Running It Back: Rams Win Season Opener

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By Ron Johnson

During yesterday’s Sunday Funday with Rockin’ Reese, it was brought up that if the Rams did what the Chiefs did on Thursday (i.e. Get exposed for their reliance on one player), they would lose their opener to the Seahawks. Last year, the Rams were beaten, victimized and conquered by the Buffalo Bills in their banner-raising game to commemorate winning the Super Bowl the year before. Now that the stigma of the Super Bowl drop season had finally moved on, were these Rams ready to handle the angst of playing in The 12th Man???

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Rams Week 1

If you watched the game yesterday, mainly the second half, you could say they were indeed ready.

After a highly contested first half, where the score was 13-7 Seattle, the Rams proceed to find their footing as well as their aerial assault. In the absence of Cooper Kupp, the Rams went to their bag of tricks and pull out four alternatives to the loss in the form of Tyler Higbee, Van Jefferson, Tutu Atwell and rookie Puka Nacua.

In a game where the crowd was loud and crazy like always, they began to get oddly quiet when it just felt like Matthew Stafford could do no wrong. Stafford finished the game completing 24 of 38 passes for 334 yards, while rookie Kyren Williams picked up the slack left by a lackluster Cam Akers with 15 carries for 52 yards and the first two touchdowns of RB2’s career.

While Akers did contribute a touchdown for the Rams, his performance had many considering his starting role is in jeopardy. The way I see it is this: If Akers wants to spend gameday jogging around and is questioning the strength of that Achilles, he might want to take up marathon running instead. 

Now again, this is only the first game of the season, and we cannot base the performance of the season on just the first game. But I would not tell the Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins or even the Dallas Cowboys this sentiment as all four of these teams were playing like it was the Super Bowl. Both Atwell and Nacua also had a career day as they acquired 119 yards…EACH…against arguably one of the best defenses in the league.

And when I say everyone stepped up to the plate for the Rams yesterday, everyone stepped up to the plate. Higbee (3 for 49 yards), Jefferson, (4 for 24) and Brycen Hopkins (1 for 21) did their best to give Kupp, who was on the sideline cheering his teammates on, a relaxing feeling.

But this wasn’t just about the offensive performance. The defense stepped up heavily in the second half as they kept the Seahawks from being able to move the ball downfield. Ernest Jones found ways to disrupt the running of Kenneth Walker II enough for the young back to finish with only 64 yards on 12 carries. Following DK Metcalf’s touchdown in the first half, he was nonexistent as he finished with three catches for 47 yards and that touchdown, which turned out to be the lone touchdown pass by either team all game. 

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But back to the defenses for both teams. Returning big man Bobby Wagner led the way for the Hawks with 10 total tackles, nine of them being solo. However, what was missing from the Hawks was their bread and butter recently: Sacks and turnovers. While neither team recorded a single turnover (been a hot minute since we’ve been able to say that about either of them), the Rams brought the sacks. Byron Young had himself a holiday in the second half as he brought the party to life for one of the two sacks for the Rams. But who delivered the second? Why a familiar face of course:

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Three hours and two minutes later, the sellout crowd of almost 69,000 looked more like a USFL game than the 12th Man. Not even former Seahawk Ricky Watters could save this team from beatdown they got, let alone the chorus of boos they were receiving with their performance. 

In the second half alone, the Rams outperformed the Seahawks in yardage (257-12), but it was overall the Rams looked more dominant than usual in total yards (426-180), third down conversions (11 of 17 with five coming on the first touchdown drive versus Seattle’s two of nine) and T.O.P. (almost 40 minutes). 

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Now the 30-13 score may not have been the worst loss the Seahawks suffered at home to the Rams (they lost 42-7 back in 2017), but this was one of the most eye-opening ones. Bear in mind that the Rams were playing with the return of a few key veterans from injury (Stafford and Donald) and plus without Cooper Kupp. So for the Rams this was a statement game because they were not supposed to play this good on the road this early.

 But in a game where it was expected for the Rams to lose their focus due to the crowd, it was actually the Seahawks who started turning their own crowd against them late. Late in the fourth quarter, Metcalf took his frustrations out in the wrong way by taking it upon himself to deliver a borderline illegal block in the back to Derion Kendrick followed by a taunting penalty to the defense that possibly killed what little momentum

Seattle had left. Not to be outdone though, safety Quandre Diggs decided to do a little unnecessary roughness to move the Rams closer to the end zone and kill ALL the momentum of the Seahawks and let the Boo Birds fly high in Seattle.

While Pete Carroll is still optimistic and downplaying the team’s performance in the first game of the season, they have to understand three things right here and now: 1) it was against the Rams, 2) it was against a division rival and 3) they got the Detroit Lions up next. 

To say the least, the Seahawks should be a little concerned that Geno looked to be regressing in this game, Walker looked flat footed at times in the second half, and the infamous one-two punch of Metcalf and Tyler Lockett was not even a factor (Lockett finished with two catches for 10 yards). 

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The one factor for both teams that was of extreme questioning was the kicking game. Jason Myers, who has missed some serious kicks late in his career, and Brett Maher, the kicker who has missed PAT after PAT after PAT last season, were both in the hotseat heading into the game. For his credit, Myers did make two of his three field goals with his longest being 42 yards, while the most suspect kicker entering the season had a field day: one blocked, one missed and three made. Maher’s confidence may be back after he nailed a 54-yarder, but we shall see how this plays out next week.

Week Two sends the Rams home to host the red-hot Niners and Brock Purdy, while the Seahawks begin their road journey in the Motor City and a date with a team that just came off one of its biggest wins of the year on Thursday (and even has a receipt to cash in on the Seahawks themselves), the Detroit Lions. 

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