After a rusty performance on the road, the Los Angeles Rams came away victorious with a 30-27 win over the Carolina Panthers. Neither side of the ball really looked comfortable at any point in the game, though the Rams’ talent got the job done at the end of the day. Let’s take a look at four things we learned about the Rams after their week one performance.
1) Cory Littleton is a problem
Littleton lead the entire Rams team with 125 tackles in 2018, and is once again off to another strong start. Starting in only his 22nd NFL game, Littleton played like a man possessed registering 14 tackles, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, and one interception which was nearly returned to the house. Not only that, but Littleton was tasked with covering Panthers’ running back Christian McCaffrey on multiple occasions, generally doing a great job on one of the best receiving backs in football.
2) Rust was an issue
Head Coach Sean McVay is at the forefront of overpassing the preseason in hopes of remaining healthy. The Rams deployed the same strategy in 2018, and both years started in the same fashion as the Rams were incredibly rusty in both the 2018 and 2019 week one kickoffs. The team was flagged for five penalties, quarterback Jared Goff threw an interception, nearly threw another, fumbled a ball, and missed a handful of wide open receivers, running back Todd Gurley fumbled the ball twice with the Rams recovering both, and the defense had plenty of reps where they vacated their gaps allowing for big plays from the Panthers. The Rams were quick to shake the rust in 2018, we’ll see if they’re able to do the same next week with the New Orleans Saints coming to town.
3) The running back split can be productive
Arguably the most talked about topic all offseason was the health of running back Todd Gurley, and the timeshare with Malcolm Brown won’t help that narrative. The Rams are clearly going to deploy a duo (maybe trio) at the running back spot in hopes of preserving Gurley’s health and effectiveness late in the season. Gurley had 14 rushing attempts for 97 yards and Brown had 11 rushing attempts for 53 yards and two touchdowns. Look for the duo to continue to split work moving forward, especially if Brown can continue to be this productive coming off the bench.
4) The three-headed trio at receiver is back
The return of wide receiver Cooper Kupp was a major talking-point since he tore his ACL in 2018, and so far, so good. Kupp looked like he was completely healthy on Sunday, sitting between zones and plucking balls out of the air with ease like usual. Brandin Cooks was the forgotten man in this contest, though Kupp and Robert Woods were consistently creating separation and pulling in passes. The trio combined for 29 targets, registering 17 receptions for 155 yards. The comfort of Jared Goff was never really evident on Sunday, though there were a handful of plays left on the field when Goff passed up open receivers (Kupp usually) in hopes of completing another pass.
The Rams ultimately looked rusty, though that should have been expected as the starting units hadn’t played any live reps together. Offensively, cohesion was an issue, yet the Rams still managed to score 30 points, showing just how talented the offense really is. Defensively, the Rams once again looked like a bend-but-don’t-break unit, allowing a good amount of yardage and big plays, though they capitalized on big plays and takeaways.
The Rams move onto week two for their home opener against the New Orleans Saints.