Rams In Driver Seat For NFC West

Written by Jared Dubin at CBS Sports.com

The Seattle Seahawks played one of the strangest games of the 2017 season last Sunday.

Seattle racked up 437 yards of offense, averaging 5.8 yards per play. The Seahawks out-gained Washington by nearly 200 yards, gained six more first downs, and won the time of possession battle by over five minutes. They held Kirk Cousins without a touchdown pass, yielded only 2.35 yards per carry to Washington’s running backs, and recorded six sacks.

Of course, the Seahawks also converted just five of 14 third-down opportunities, committed two turnovers, missed three field goals, and took an unfathomable 16 penalties that cost them 138 yards. Though they got into scoring position six different times in all, the offense was largely impotent for much of the game, with Russell Wilson throwing too erratically to prop up a typically punchless rushing attack.

They allowed Cousins to march Washington right down the field with a four-play, 70-yard drive to snatch the lead away from them after coming back from a fourth-quarter deficit, then proceeded to mismanage the hell out of the clock on their attempt at a last-ditch game-tying drive. And so the Seahawks lost, 17-14.

But Seattle lost more than just the game. Coupled with the Rams’ dominant win over the Giants, this loss dealt a huge blow to the Seahawks’ chances of winning the NFC West. The Seahawks are now 5-3 while the Rams are 6-2, putting Los Angeles firmly in the driver’s seat when it comes to winning the division.

Here’s how SportsLine’s Stephen Oh has things shaking out based on his simulations. The Rams are projected to finish just about one win ahead of the Seahawks, and they have a 58.6 percent chance of winning the division. Seattle has just a 40.3 chance of taking the NFC West.

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Sammy Watkins Upset In LA

Written by Will Brinson at CBS Sports.com

There is a pretty decent history of Sammy Watkins not always being thrilled with his situation in the NFL. It’s hard to blame him, considering he spent most of his career with the Buffalo Bills in the height of their dysfunction, but the latest concern is with the Rams and it’s not great news.

Watkins, who blew up for a pair of touchdowns against the 49ers in Week 3 before leaving with a concussion, has been largely silent the past two weeks. Against the Cowboys and Seahawks, Watkins has a total of six targets for one reception and 17 receiving yards.

It’s hardly the sort of statistical output you’d expect from a No. 1 wideout and it’s led to Watkins getting “frustrated” with his role.

“As a player, of course you’re going to be frustrated,” Watkins said. “I don’t know a player, a wide receiver, that’s not frustrated throughout the game if you’re not getting the ball. Each week, it could change. They had certain coverage that kind of took me out of the game, and that’s part of the game.”

We saw a little more frustration from Watkins after the loss to Seattle in Week 5, with former Rams wideout Torry Holt pointing out the low numbers for Watkins on Twitter.

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Rams Can’t Over Come Seattle’s Defense, Lose 16-10

Written by Kevin Patra at NFL.com

The Seattle Seahawks (3-2) jumped back in the driver’s seat in the NFC West, escaping Los Angeles with a 16-10 win over the Rams (3-2). Here is what you need to know:

1. The Seattle defense grounded Sean McVay’s high-flying offense. The Rams entered Sunday averaging an NFL-high 35.5 points per game and 383.8 total yards. The Seahawks bottled up Todd Gurley and forced Jared Goff into low-percentage tosses, holding L.A. to 10 points. The Rams moved the ball at times, earning 375 yards and 21 first downs, but Seattle forced five turnovers, including two from Goff late in the fourth quarter. The Seahawks’ pass rush was held at bay until late in the game. Then pressure up the gut forced a fluttering interception by Earl Thomas. On the following drive, Frank Clark burned reliable left tackle Andrew Whitworth to strip Goff. Seattle’s secondary bottled up the throwing lanes and contested nearly every catch. The D-line set the edge and didn’t let Gurley get loose (14 carries for 43 yards), setting up a bevy of Rams third-and-longs. Sunday was the return of the dominant Seahawks defense we’d become used to

2. In a defensive tilt, Wade Phillips’ crew battered Russell Wilson. The Rams’ pass rush came in waves, with Robert Quinn, Aaron Donald, Alec Ogletree and Matt Longacre hounding the QB for six sacks and 11 hits. With the Seahawks’ run game bottled up, Wilson was forced to throw 37 times, but completed just 23 for 194 yards. The Rams’ secondary also forced two interceptions (one from Wilson and one from Tanner McEvoy on a trick play). L.A. blanketed Doug Baldwin and didn’t give Wilson his quick looks. With the Rams’ defensive line blowing through Seattle blockers, Wilson didn’t have time to stretch the field. Jimmy Graham was the lone bright spot on the Seahawks’ offense, earning six receptions for 37 yards on eight targets and a post-up touchdown catch.

3. The Rams will be kicking themselves on Monday. L.A. missed out on at least 13 points in a tight game. Gurley fumbled at the goal line on the first drive, leading to a turnover. Greg Zuerlein (who made seven field goals last week) missed a chip-shot field goal. Goff then threw an interception in field-goal range on a high toss to Gurley that was tipped and intercepted by Sheldon Richardson. The Rams earned just 10 points on five possessions that went inside the Seahawks’ 20 in the first three quarters.

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Rams Shock Cowboys, Win 35-30

Written by Todd Archer at ESPN.com

Starting fast was a key part of the Dallas Cowboys’ preparation going into Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams. Finishing was the problem in their 35-30 loss.

A defense that was playing without its leader, Sean Lee, got exposed as the game went on, giving up scoring drives on five straight possessions in the second half.

For the first time since Week 3 last season, the Cowboys’ offense scored on its first four possessions, giving Dallas a 24-16 halftime lead, but then the offense went stagnant. It ran 16 plays on its first four possessions of the second half and picked up just two first downs. The Rams turned that deficit into an eight-point lead.

The end result was a defense that was worn out. Todd Gurley became the second running back in three games to rush for more than 100 yards against Dallas. Jared Goff was sacked just once. And the Rams did to the Cowboys what the Cowboys want to do to their opponents: grind the clock to bits.

“The margin is so small in this league,” tight end Jason Witten said. “You have leads like that, you’ve got a chance to put them away and we couldn’t do it.”

A number of plays stand out:

  • Two Cowboys’ special-teams miscues led to 10 Los Angeles points. Ryan Switzer’s fumbled punt changed the tenor of the game in the second quarter, with the Rams answering with a touchdown that cut the Dallas lead to 17-13. A 66-yard kickoff return led to a Rams field goal earlier.
  • On the first play of the second half, DeMarcus Lawrence forced a strip sack of Goff, but Tyrone Crawford was unable to come up with the loose ball. The Cowboys never sniffed a turnover.
  • After the offense woke up with a 75-yard scoring drive, Travis Frederick was flagged for a holding penalty on what would have been Dak Prescott’s game-tying two-point conversion with 7:11 to play. After the Rams were called for holding, the Cowboys’ third chance to tie it up ended when Prescott’s pass to Terrance Williams was slightly deflected and fell to the ground.
  • After that drive, second-year cornerback Anthony Brown dropped a sure interception that allowed the Rams to kill four more minutes off the clock to set up Greg Zuerlein’s seventh field goal.

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The LA Rams And 49ers Were Actually Entertaining. What?

Written by Aiden Gonzalez at ESPN.com

Jared Goff never got a chance to play here last year. The Los Angeles Rams opened their 2016 season at Levi’s Stadium, and Goff, the No. 1 overall pick earlier that spring, was inactive, confined to street clothes with a plethora of family and friends watching from the stands. Goff was asked about that earlier this week and shook his head. He announced that he was “done” talking about last year.

“Last year was a whole different deal,” Goff said, “and this year is exciting.”

Is it ever.

Goff played the best game of his NFL career on Thursday, 11 days after playing the best game of his NFL career. He carved up the same San Francisco 49ers team he grew up rooting for, going 22-of-28 for 292 yards, three touchdowns and zero turnovers in a thrilling 41-39 win that went down as one of the most exciting Thursday night games ever. The Rams scored 40 points for the second time this season after managing only two 40-point games in their previous 10 seasons combined.

And they almost gave it up.

Their defense allowed a winless 49ers team that didn’t score a touchdown in its first two games to amass 421 yards. And their special teams fumbled three times — on a punt, on a kickoff and on an onside kick. It wasn’t until Aaron Donald wrapped up Brian Hoyer for his first sack of the season that the Rams cemented their second win in three games. But if defense and special teams are your biggest concern about this team at this point, it’s a very good sign.

The Rams’ offense — last in the NFL in yards each of the past two years and among the NFL’s worst for about a decade — continues to look very good.

“It feels good, man,” Rams running back Todd Gurley said with a big smile on his face. “It feels good. We haven’t been able to put up points like that since Marshall [Faulk] and them left.”

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The Truth About Jared Goff

Written by Andy Benoit at SI.com

Jared Goff trotted out onto the field with 1:44 left in regulation, down 27-20. One timeout, 72 yards to go. It was a scenario that makes a man’s reputation. Fail, and Goff’s (granted, outrageously premature) first-round bust label returns. Succeed, and the 22-year-old rockets to the top of pro football’s Hype Mountain (along with his 31-year-old head coach, Sean McVay).

Goff stood in shotgun and eyed wide receiver Cooper Kupp, who was motioning in, behind receiver Sammy Watkins. It’s a staple tactic of McVay’s—running two receivers off the same spot, forcing defenders to back up a few yards. It’s great against man coverage and can work against zone.

The ball was snapped and Goff eyed Kupp. Then he kept eyeing him. And kept eyeing him. And eyed him some more. When Kupp made his break, Goff threw. That’s when Washington linebacker Mason Foster stepped in for the easiest interception of his life. Foster, as a shallow zone defender, had been eyeing Goff himself. Game over. Rams lose.

With that, away goes the nascent Goff hype. And with it, the adoration of McVay, who, after the interception looked like his dog had just died. He’ll spend the next few days deflecting the inevitable criticism of his quarterback.

The truth: Goff is not as good as his 306 yards and 117.9 passer rating in Week 1 against the Colts suggests. Indy’s retooled defense was young in the back seven and bereft of edge rushers, so Goff was facing safe, predictable coverages and working from a clean pocket. His defense also scored three times, giving him a comfortable lead. He won’t have another scenario like this in 2017.

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Kirk Cousins Manages His Way To The Redskins First W

Written by Liz Clarke at Washington Post.com

With formidable opponents looming in Weeks 3 and 4, the Washington Redskins couldn’t afford to follow their season-opening defeat with a cross-country trip that ended with a loss at the Los Angeles Rams.

To avoid that fate, Coach Jay Gruden recast his offense’s identity, replacing a pass-happy attack that wasn’t close to good enough in the Week 1 loss with a heavy dose of running. And it worked, keeping the Rams’ fierce pass rushers at bay, for the most part, and gobbling up enough of the clock to muzzle the Rams’ offense through the first half.

As quarterback Kirk Cousins predicted, the contest at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum came down to the final possessions. And Cousins delivered the game-winner — an 11-yard strike to wide receiver Ryan Grant with 1:49 remaining — to clinch a 27-20 victory in a game in which the Redskins never trailed but came close to letting slip away after getting fooled on a fake punt that enabled the Rams to tie it midway through the fourth quarter.

The win allowed the Redskins (1-1) to steady themselves after a rocky season opener heading into back-to-back games against 2016 playoff teams, a Sunday night game against the Oakland Raiders and an Oct. 2 visit to Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium, a Monday night game. Both the Raiders and Chiefs are off to 2-0 starts.

The Redskins also handed Rams Coach Sean McVay, Washington’s former offensive coordinator and Gruden’s protege, the first defeat of his young NFL head coaching career.

“We’re a work in progress on offense, trying to find our identity, what we do well and what we want to feature,” said Cousins, who was 18 of 27 for 179 yards and one touchdown. “It’s always good to make plays in the passing game, but make no mistake: It’s nice to hand it off to Chris Thompson and watch him go 50, 60 yards for a touchdown.”

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Rams Dominate Colts, Drop A 40 Burger

Written by Alden Gonzalez at ESPN.com

The defense, without quite possibly the NFL’s best defensive player, returned two interceptions for touchdowns and didn’t allow a single first down. The offense, the NFL’s worst each of the past two seasons, flowed in near-perfect harmony, exceeding 30 points before the midway point of the third quarter and finishing with nearly 50.

A new day, indeed, for the Los Angeles Rams.

Playing at home, against an undermanned Indianapolis Colts team, the Rams were dominant, impressive, fun — and, through that, unrecognizable. They won 46-9 on Sunday, and in the process, they scored more points than they did at any point in 2015 or 2016. A defense led by Wade Phillips, one of the most successful coordinators in NFL history, held a Scott Tolzien-led Colts offense to 225 net yards. An offense led by Sean McVay, the youngest head coach in modern NFL history, gained 373 yards, 14 shy of last year’s season high.

It went down as the most points the Rams had scored in a season opener in the Super Bowl era.

McVay merely called it “a step in the right direction,” but it felt more like the beginning of something bigger.

Jared Goff was calm and collected, operating behind a clean pocket and going 21-of-29 for 306 yards and a touchdown on a turnover-free day to capture his first NFL win. Todd Gurley ran hard inside and made some nice moves in space, gaining 96 yards from scrimmage and breaking several tackles for a touchdown despite some struggles in run blocking. The receivers were constantly open, with Cooper Kupp (four catches for 76 yards and a touchdown), Sammy Watkins (five catches for 58 yards) and Robert Woods (three catches for 53 yards) leading the way.

“With the additions that we’ve made and everything we’ve done in the offseason, that’s how it’s set up,” Goff said. “There should be playmakers on the outside, and there was today.”

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Sean McVay Looks Comfortable As Head Coach

Written by Jason La Confora at CBS Sports.com

Sean McVay has just finished a long and feisty joint practice with the Chargers in his first NFL training camp as the youngest head coach in NFL history, and his team is quietly working on a blockbuster trade for receiver Sammy Watkins during a fairly frenetic time, when he notices a kindred spirit nearby.

McVay, 31, just wrapped up his daily session with Southern California media and moments later he is engaged in an animated conversation with Bob Bradley, one of the most accomplished in managers in American soccer history who led the U.S. Men’s National Team to the 2010 World Cup and who just took over MLS expansion team LAFC.

McVay, never one to miss out on an opportunity to chat up another coach and glean whatever he can even from a brief and chance meeting, is always in pursuit of knowledge. He didn’t rise through the NFL assistant ranks to become Los Angeles Rams head coach this quickly by not listening closely, by not trying to absorb as much as he could from those successful men he’s worked under, by not taking advantage of opportunities that arose.

McVay has pedigree for greatness

While he hasn’t yet coached an NFL game, McVay has drawn quite a buzz already around the league. He’s something of a phenomenon, a force of coaching nature, who has an innate feel for people and an advance eye for offense. As execs from rival clubs have been around him a bit now, dating back to the spring owner’s meetings, he is making a strong impression — “I kinda wish he wasn’t in our division,” one exec recently told me, adding, “That guy is a gonna be a stud” — and he’s already won over the Rams’ key veterans. McVay can blend the old school philosophies of men like his grandfather, former top NFL exec John McVay, with theories at the vanguard of the modern passing game.

While the Rams are still ways away from contention, McVay might be the man to finally get them back there.

“What this opportunity provides is a great platform to be able to learn, and that’s the biggest thing,” McVay told me. “What I’ve been flattered and blessed and humbled about is that these other leaders that you can connect with are so willing to share. Even going back to some of the other coaches that you talk to at the owner’s meeting in the NFL, and being able to reach out to others. And meeting (NBA coach) Doc Rivers and some different guys like that who have had that platform and done it the right way for a long time. It’s still pretty unique.”

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Rams Send Greg Robinson To Detroit For 6th Round Pick

Written by Kevin Patra at NFL.com

The Los Angeles Rams finally gave up on former No. 2 overall pick Greg Robinson.

The Rams traded the offensive tackle to the Detroit Lions for a 2018 sixth-round pick, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.

ESPN first reported the trade. The teams later confirmed the news.

The Lions have a need at offensive tackle after starter Taylor Decker underwent shoulder surgery. Decker is expected to be out four to six months, Rapoport previously reported, which could wipe out most of the 2017 season.

Robinson exits L.A. as a big-time bust. He has been one of the worst left tackles in the NFL since entering the league in 2014. His struggles last season were a major reason the Rams offense was one of the least productive in the league, and why Jared Goff and Todd Gurley were continuously engulfed. Robinson was buried on the depth chartby new coach Sean McVay, behind Jamon Brown, during offseason workouts.

The Lions hope that a change of scenery and scheme will unlock the natural talent Robinson displayed coming out of Auburn that made scouts drool. The price is right for Lions general manager Bob Quinn, who gives up a measly late-round pick for a chance to get a player that could be a stopgap at left tackle. If Robinson continues to struggle, he could still be cut before the regular season begins.

Detroit didn’t stop at a trade in an attempt to add to their Decker Replacement Plan. The team also announced it signed former Buffalo Bills offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio. He, like Robinson, was a high-round pick (2nd) who hasn’t lived up to his draft status.

Both Robinson and Kouandjio will battle Joe Dahl for the starting gig to replace Decker for at least the start of the season. However, Kouandjio isn’t ready to practice just yet, per Lions coach Jim Caldwell, as he continues to deal with a hip injury.

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