At the end of the day, head coach Jeff Fisher and the Los Angeles Rams understood that their Week 9 matchup against the Carolina Panthers would very well determine their fate for the 2016 season. The Panthers were coming off of an impressive victory against a NFC West rival and headed to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Both defenses put on a spectacle on Sunday, keeping the scoring at a minimum. Coming off of a bye week, Fisher had two weeks to prepare for the Panthers and promptly prepared a strong defensive plan. However, the offense was unable to produce any touchdowns on the board until it was a little too late.
After kicker Greg Zuerlein missed an attempt at a season-long field goal, the Panthers starting off the scoring for the night in the red zone. On third and five at the nine-yard line, quarterback Cam Newton delivered an absolute bullet on a slant route for a touchdown to tight end Greg Olsen.
The Panthers took a 7-0 lead and both defenses would then go on to put together dominant defensive outings. Both teams would not score any points during the second and third quarter.
The Rams put together strong drives down the field, as quarterback Case Keenum was able to find his targets across the field. However, they were unable to turn the drives into any points, as the front seven of the Panthers put together impressive stops. On a third and one in the second quarter, Keenum handed off to Todd Gurley, who is attempting to escape his struggles his sophomore season.
Alas, Gurley was stuffed by Luke Kuechly and was promptly gang tackled by the Panthers. The first half would end with disappointment in the legs. Panthers’ kicker Graham Gano missed a lengthy field with less than two minutes, while Zuerlein also missed another long field goal at the end of the first half, keeping the game within a one-score lead.
The Rams defense was able to put constant pressure on Newton, capped off by an impressive sack by Aaron Donald. Donald bull-rushed the center and proceeded to get a hand on Newton on a third and nine to open the second half.
The Panthers defense would be aided by the play of Thomas Davis Sr., their captain and vocal leader. The linebacker who is playing after three ACL tears is a dominant force along the line. Davis, who played in the previous Super Bowl with a broken hand, picked off Keenum at the end of the third quarter when the Rams were driving into Panthers territory.
Credit should be given to the front seven of the Rams, as they kept running back Jonathan Stewart at a minimum. Stewart’s first breakthrough of the day come in the fourth quarter, as he broke free for almost 20 yards on a second and one.
With the Panthers in the red zone just over three minutes into the fourth quarter, Fisher and the Rams could not allow a touchdown. On third and two, the Rams got successful pressure up the line, which caused Newton to hesitate on a throw. Donald then jumped in the air and landed on Newton for his second sack of the game, limiting the Panthers to another field goal.
The Rams responded with a killer drive down the field, marching into the red zone. With less than nine minutes in fourth, Keenum delivered a beautiful dime to tight end Lance Kendricks. However, he dropped the beautiful pass, which would have resulted in a touchdown. Alas, the Rams had to settle for a 25-year Zuerlein field goal, cutting the lead to 10-3.
With the game within one score, the Panthers then took a their time with a slow drive down the field, which resulted in a 37-yard Gano field goal.
The Rams needed two scores within three minutes, with the game on the line. On a key fourth down, Keenum completed a pass to running back Benny Cunningham for a first down. After multiple completions down the field, Keenum completed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Britt.
With the Rams trailing by three points and just under 40 seconds left in the game, Fisher and the special teams attempted a clever onside kick, attempting to hit a Panther along the line for a deflection. However, it bounced up the field and the Panthers kneeled to finish the game.
For the contest, Keenum completed 27 of his 46 passes for 296 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Gurley had 12 rushes the entire game and only amounted 48 yards.
Donald had a monster defensive game, collecting two sacks. Defensive end Eugene Sims and linebacker Mark Barron also collected a sack during the game.
Heading into Week 10, the Rams travel to MetLife Stadium for a matchup on the road against the New York Jets.