Here’s what we learned, what we heard and what comes next for the Rams after they avoided disaster with a 31-27 victory over the Atlanta Falcons to record their first win of the season and improve to 1-1 overall:
STAFFORD’S MIXED RESULTS
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford rebounded from a lackluster Week 1 performance by getting multiple playmakers involved early against the Falcons before feeding star receiver Cooper Kupp to build a 28-3 advantage in the second half.
But Stafford’s control of the offense was overshadowed by his two interceptions, giving him five after the three he had in the season-opening loss to the Buffalo Bills. Stafford has had seven multi-interception games since joining the Rams last season, the most in the NFL during that span.
“I know that’s what you guys will see, but I saw a guy that had total command, saw the field really well and it’s unfortunate that those two errors that we had ended up leading to turnovers,” Rams coach Sean McVay said.
Stafford took the blame for the first interception because he forced a ball in the end zone to tight end Tyler Higbee that was picked off by Falcons cornerback Casey Hayward with one minute left in the first half. Stafford started the game 12 of 12 for 120 yards before the turnover.
“It felt like I was just peppering in completions, getting the ball to our guys in space, letting them do their thing,” Stafford said. “It was a greedy play from me on the first pick, no question about it.”
Stafford had no regrets on the second turnover, a ball intended for Kupp that was intercepted by Falcons linebacker Mykal Walker, but the mistake led to an Atlanta touchdown in the third quarter to ignite the Falcons’ comeback.
“The second one, I’m cutting that loose every time,” Stafford said. “That guy made a really nice play in man coverage, uncovering from the stack. I’ll take a look at it, but that was kind of my first inclination of that play. I hate that that happened because I felt like I was in a great rhythm getting the ball to our guys, getting us in and out of the right plays. I felt like we were playing at a really high clip and it’s just frustrating to have those two plays.”
A MATURE MCVAY
McVay was pretty calm for a head coach who witnessed his team nearly blow a 25-point lead in the final four minutes of regulation.
“Unless they tell me that you get more points for being able to win by more points, I don’t really care if we found a way to be able to get it done,” McVay said. “That’s how I know I’m maturing because I would’ve been grumpy before on this thing. But holy hell, I need a couple drinks.”
Star cornerback Jalen Ramsey helped McVay find growth after his jump-ball interception in the end zone ended the Falcons’ fourth-quarter rally. If Ramsey didn’t save the day, perhaps McVay would have had a different tune because the near-collapse included a blocked punt returned for a touchdown and a rare fumble by Kupp with 3:22 left in the fourth quarter.
“Yeah, really it was just turnovers,” McVay said. “We really had to punt one time today and we saw how that worked out. So we gave them a lot of opportunities, but again, don’t take away the credit that they deserve for being able to make those plays. But we’ve got to be more poised and more resilient. That’s exactly what we’re going to do.
“We’re not going to run away from some of the things that we didn’t do well today. But we’re also not going to allow ourselves to do anything other than appreciate being able to come away with a win and what we know is such a competitive league.”
The Rams sustained another injury blow to the interior of the offensive line and they could also be thin at cornerback on Sunday in Arizona.
Right guard Tremayne Anchrum broke his ankle on the first offensive snap for the Rams and played a second snap, according to McVay, before being carted off the field to cut short his first career start.
Starting cornerback Troy Hill suffered a groin injury against the Falcons and McVay didn’t sound optimistic about his chances of playing against the Cardinals. To make matters worse, rookie cornerback Cobie Durant had a hamstring strain before his 51-yard interception return. If both cornerbacks can’t play, rookie Derion Kendrick, Robert Rochell and David Long will likely split snaps to assist Ramsey.
Anchrum was filling in for Coleman Shelton, who left his right guard post to replace center Brian Allen, who is sidelined with a knee injury. Shelton will likely see another start at center this week with Alaric Jackson expected to start at right guard. Jackson, who was drafted as a tackle last season, played 60 snaps at right guard against the Falcons.
The offensive line injuries first occurred in the preseason after rookie guard Logan Bruss tore his ACL and MCL and was lost for the season.
Sean McVay didn’t sound optimistic about CB Troy Hill (groin) playing Sunday vs. Cardinals. CB Cobie Durant’s status also in doubt because he sustained a hamstring injury #Rams
— Gilbert Manzano (@GManzano24) September 19, 2022
WHAT COMES NEXT
The Rams opened the season against mobile quarterbacks with Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Atlanta’s Marcus Mariota. Now they will face dynamic Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, who might be the toughest player to track outside the pocket, when the Rams travel to Arizona on Sunday for their first NFC West game and first road matchup of the season.
Murray delivered arguably the best play of Week 2 after he scrambled for 85 yards on a 2-point conversion that took 21 seconds to materialize. The Cardinals (1-1) erased a 20-0 deficit in the second half to defeat the Las Vegas Raiders last week.
“This is going to be a huge week of discipline for the defense,” Rams safety Nick Scott said Monday. “Guys owning their role and trusting the guys around them to do their part to try to limit those big plays based off of scrambles.”
Rams vs. Falcons postgame show https://t.co/C1bUUMaDyh
— Gilbert Manzano (@GManzano24) September 19, 2022
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