Los Angeles Rams 2020 Inaugural Victory at SoFi Stadium
September 17, 2020
Make no mistake about it. The premiere of SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday night was a grand success. The Los Angeles Rams 20-17 victory over the Dallas Cowboys was an important win for the franchise. The long-awaited debut was the kind of christening that could reverberate throughout the 2020 season as the Rams won their fourth consecutive opening game under head coach Sean McVay.
This was the moment the city had long anticipated since January 12, 2016, when the NFL approved the team's relocation from St. Louis to Los Angeles. Unfortunately due to COVID-19 virus protocol, the 70,240 empty seats and lack of crowd noise made SoFi Stadium a surreal experience. The silver lining lies somewhere in the future when owner Stan Kroenke and the Rams organization will be able to fittingly present their brilliant star to a sold-out audience.
"You appreciate the ebbs and flows and the big plays and the excitement from the crowd and how much energy they bring," said head coach Sean McVay. "But I think I'll remember the silence too... Eerie is a great way to be able to describe it. But what a cool thing to be able to get a win for Mr. Kroenke tonight in this beautiful venue that he built."
Defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who recorded a sack and created his usual havoc on the Dallas offensive front line: "Overall it was definitely different not having that crowd behind you, but still at the end of the day it was still football. To play here for the first time and come away with a win against a good team, it's good."
Quarterback Jared Goff had an alternative take: "I thought it was really cool that we could really, throughout the game, hear our sideline... I thought it was really cool being able to make big plays and here our guys kind of erupt and could hear like individual voices... It was a different type of fun without the fans, but it was still fun."
Appropriately, quarterback Jared Goff and the Rams offense set the tone with an opening drive touchdown against a Cowboy team projected to contend for the league title this season. The defense, led by Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey, completed the task by snuffing out all three Cowboy offensive drives in the fourth quarter for the win.
Running back Malcolm Brown made history, becoming the first player to score at SoFi with a one-yard touchdown three minutes and 23 seconds into the game. Brown also scored the eventual game-winning touchdown, a two-yard rush, late in the third quarter. "I really just got to show love to the big dogs up front," said Brown. "They make it easy on me. Just to get two tonight and have that first one at SoFi, it's exciting. I feel like it may live forever. It was cool."
The Rams offense reached the Red Zone on all four drives in the first half but trailed 14-13 at halftime. Rookie kicker Sam Sloman missed his very first field goal attempt as a Ram, a 29-yarder with five seconds remaining in the first quarter. He redeemed himself with two field goals in the second quarter. "I liked the way Sam responded after the early missed field goal," said McVay. "But ultimately it is about the team. I thought the defense picked up the slack in the second half to ultimately close it out and that was a big deal."
The critical defensive play of the game was pulled off by rookie safety Jordan Fuller, the Rams 6th-Round draft choice out of Ohio State. Trailing by three points minutes into the fourth quarter on 4th-and-three from L.A.'s 11-yard line, Cowboy head coach Mike McCarthy gambled for the lead instead of attempting the tying field goal. Fuller made an open-field tackle on rookie wide receiver CeeDee Lamb's short reception across the middle, denying a first down to the overall 17th selection in this year's draft.
"Unbelievable play," exclaimed McVay. "That flipped the whole momentum of the game... the defense came up big, but that play right there was the play of the game, arguably. I can't say enough about Jordan Fuller, his maturity as a rookie and what kind of play that was. Outstanding."
The Cowboys almost pulled one out of the fire on their last drive of the game. Quarterback Dak Prescott connected on a deep 47-yard pass to wide receiver Michael Gallup down the left sideline with 21 seconds left in the game. But Gallup was flagged for offensive pass interference when he fully extended his right arm to deny Jalen Ramsey who was covering him.
NFL referee Tony Corrente concluded: "I can tell you it was clear and obvious on the field, of a hand into the opposing player, a full arm extension that created separation. In all situations, that would be called. We're not going to allow that at any time of the game... There were two officials from two different angles that had a very good look at it, and they didn't hesitate whatsoever."
The Rams are now preparing for their first road game of the season against another NFC South opponent, the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles suffered a 27-17 loss to the Washington Football Team last Sunday after leading 17-0 in the first half. Quarterback Carson Wentz, drafted No. 2 overall in the 2016 NFL Draft behind Goff, threw two touchdowns but was undone by two interceptions in the second half.
Eagle head coach Doug Pederson spoke about both quarterbacks during Wednesday's media session: "I think every match up matters for both guys and maybe the first year or second year when both quarterbacks are young. But now that we're into year five, I think it's a matter of just playing football and helping your team win. Again, both guys have played each other now and it's just a matter of just execution and then playing to win."
Goff was asked about Wentz: "I think he's a hell of a player. He's done a great job and we've kind of had this friendly rivalry ever since we got into the league, just being in the same class, training together and always just want to be competitive. I'm sure he's thinking the same thing when he plays us. It's no different."
McVay: "It's just one game, though, so there's a lot of football to be played. But there's a lot of work that goes into this to be able to start off in the right direction, especially in the first game at SoFi. That was a big deal. And we know what a good football team Dallas is."
"I think we'll look back on this a long time from now and realize, the importance of it," said Goff. It was a special day to be here everything that's led up to it. Obviously, know the commitment that Mr. Kroenke has made. It was really cool to go out there and to get a win and, and really play well on all facets of the game."