Rams face undefeated Bills on Sunday
September 24, 2020
Like clockwork, the Los Angeles Rams are off to another quick start to the NFL season head coach Sean McVay. After a well-earned 37-19 road win over the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2, the team has a chance to improve to 3-0 for the third consecutive season as they travel to face the undefeated Buffalo Bills this Sunday. Under McVay, the Rams have an 18-7 lifetime record away from home during the regular season.
Sometimes when you fly in late on Friday nights, you feel like you're just waiting around all day Saturday to do something," said McVay after Sunday's win. "With the limitations and protocols about not being able to leave the hotels, I thought it was a reflection of the leadership and the guys being able to handle it in the right way. We'll see if we can do the same thing next week against a tough Buffalo opponent."
The Bills are finally favored to win the AFC East this season after the division was dominated for the past two decades by the New England Patriots. Bills quarterback Josh Allen leads the league in yards passing after two division wins over the hapless New York Jets and Miami Dolphins. Rams quarterback Jared Goff outplayed both Dak Prescott of the Cowboys and Carson Wentz of the Eagles in the Rams two impressive wins to start the season.
The Rams defense figured prominently in both victories and that's likely the case when Goff face Allen in Buffalo. Allen has six touchdown passes, no interceptions and ranks third in NFL quarterback rating behind only Russell Wilson and Cam Newton. Goff is rated 10th among starters with three touchdown passes and one interception, but leads Allen in yards-per-attempt, 9.3 to 9.0.
"It all feeds off the run game," said Goff. "Both our tight ends, can catch really well. We're four-deep at receiver right now. I'm super pumped that all of our running backs can catch out of the backfield. We're dangerous right now when we're able to run the ball and it's fun."
Buffalo's defense is currently ranked fourth in both passing and rushing defense based on stats against mediocre offenses. The Rams offense is currently ranked second in rushing attempts and third in rushing yards. It's also ninth in total passing yards. That offensive balance will test the Bills' defensive backfield and line that has recorded sacks already. Goff has been sacked twice versus four on Allen. The Rams defense has been physical and opportunistic but their quarterback pressure needs improvement.
Goff was hitting on all cylinders initially at Philadelphia. He completed 13 consecutive passes leading off the game as the Rams scored a touchdown on the opening drive for the second consecutive game. Tight end Tyler Higbee caught two touchdowns as the Rams took a 21-3 lead early in the second quarter. Yet, a punt return fumble by Cooper Kupp at the 11-yard line gave the Eagles momentum, trailing only 21-16 at half.
"No one is harder on themselves than he is," said McVay on Kupp's fumble. "I think it's good for him and for everyone to learn from being smart with the football there. He came back and made a lot of big plays for us both in the run game and the passing game. His blocking and receiving today was unbelievable and something that probably won't get noticed as much, but it was really special."
The Eagles were about to take the lead in the third quarter when Darious Williams intercepted Wentz' pass intended for J.J. Arcega-Whiteside in the end zone. "That was really huge. They were starting to get that momentum back. They had the turnover early and we had the turnover, so the turnover game was null at that point and then we got one more there in the endzone," said McVay.
The Rams responded with a 16-play drive ending in rookie kicker Sam Sloman's 30-yard field goal for a 24-16 lead. After Eagles kicker Jake Elliott countered with a 33-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, Higbee caught a 28-yard touchdown pass for his third score, a career-high for touchdown receptions in a game. After a breakout year last season, Higbee is emerging as one of the elite tight ends in the league. He has eight receptions on nine targets for 94 yards and three touchdowns in two games this season.
On the following drive the Rams defense stopped the Eagles on fourth down at the Rams 36-yard line. They put the game out of reach behind running back Darrell Henderson as he finished up a 9-play, 67-yard drive with a 28-yard reception followed by a 2-yard punch up the middle for a touchdown. He rushed for 81 yards along with 40 yards receiving for the game.
Henderson will be the starting running back against the Bills as Cam Akers separated some rib cartilage after rushing for 13 yards on three carries during the opening drive. McVay indicated that Akers will be monitored during the week and may play in Buffalo. Running back Malcolm Brown also fractured his left hand against the Eagles.
McVay on the running back situation: "Those three guys kind of rotating and then Cam going down early, Darrell had to step up in a game where he probably wasn't expecting to get that many touches. Then Malcolm went down late, and again he (Henderson) was in there by himself the whole time. He did a great job."
Goff and his teammates shared a light moment during his pass completion stretch to open the game: "They were kind of like joking around with me like 'Hey, we don't want to talk to you,' like when a pitcher is throwing a perfect game... We were rolling on offense and again, I've said it before, any time we are able to run the ball like we were today it opens up everything that we want. Today was no different."