LOS ANGELES (AP) — Although the Los Angeles Rams' schedule is much tougher in the second half of the season, they started down the backstretch with a victory that provides a map to Super Bowl contention.
The Rams (6-3) grabbed a share of the NFC West lead Sunday with a 23-16 win over Seattle that wasn't really as close as the score. Los Angeles handled the division leaders comfortably with another suffocating defensive performance bolstered by a balanced offensive effort.
Those might sound like simple ingredients, but the Rams have struggled for balance on offense all season long. Red-zone woes largely attributable to coach Sean McVay's play-calling and Jared Goff's inconsistency have hindered Los Angeles' production, but the Rams found a groove against the Seahawks and their NFL-worst pass defense for 283 net yards through the air and 106 on the ground.
“Anytime you throw for 300 (yards) and run for 100, it’s usually a pretty good outcome,” said Goff, who had 302 yards passing. “I think we’re really close. Run game, pass game, play-action game, screen game — everything was kind of working. We’re just that close on a handful of those plays that would have really opened it up.”
With coordinator Brandon Staley's defense shutting down Russell Wilson and the NFL's highest-scoring team, the Rams had time to figure out a few things in run blocking and in pass protection, allowing their running backs to excel and helping Goff to make better decisions.
The Rams' steady effectiveness also allowed McVay and Goff to spread the ball throughout the roster. Eight receivers caught a pass, while the top three running backs all got at least 18 snaps and six carries.
“It was something that we needed,” said Malcolm Brown, who scored twice and has five rushing touchdowns in four games at SoFi Stadium. “To go out there as an offense and execute, just stick to the techniques and the fundamentals that we know, we went out and got it done. It was a great feeling just seeing everybody doing their thing, touching the ball, doing what they can with it.”
The Rams' offensive progress got another setback with the loss of stalwart left tackle Andrew Whitworth for at least six weeks to a knee injury, although the team was grateful to learn Monday that Whitworth's injury wasn't worse.
“We were all worried it was going to be for sure season-ending, and that's not going to be the case,” McVay said. “The big fella came out about as good as he could be, given the way it looked.”
The Rams clearly have one of the NFL's top cornerback duos in Darious Williams and Jalen Ramsey. Williams continued his breakout season with two interceptions, along with a spectacular, leaping, touchdown-saving deflection. Ramsey clamped down on DK Metcalf, turning the league's second-leading receiver into a nonfactor.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Los Angeles' sturdy offensive line must adjust to life without Whitworth, who will be out until at least the holidays with a Grade 3 tear of his medial and posterior collateral ligaments. Joe Noteboom, the third-year pro drafted as Whitworth's eventual replacement, will be counted on to protect Goff's blind side after a pedestrian start to a career spent mostly at guard. Noteboom will get plenty of attention from coaches this week.
Linebacker Leonard Floyd had an enormously productive afternoon against Seattle with three sacks, a fumble recovery and five quarterback hits. The former Bears disappointment has already matched his career high with seven sacks in just nine games.
The Rams need their third kicker in four games after veteran Kai Forbath missed an extra point and then injured his ankle, sending him to injured reserve. Los Angeles has missed at least one point-after or field goal in eight of its nine games. Austin MacGinnis, the XFL veteran on LA's practice squad, will compete for the job this week with former Tampa Bay kicker Matt Gay, who is joining the Rams off Indianapolis' practice squad.
Along with Whitworth, the Rams also lost oft-injured safety Taylor Rapp with a Grade 2 sprain of his MCL. He is headed to injured reserve. Rapp's absence on a defense that likes to use three safeties likely means more playing time for inexperienced Nick Scott, who had a career-high 29 snaps against Seattle.
“I think you'll see something similar, but it is a week-by-week thing,” McVay said of the Rams' potential scheme adjustments without Rapp.
9 — The number of touchdown passes allowed by the Rams' defense. That's the fewest in the NFL. Josh Allen and Jimmy Garoppolo threw seven of those. LA hasn't allowed a touchdown pass in any of its six wins since the first half of its victory over Dallas in Week 1.
The Rams' brutal travel schedule continues with their fifth East Coast trip in 10 weeks, this time to face Tom Brady, Ndamukong Suh and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3) on Monday night in yet another showdown with an NFC contender. Five of LA's final eight games are against NFC teams with winning records.
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