At 3-3, the Los Angeles Rams had a chance to get right back in the NFC West race in Week 7 although they faltered in the second half and allowed the Pittsburgh Steelers to beat them at SoFi Stadium, 24-17.
The story going into the game concerned the Rams’ backfield as the situation seemingly changed by the hour. For most of the week, Zach Evans was thought to be the favorite to start for the injured Kyren Williams, but Sean McVay opted to start Darrell Henderson and have Royce Freeman back him up.
Henderson has the most experience and familiarity with the system and he looked juiced from the gate as he took his first carry for 16 yards. The running back looked fresh, though that first drive resulted in Matthew Stafford getting sacked and a forced punt.
Both teams failed to score in the first quarter, but the Steelers took the lead after Chris Boswell knocked in a 53-yard field goal. An intentional grounding call on Stafford ruined the Rams’ next drive, but they eventually tied things up 3-3 after Brett Maher hit on a 41-yard field goal try.
Los Angeles’ defense was able to stop Pittsburgh on the subsequent drive, and the offense moved the ball downfield thanks to Puka Nacua’s 36-yard grab plus Henderson’s strong running. Stafford later found Tutu Atwell near the end zone and the receiver walked in a 31-yard touchdown that made it 9-3 at halftime.
However, their lead didn’t last long because Stafford was picked off on his first pass attempt of the second half that led to a Kenny Pickett sneak that made it 10-9. The Rams quarterback didn’t flinch, though, as he answered back by connecting with Nacua on a wild completion where the rookie barely got both his feet in on the catch.
Henderson capped off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run and Stafford hit Cooper Kupp on the ensuing two-point conversion to make it 17-10.
Things went downhill for L.A. after that as Pittsburgh turned up the pressure on both sides of the field and Maher missed his his second field goal attempt of the afternoon. Pickett made them pay by finding gaps in their defense, and a Jaylen Warren 13-yard run made it 17-17.
The Rams failed to respond as they went three-and-out, giving the Steelers a chance to build on their lead and they did just that after Najee Harris got in the end zone to make it 24-17. Los Angeles has one more drive for the day, but after stalling out Pittsburgh was able to run the clock out and take the win.
It did not come without controversy, however, as the Rams appeared to stop the Steelers on a fourth down sneak attempt that would have given them the ball back at the two-minute warning down seven around midfield. The referees gave the Steelers a very favorable spot, however, which was enough for the first down. The Rams were out of timeouts and couldn’t challenge the spot, so the game was over.
Henderson’s successful return was certainly a positive development, but Nacua continues to be the most exciting part of the offense as he builds one of the most prolific seasons for a rookie receiver ever.
Up next for the Rams…
The Rams hit the road for their next games, starting with the Dallas Cowboys in Week 8 on Sunday at 10 a.m. PT.