekly observations and analysis…
Problem with the defense?
So it seems the biggest concern among the Rams fanbase through the first two weeks is with the defense, and there is some merit there. For the second straight week, the Rams had fewer first downs and time of possession than their opponents.
Similar to Week 1, L.A.’s defense was able to come up with a couple of big stops/turnovers in the red zone to minimize the damage. But where’s the dominating defense from last year that was causing three-and-outs left and right, getting off the field when they need to?
Well…it turns out that developing a great defense actually takes some time. According to Jake Ellenbogen of Downtown Rams, the Rams’ defense has actually been better through two games than it was a year ago:
— JAKE ELLENBOGEN (@JKBOGEN) September 20, 2021
So even though the Rams haven’t been the dominant force on defense they were last season (yet), I’m not overly concerned about this unit. Yes, there is a new defensive coordinator in place in Raheem Morris.
But for the most part, the key pieces on that side of the ball like Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey and Leonard Floyd are still in place. I trust that those guys will figure it out and get better as the season goes on, just as they did a season ago under Brandon Staley.
Plus, and this is probably the most important aspect of it all, with the Rams offense looking much better than a season ago, the defense won’t have to be perfect on a weekly basis for the Rams to win.
Stafford to Kupp connection is already special
That served as a perfect transition to my next observation, which is that the Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp connection is already looking special. Most of the time, it takes a few weeks for a new quarterback and top receiver to get on the same page, but not with these guys.
Stafford is 16-for-21 for 271 yards and 3 touchdowns when targeting Kupp in just two games, which matches the three touchdowns Kupp had all of last season. Additionally, the 271 yards rank third among NFL receivers through two weeks.
The coolest part is that Stafford and Kupp aren’t just connecting on short and intermediate routes, they are also connecting on the deep ball. After Kupp caught a 56-yard touchdown pass in the Rams’ season opener, he followed it up with catches of 43 and 44 yards in this one.
The deep ball is a new added layer to this Rams offense, allowing them to strike quickly and often. While they have other deep threats like DeSean Jackson, Van Jefferson and Robert Woods, the fact that Kupp can be added to that bunch will make the Rams offense even harder to predict.
Ramsey continues to get better
Back to the defensive side of the ball, I wanted to highlight Jalen Ramsey’s play because it seems the All-Pro is continuing to get better and better.
Ramsey finished this game with three tackles and a pass defensed, also coming up with an interception of Colts backup quarterback Jacob Eason to seal the game late in the fourth quarter.
Through two games this season, Ramsey has been the best corner in football by a significant margin:
Lowest Passer Rating When Targeted
🔒 Jalen Ramsey (25.6)
🔒 Asante Samuel Jr. (40.2)
🔒 Trevon Diggs (42.0) pic.twitter.com/AO3KY1cJ4K
— PFF (@PFF) September 20, 2021
Ramsey expressed excitement leading up to the season about the year he would have with Morris at defensive coordinator, and through two games, it’s easy to see why Ramsey was so excited. He is not only moving all around the field and locking up top receivers, but he’s also playing at the line of scrimmage more to utilize his superb tackling skills.
If these last two weeks are any indication, then Ramsey could be in for a special, Defensive Player of the Year type of season.
The running back position was the Rams’ biggest question mark after Cam Akers went down, so it’s definitely an area worth monitoring this early in the season.
Darrell Henderson was the team’s workhorse in Week 1 as the recently acquired Sony Michel needed some more time to learn the playbook after coming over in a trade with the New England Patriots.
It looked to be the same in Week 2 as Henderson saw all of the snaps in the first three quarters. He then went down with a minor rib injury though, which forced McVay to go to Michel, and the Rams’ backup actually looked really solid.
Michel carried the ball 10 times for 46 yards, helping his team melt down the clock in the fourth quarter against a worn-down Colts defense.
The point isn’t that Michel is better than Henderson. The latter finished with 13 carries for 53 yards and a touchdown while adding three receptions for 29 yards, so he had a solid performance in his own right. Henderson played 40 snaps (68%) while Michel played 16 (27%).
The concern with Henderson going into the season was his injury history though as many don’t see him as an every-down back. Even though the rib injury isn’t expected to be all that serious, it certainly doesn’t help ease people’s concerns that he wasn’t able to finish the game.
Michel coming on strong is a good sign though as the talent is clearly there, it’s just a matter of how quickly he can pick up the playbook.
Hopefully Michel’s performance earns him more carries moving forward, which will also help keep Henderson fresh throughout the course of the year.
The Rams will face their toughest test of the young season next week when they welcome Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers to town for a 1:25 p.m. PT game on Sunday at SoFi Stadium.
If the Rams want to win the Super Bowl, they will likely have to go through the Bucs, so it will be interesting to see how they fare in this one even if it is still early in the season.