The intro to Sunday Night Football set the table perfectly for what everyone would see when Matthew Stafford made his first start as a member of the Los Angeles Rams. When Stafford blinked on the screen, Snoop Dogg said, “If the ride is more fly, you have to buy. Ya dig?”
Jared Goff was a Prius. He can reliably get his team from point A to point B, but he lacks the lightning bolt of a sports car. New quarterback Matthew Stafford is a Camaro. The 13-year-old veteran puts far more horsepower on the offensive, as demonstrated in the Rams’ 34:14 victory over the Chicago Bears at SoFi Stadium.
The competition showed exactly why the Rams believed that they need an upgrade at the most important position in the game.
Stafford shredded the Bears with 321 passing yards and three touchdowns, and completed 76.9 percent of his passes along the way. Efficiency is one thing. The arm talent of expanding the playbook is something else entirely, and what makes this match between quarterback, system, and head coach so alluring.
Ever since he played with Georgia, Stafford’s natural throwing ability has been a sight to behold. The ball explodes from his hand as he throws it from several different arm angles. As good as Goff was sometimes – let’s not forget that he led his team to Super Bowl LIII – the 2016 number one served as a cog in McVay’s offensive machinations. However, Stafford allows for more creativity as he threatens every blade of grass.
The record-breaking quarterback clearly saw the potential in a pairing with McVay. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported that Stafford “turned to Los Angeles” after a chance encounter with McVay while on vacation in Mexico. The Detroit Lions then canceled a possible deal with the Carolina Panthers. The Rams paid a heavy price by sending Goff, a pair of first-round picks, and a third-round pick to serve the quarterback in Detroit.
The initial return on the franchise’s investment is extremely promising, and Stafford has achieved that what everyone expected by prolonging the Rams offensive. The team’s first touchdown of the season – a 67-yard connection with Van Jefferson – perfectly expressed the difference in approach.
Boat action outside the outside zone is no different from what McVay had for years with another Quarterback has led. Stafford’s ability to roll left, slide his hips through, roll back and lace a 58-yard pass (in the air) to a receiver on the opposite hash adds an entirely different dynamic to what the Rams can do now .
For example, Stafford threw two touchdowns of 50 yards or more on Saturday – we’re about to get to the second. As noted by ESPN Stats & Info, the Rams only had two such passes throughout the 2020 campaign. The constant threat of pushing the ball into the field with the right staff changes the defensive stance of the opponent.
Last season, Goff averaged 5.9 yards per attempt. The number fluctuated a bit throughout his Rams career, but it never exceeded 8.4 yards per attempt. Stafford managed 12.3 yards per try in his first game with the franchise. It’s just a game, of course. But Goff only topped that number twice in 69 starts with the Rams.
As for the second score, Stafford used some cunning before uncorking another deep bomb.
Another touchdown at the #RamsHouse.
Stafford airs it to a wide open @CooperKupp for a 56 yard score!
: #CHIvsLAR on NBC
: https://t.co/43poz14yhK https://t.co/qy0NZrsj89
At first glance, the bears appeared to be suffering from a collapse of cover. In reality, Stafford held the second deep security with his eyes and shoulders. Three defensive backs focused on the two game-side receivers, only to let Cooper Kupp run freely through the middle of the field. Stafford straightened his feet and hit his target in the crotch.
“You are not restricted in everything you can do in the passing game,” McVay told reporters after the competition.
No matter what the coach says , it’s going to sound like an indictment of Goff’s earlier game because it is. The Rams saw an opportunity to improve their position and pulled the trigger. Certainly there were those within the organization who held up their previous starter, but at the same time the team recognized the need to get better at the quarterback.
The early result confirms the excitement of this off-season. NFL Network’s Peter Schrager reported that the team thought Stafford could take it to the next level. McVay admitted in April that he was excited about the possibility of working with his new quarterback. Two months later, the coach called Stafford “even better than advertised,” said Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer.
“He’s always been in the top 10 because of his talents, and his cap is how he plays when [the Rams ] need it late in the year, “said an AFC scout of ESPN’s Stafford Jeremy Fowler. “Some have the feeling that at some point he will let you down. Maybe that’s true, maybe not.
With the Rams playing twice a season against Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks, Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals, and finally twice a season against the San Francisco 49ers Trey Lance, the takeover of Stafford will be all the more important.
Wilson is a top five quarterback. Murray is an extraordinary double threat that gets better with every season. The thought of what Kyle Shanahan can eventually do to an athlete like Lance from behind the middle should send chills down the back of the defensive coordinators.
The Rams had to take a step because they couldn’t counter such a great quarterback game had. Los Angeles was the League No. 1 and NFL Defensive Player of the Year last season, still losing 32-18 to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in the postseason. Goff did not exceed 174 yards in any of the playoffs despite struggling with a thumb injury that required surgery.
Now a difference maker runs this franchise. According to Elias Sports (h / t ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry), Stafford became the first quarterback with more than 300 passing yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions in a victorious debut. Sure, it has its advantages and disadvantages, as 12 years in Detroit can testify. However, its ceiling is much higher than the Rams before.
Right now, the new car smell in LA has yet to evaporate and the Rams are buzzing along with a powerful V8 engine that is ready to let go.
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