Another Win Gives Rams A 4-2 Record
Los Angeles 27 - Jacksonville 17
October 12, 2017
The Los Angeles Rams took another solid step forward under Head Coach Sean McVay. For the first time since the 2006 NFL season the 4-2 Rams have a winning record six games into the season after beating Jacksonville, 27-17. It was a game where the Ram special teams delivered from the opening kickoff until the final score.
Pharoh Cooper returned the opening kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown as the Rams immediately and very temporarily stunned the Jaguars. Very temporarily as in 11 seconds later when Jacksonville rookie running back sensation Leonard Fournette raced down the right sideline and into the opposite end zone for a 75-yard touchdown on the game's first play from scrimmage.
"Real credit to the special teams coming away with two touchdowns I thought was the difference in that game," said McVay postgame. "Other than early on when Fournette busted the long ball, defensively, did a great job against an excellent offensive opponent."
"It's huge. It ended up winning the game for us today. Can't say enough about those guys. Great job by Pharoh Cooper to start off the game. And then we get the blocked punt. Malcolm Brown's able to finish it."
The blocked punt came with 2:25 remaining in the first half that gave the Rams a 24-14 lead and control of the game. Special teams player Chris Middleton blocked Jaquar punter Brad Nortman's kick at the 8-yard line while Malcolm Brown grabbed the ball and was swept into the end zone with a pile of swarming teammates.
McVay: "I think you always look for those opportunities. I think they do a great job on special teams. But credit to Bones (John Fassel, Rams special teams coordinator) and Ty (Tyrone McKenzie, assistant special teams coach) for being able to draw that up and the players making that play. It ended up being a huge turning point in the game."
Responding, quarterback Blake Bortles drove the Jags down to the L.A. 36-yard line only to have kicker Jason Myers miss a 54-yard field goal attempt to end the first half. Kicker Greg Zuerlein converted a 56-yard field goal for the Rams earlier in the first quarter. Quarterback Jared Goff threw a 4-yard shuffle pass to tight end Gerald Everett who made a sharp cut and dive across the goal line for a 17-14 lead.
Both team defenses increased their domination as the Rams stopped another Jacksonville drive starting off the second half. Next, Goff hit Robert Woods with a 20-yard pass only to get hit and fumble for the Rams only turnover of the game. However, the defense under defensive coordinator Wade Phillips continued to smother the Jaguars, holding them to a single field goal for the last 51:51 minutes of the game.
"When you look at well coached teams led by Wade Phillips, those teams that get better as the season progresses are the ones that end up playing better," said McVay. "...I think you look at what Aaron Donald getting back into his rhythm has provided for our defense."
"You see why he's one of the best in the world at what he does and I thought he's made a huge impact. Nickell Robey(-Coleman) continues to make big plays. And it seemed throughout the day guys put in a lot of pressure on Bortles in some of those known passing situations."
The Rams' last drive of the game sealed the win, 12 plays that consumed over five minutes and ending with Zuerlein's second field goal, a 29-yard conversion. Zuerlein continues to lead the league in scoring with 69 points. He has converted 18 extra points and 17 field goals in 18 attempts.
Currently 21 of the top 24 NFL scorers are kickers. Coincidentally, Gurley and Fournette are tied for the scoring lead among non-kickers with Los Angeles Charger running back Melvin Gordon. Each has scored seven touchdowns for 42 total points. Gurley had another excellent outing, rushing for 116 yards on 23 carries. He ranks fourth in league overall rushing yardage with 521 yards in six games.
"I thought Todd Gurley really ran hard today. Guys were coming off competing. You see why that is one of the top defenses in the league. But we've got to do a better job of capitalizing on some opportunities we had in the past game..." said McVay.
"Greg comes through to put us up ten at the end, great job by those guys making that play. To come away with two special teams touchdowns ended up being the difference in winning that football game today. So hats off to that unit and Bones. Very fortunate to have that group there."
The NFL West Division first place Rams take their longest trip of the season, a "home game" in London, England this Sunday when they host division rival Arizona Cardinals at Twickenham Stadium. Last season, the Rams' "London home game drew" an impressive 74,121 in a tough 17-10 loss to the New York Giants.
The 3-3 Cardinals are coming off a big 38-33 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Sunday. Newly acquired and rejuvenated running back Adrian Peterson enjoyed his finest game of the season rushing for 134 yards on 26 carries. The running attack allowed quarterback Carson Palmer to complete 18/22 passes for 283 yards and three touchdowns against the Bucs.
McVay focused on the matchup: "And now it's going to be a great challenge for us to make sure we enjoy this one and then we come back tomorrow approaching this like a business trip. Getting ready for a well-led Arizona Cardinals team with Coach (Bruce) Arians at the helm."