3 and Out: Rams Overcome Raiders in Monday Night Showdown

The Los Angeles Rams won their season opener 33-13 at the Oakland Raiders on Monday Night Football in the final game of week one. Our Rams correspondent Tom Green gives his take on the week one match up…

1 – Rams Linebacking Core played key role in victory

The Rams made several blockbuster free agent signings in the offseason to improve an already overpowered line and beef up their secondary with the acquisitions of Ndamukong Suh, Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. The defense has been a major factor in the Rams rise to notoriety in the last few years and on Monday Night it played a pivotal role in an impressive win.

Arguably the most important factor in the Rams victory was their relatively unknown (in comparison to the defensive line and big name free agent acquisitions) linebacking core who restricted Marshawn Lynch (better known as beast mode) to 41 yards on the ground which forced the Raiders to be more reliant on their passing game to move the ball downfield than they were during the preseason (as you can see in table below). The stand out in terms of stats in the linebacking core was 3rd year Cory Littleton in his 6th start who made a total of 13 tackles (11 solo tackles and 2 assisted tackles) as well as picking off Carr early in the fourth quarter.

Oakland Pass/Run Ratio

Game Total Passing Plays Total Run Plays Pass to Run Ratio
Preseason vs Lions 29 31 0.96:1
Preseason @ Rams 28 20 1.4:1
Preseason vs Packers 30 31 0.96:1
Preseason @ Seahawks 27 24 1.12:1
TOTAL PRESEASON  114 106

1.08:1

W1 vs Rams 40 23 1.74:1

This is one of the reasons why Raiders tight end Jared Cook had a monster 180 yard game (the best of his career so far of his ten year career) as this was the only reliable weapon the Raiders had to progress the ball as there was no running room in the middle of the field.

This also put more pressure on Derek Carr‘s arm which led to the Raiders veteran being picked off three times (which included a 50 yard pick six for Marcus Peters on debut for the Rams) and the Rams eventually running away with the game in the second half.

2 – Rams Offense steps up a gear in Second Half

The Los Angeles Rams offense performed well on Monday night and finished the game with 345 yards on the game (140 from rushing and 225 yards in the air).

Todd Gurley rushed for a total of 108 yards and has now rushed for 100 yards for the 13th time in his career. Interestingly, the majority of Gurleys yards in this game came from outside runs to the left which made up 51.8% of his total rushing yards (56 yards in total).

Source: https://charts-cdn-c.nextgenstats.nfl.com/static-charts/900/carry-chart_GUR000000_2018-reg-1_1536648335793.jpeg

Gurley was unable to score any rushing touchdowns but did open his 2018 campaign with a receiving touchdown after a 19 yard pass from Jared Goff in the first quarter.

Goff also had a decent game, throwing for two touchdowns, but appeared slightly rusty. The third year QB out of USC was only able to throw for 225 yards and fumbled the ball on one of his drives (luckily for Goff, this was recovered by offensive stud Andrew Whitworth). Goff also managed to control the tempo of the game and wasn’t put under too much pressure throughout the game (with the exception of the fumble play) as he got his throws off on time and was standing behind an offensive line who were performing at a world class level.

3 – Greg “the leg” Continues to Deliver the Points

Greg Zuerlein continues to bag points for the Rams in 2018 and ended up scoring 15 of the Rams 33 points on the night. He didn’t have a flawless performance though because he missed a 46 Yard field goal attempt late in the second quarter. Despite this miss  he finishes week one as the 3rd behind New Orleans Saints Running back Alvin Kamara and Kansas City Chief receiver Tyreek Hill in terms of total points scored this season. The Rams kicker will be aiming to become the leading points scorer for the second consecutive year which was last achieved by New England Patriots kicker Stephen Gostowski in 2015 (which coincidentally was his third in a row).

Extra Point – McVay overcomes Gruden

Sean McVay won his first game against Jon Gruden and the two have a complicated back story that led up to this point. Sean’s grandad John McVay hired him as an offensive assistant coach with the San Francisco 49ers for a year and Gruden hired the young McVay when he left college to pursue coaching.

When Gruden threw in the towel roughly ten years ago, McVay was hired by his brother Jay Gruden to coach with a United Football League team, the Florida Tuskers in 2009, and in 2010 McVay was hired by Mike Shannahan as a tightends coach for the Redskins.  Eventually Shannahan left the Redskins and Jay Gruden became their head coach. He then made McVay the leagues youngest ever offensive coordinator. For a more detailed view on the story visit the link below to watch a video with all three coaches.

https://www.therams.com/video/sean-mcvay-jon-gruden-and-jay-gruden-reminisce-on-their-early-coaching-days

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Tom Green
A British American Footballer with a keen interest in America's game and the NFL.
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