INGLEWOOD – The full official reveal of the SoFi Stadium, with its long-awaited first full house, coincided with Matthew Stafford’s debut as Ram. Both were brilliant on Sunday night.
The NFL’s Inglewood Palace really is a great venue, just as Stan Kroenke – and Commissioner Roger Goodell and Jerry Jones, the mediator between the League and Los Angeles – intended. The effect was particularly dramatic for NBC’s cameras, and it should be noted that most of those in possession of the 70,425 tickets distributed were in their seats at kick-off, suggesting they had heard the cautionary stories from the preseason and left their homes early enough to deal with the anticipated traffic and parking problems.
The first indication that things would be different here came quickly with the home side’s third offensive game of the evening. Faking a handoff, Stafford rolled over to his left and tossed a 46-yard stroke to Van Jefferson, who caught the ball at 21, fell pristine at 15, and got to his feet before either of the bears could get nearby to touch him, and sprinted to the end zone.
The Rams’ first possession in the second half provided further early evidence of General Manager Les Snead’s Managing Director of the Year campaign: Another play-action pass from Stafford and a 56-yard bond with Cooper Kupp, who caught the ball a full 10 yards behind him, caught three unlucky defenders of the bears and might as well have gone into the end zone.
And then there was the quick response to a Bears touchdown early in the third quarter. After Chicago trimmed the Rams’ lead to 20-14, Stafford directed a drive with a 37-yard pass to Tyler Higbee – a flawless back-shoulder throw – and a 17-yard pass to Kupp over the middle, who didn’t get a touchdown just because a check showed Kupp’s knee was down before sticking the ball over the goal line. No problem. Darrell Henderson scored on the next move.
Stafford’s first night job as an athlete in Los Angeles: 20 for 26, 321 yards, three touchdown passes, no interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 156.1. His Dallas high school buddy, Clayton Kershaw, has a grave deed to do when he returns to Dodger Stadium Hill Monday night.
“The first drive of the second half was the most impressive in my opinion,” he said afterwards. “But now I’m thinking about what an incredible job he did in advancing (through his receivers) and finding Robert Woods on the final touchdown (3:17 remaining). So there were several things.
“But I think all the game management and I think the expectation. You know, you can just see that he had a look in the eyes. He had confidence in his teammates. He expects to play well. And, you know, he did a great job. It’s hard to say there was one thing. I loved everything he did tonight. ”
Probably the most impressive thing was his ability to involve everyone. Five receivers caught at least two passes and Darrell Henderson also had a catch for 17 yards. McVay noted that he “can go where the coverage dictates,” and when you have a quarterback who can use all of his weapons, the options can be immense.
“We’ll do our best if everyone gets involved,” said Stafford. “I’m not sure how many different guys had catches, but it felt like a lot. And these guys are talented playmakers, and they all do it in different ways. Hopefully we can make sure these guys can show their skills and then go out and play. ”
Remarkably, the new quarterback was also associated with persistence. No emotional fluctuations, no nervous or desperate throws under pressure (although the line of scrimmage protected Stafford admirably, apart from one sack).
Whicker: Rams defense is enjoying the cushion Stafford can bring and vice versa
Rams QB Matthew Stafford’s long punches beat Bears
David Long of Rams chooses a great time for his first major play
Live Updates: Rams host the Chicago Bears at SoFi Stadium
Rams and Matthew Stafford start a new era against the old enemy
It’s just a game, but it seems pretty obvious: the Stafford-Jared Goff deal wasn’t just a necessity, it could be the final piece in a championship mosaic. The new guy definitely understands.
“I was really looking forward to this game,” he said. “You know, it’s a very cool thing, a new place, a new stadium, new fans, the whole thing. But this team gave me a hug and I really appreciate that. And you know I just wanna work as hard as I can. … They put their arms around me and it felt good to play with them tonight.
“Such incredible players on this team. I am lucky to be a part of it. I will do everything I can to take this team where we want to go. Obviously, this is just one. I have to build on that, but it felt great to be out there. ”
We invite you to use our comment platform to have insightful conversations about topics in our community. While we do not pre-examine comments, we reserve the right to remove any information or material that is illegal, threatening, offensive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent, or otherwise objectionable to us, and all Disclose information that is necessary to comply with any law, regulation, or governmental requirement. We can permanently block any user who abuses these terms.
If you see comments that you find offensive, please use the “Report as inappropriate” function by hovering your mouse over the right side of the post and drag the indicated arrow down. Or contact our editors by email at [email protected]