Stafford already boosting Rams over adversity, late deficits

NFL Destination Football

LOS ANGELES (AP)Two games into his new career with the Los Angeles Rams, Matthew Stafford has added another fourth-quarter comeback to his impressive list.

And the Rams are already showing a knack for overcoming adversity with Stafford leading the way.

Stafford rallied the Rams from a momentary deficit early in the fourth and eventually led Los Angeles to a 27-24 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

The veteran quarterback didn’t do it alone, of course. His offensive line and receivers all came through, and the defense held Indy to 83 yards on 14 snaps in the fourth quarter, highlighted by Jalen Ramsey’s all-but-clinching interception with 2:13 to play.

After a messy, choppy and ultimately satisfying win in their road opener, the Rams are off to a 2-0 start for the fourth consecutive season. The drama in Indy aside, they appear to have a much-improved offense and another solid version of the defense that topped the NFL last year.

”We were on the road, in a hostile environment, and we found ways to win,” said receiver Robert Woods, who had five catches for 64 yards on Sunday.

Stafford and his offense needed only four plays to reverse the Rams’ first deficit of the season in that fourth quarter, going 70 yards for a TD with impressive precision. Los Angeles then drove for the winning field goal after Indianapolis tied the game.

Tom Brady and defending champion Tampa Bay are visiting SoFi Stadium this weekend, but the Rams seem confident they’ve installed a foundation that will hold up throughout the final 15 games of the regular season.

”Obviously, they’ve been playing incredible football for their first two games this year,” Rams coach Sean McVay said Monday about the Bucs. ”They finished on an amazing streak. But really, we’re going to be worried about doing a great job with our process.”

WHAT’S WORKING

A long season looms ahead, but it’s undeniable that McVay’s move for Stafford has revitalized his offense so far. The Rams are gaining 6.88 yards per play after managing just 5.5 and 5.7 in the past two seasons. A team that didn’t crack the NFL’s top 10 in scoring in 2019 or 2020 has 61 points in two games, and Stafford is third in the NFL with 10.7 yards per passing attempt.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Special teams are on the verge of being a problem. Los Angeles gave up a big kickoff return in each of its first two games, and a miscommunication between punt protector Nick Scott and new long snapper Matt Orzech resulted in a touchdown for the Colts when Orzech’s snap hit Scott and was recovered by Indianapolis in the end zone.

STOCK UP

Cooper Kupp is off to a monster start after he had nine catches for 163 yards and two touchdowns against the Colts. The fifth-year pro has been a staple of McVay’s offense whenever he’s healthy, and Stafford clearly has a connection with Kupp, who entered Monday night tied for the NFL lead with 16 catches, tied for second with three TDs and ranked third with 271 yards.

STOCK DOWN

Starting linebacker Kenny Young lost his cool and got ejected for making contact with an official in Indy. No matter the provocation for his behavior, Young hurt the Rams’ rhythm and forced them to play rookie Ernest Jones more than McVay likely wanted. Young has a starting job in the fourth season of his stop-and-start NFL career, and he needs a big year as he heads toward free agency.

INJURIES

Running back Darrell Henderson made it to the second half of Week 2 before he was sidelined with a rib injury, the latest in the series of setbacks that have dogged his career. McVay hopes Henderson will be able to play this weekend, but the coach said Sony Michel and rookie Jake Funk likely will play more for the Rams regardless: ”We’ve got to take the approach that those guys have to get ready to carry the load. And if Darrell can go, then that’s a positive for us.”

KEY NUMBER

3 – The number of snaps for veteran receiver DeSean Jackson in Indy. Kupp and Woods were targeted on 20 of Stafford’s 23 throws to wideouts. McVay said Jackson isn’t injured and did nothing wrong: ”I’ve got to figure out a better way of getting him involved in the rotation.”

NEXT STEPS

A visit from the defending Super Bowl champs will make for the first truly huge Sunday afternoon with fans at SoFi. It’s also an excellent measuring stick and an instructive dose of big-game pressure for the Rams’ new core.

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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