THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP)Even Sean McVay had to recognize that the Los Angeles Rams didn’t really look like a McVay-coached team during their 17-7 victory over the Chicago Bears.
It was the first time in his three seasons in charge that the Rams won a game without scoring at least 20 points, and McVay traded in his usual wide-open approach for 31 designed runs on 50 plays.
“It was a little bit different than typically what we are accustomed to seeing, but a win is a win. We will take that,” McVay said Sunday night.
The Rams (6-4) ran for 110 yards, with Todd Gurley tying his season-high with 97 yards rushing. But it looked nothing like how McVay had established his ground game in previous seasons.
Missing two of their starting wide receivers in Robert Woods (personal reasons) and Brandin Cooks (concussion), the Rams moved away from the three-receiver sets that have been their base personnel. Instead, they frequently put two or three tight ends on the field, even lining them up as fullbacks for certain plays.
McVay said Monday he wanted to employ those groupings to run the ball, but the tight ends’ role increased after he found out before the game that Woods would not be available.
“I love the way that yesterday provided a lot of opportunities for guys that didn’t expect to be in some of the positions they were in last night to show that the game’s not too big for ’em,” McVay said.
It worked, helping keep at bay a Bears pass rush that sacked Jared Goff three times and forced him into throwing four interceptions in a 15-6 loss in Chicago last season.
Goff attempted a season-low 18 passes, and he had no concerns about taking a back seat to Gurley.
“I think we kind of knew what type of game it was going to be,” Goff said. “Todd, the way he was moving the ball and the way he was moving, it worked.”
The Rams’ defense found ways to get off the field, limiting the Bears to 35% on third down (6 of 17) and 0 of 2 on fourth down. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey had a superb pass breakup on fourth down following a lost fumble by Gurley, linebacker Samson Ebukam blew up an option pitch on third down for a loss of 3 yards, and defensive tackle Aaron Donald was his usual self with key pressures to disrupt the Bears’ timing.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Ebukam and inside linebacker Cory Littleton weren’t sharp in pass coverage at times. They will have to be much better next week against Baltimore, which puts all sorts of pressure on the defense with mobile quarterback Lamar Jackson and a versatile rushing offense that creates chances for big plays off play-action. If Ebukam and Littleton aren’t on their game, Ravens tight end Mark Andrews can get behind them to add to his 48 receptions for 598 yards with six touchdowns this season.
Wide receiver Cooper Kupp had a 50-yard reception to set up the Rams’ first touchdown, and he was just as impactful in getting the run game going with several hard-nosed blocks early to spring Gurley. Kupp is seventh in the league with 845 yards receiving, but his ability to impact the game without the ball is just as valuable to the Rams.
It was another erratic outing for Goff, who was not helped by a makeshift receiving corps. Goff was 11 of 18 passing for 173 yards and an interception. He could have thrown a second pick after failing to see Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller in coverage, but Fuller could not made the sideline grab.
Cooks could return this week after missing the past two games. … Defensive end Michael Brockers hurt his elbow in the fourth quarter but was able to return. McVay said the injury was not serious.
25: Gurley had a season-high 25 carries against the Bears. It was the third time in the past 20 games, including the playoffs, that Gurley had 20 or more carries. He had reached that total in 10 of his first 22 games with McVay in charge.
“I guess I felt like the old Todd, but it was cool,” Gurley said.
The Rams will almost certainly have to rediscover their high-flying offense to hang in against Baltimore next Monday. The Ravens are averaging a league-leading 34.1 points per game and have scored 90 points combined in their past two, including a 41-7 shellacking of Houston on Sunday.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL