The Los Angeles Rams picked up steam and looked dangerous after a slow start on Monday night, while Sam Darnold showed resilience for the New York Jets.
The Los Angeles Rams may not hit their stride for some time, but their talent and coaching should carry them in the interim, as it did on Monday night.
In their first showing since their offseason makeover, the Rams started slow before eventually blowing the doors off the Oakland Raiders in a 33-13 win.
Los Angeles looked far from convincing on the first drive of the game as the new-look defence allowed Oakland to march down the field and punch the ball into the end zone. From there though, the Rams started to find their rhythm.
After the Raiders held the ball for 21 minutes, 31 seconds in the first half, Los Angeles limited them to just 10:00 after the intermission.
Oakland’s second-half drives resulted in three straight punts, an interception and a pick-six before they ran out the clock.
Derek Carr, who completed 20-of-24 passes for 199 yards in the first half, connected on 9-of-15 throws for 104 yards in the third and fourth quarters to finish with a passer rating of 62.8.
Only nine of his throws were directed at wide receivers as Rams cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib kept Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson in check, with the Oakland duo combining for four catches and 32 yards.
Peters also had a 50-yard interception return for a touchdown to ice the game, while strong safety John Johnson, the least heralded member of the secondary, picked off Carr in the end zone.
The Rams’ pass rush got to Carr for just one sack – by Michael Brockers – but the combination of Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh often collapsed the pocket and forced Carr to get rid of the ball sooner than he wanted.
As the defence was finding its footing in its first full game together, Los Angeles’ offence picked up where it left off last season.
Todd Gurley did his usual damage as both a runner and receiver, totaling 147 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown, but Sean McVay’s unit also showed some creativity.
Receivers Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods each carried the ball at least once as the Rams used plenty of jet sweeps to catch the Raiders off-guard.
They also dialled up several deep shots, with Jared Goff coming close to connecting with Cooks and Woods.
As long as the Rams attacks stays fresh, they should put up points and in turn, afford the other side of the ball time to gel.
Los Angeles will also face stiffer tests going forward, as Oakland often shot themselves in the foot between Carr’s poor play and the 11 penalties they committed for 155 yards.
The Rams’ true ceiling is still a ways off from being discovered, but Monday was a promising first step to finding out.
Jets soar with Darnold
As much as the New York Jets’ defence stole the show in the 48-17 dismantling of the Detroit Lions on Monday, Sam Darnold’s resilient performance was incredibly encouraging.
The rookie quarterback couldn’t have had a worse start to his NFL career as his very first play was a pick-six, but he bounced back like a veteran and showed exactly why the franchise selected him third overall in the draft and handed him the keys to the offence.
After his first, wayward throw, Darnold went 16-of-20 for 198 yards and two touchdowns.
His poise was particularly on display on third downs, on which he was a perfect 4-for-4, including a 41-yard hook-up with Robby Anderson for a score at the end of the first half.
Thanks to the Jets’ defence and special teams, which forced five turnovers and produced three touchdowns, Darnold wasn’t required to do much in the second half.
But he showed more than enough up to that point for the Jets to not only feel excited about what he can become, but what he possibly could be this season.