Rams get a much-needed morale boost with win over Panthers heading into off week
The defending Super Bowl-champion Rams do not have a winning record.
Their quarterback continues to commit turnovers that opponents turn into instant touchdowns.
And a young running back once counted on to be a pillar of their future could be on the way out.
But heading into next week’s open date, the Rams claim that they could not be happier.
A 24-10 victory over the struggling Carolina Panthers on Sunday at SoFi Stadium did wonders for their spirits and confidence — and coach Sean McVay’s blood pressure.
Receiver Allen Robinson broke out with several impressive catches — including one for touchdown — Darrell Henderson and Ben Skowronek rushed for touchdowns and Nick Scott intercepted a tipped pass to seal a victory that improved the Rams’ record to 3-3.
“That’s what we needed to get our swagger back,” Henderson said.
The Rams might be once again walking with confidence, but they are doing so on shaky legs and dealing with lingering turmoil.
On Sunday, they lost another starting lineman when left tackle Joe Noteboom was carted from the field after suffering an apparent Achilles injury.
Running back Cam Akers remained absent because of what McVay has described as an “internal” issue.
Asked Sunday if there was an update to Akers’ situation, McVay once again gave no indication that the third-year pro would return to the team.
“There’s nothing changed … as it relates to that situation,” McVay said.
The Rams, in the habit of pulling off impactful midseason trades, got a close-up look at a possible solution in Panthers star running back Christian McCaffrey.
McCaffrey amassed 158 yards in 20 touches, including a 49–yard catch and run.
But potential trades and other moves will be only some of the issues that McVay, general manager Les Snead and their staff will examine before the Nov. 1 trade deadline.
On Sunday, after getting walloped in consecutive defeats by the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys in their last two games, the Rams were just happy to avoid a 2-4 start.
The Rams went into the game as the NFL’s worst rushing offense but Henderson gained 43 of the Rams’ season-high 111 rushing yards, 56 coming on sweeps by receivers Skowronek, Cooper Kupp, Brandon Powell and Tutu Atwell.
Skowronek scored his first career touchdown in the third quarter to give the Rams a 17-10 lead.
“It felt great to finally get into the end zone after however many games,” said Skowronek, a seventh-round draft pick in 2021. “And it felt even better to get the win before the bye week.”
McVay, who could not hide his anger or angst after the losses to the 49ers and Cowboys, appeared and sounded relieved.
“It will be good way to be able to try to build some momentum and get some guys back healthy,” he said, “and see what we can do to try and play better football after this.”
Receiver Van Jefferson, center Brian Allen, and cornerbacks Troy Hill and Cobie Durant are expected to return from injuries after the open date.
The Rams would like Jefferson’s return to coincide with Robinson’s continued emergence.
After being a nonfactor for most of the first five games, Robinson caught five passes for 63 yards, including a touchdown. On one play along the sideline, he lived up to his reputation as a master of contested catches when he pulled down a pass for a first down.
“I’ve been making plays like that my entire career,” said Robinson, a ninth-year pro, “So, just being able to get those opportunities and continue to make those plays felt good.”
Quarterback Matthew Stafford was happy with the victory despite having another interception returned for a touchdown.
Skowronek’s touchdown broke a 10-10 tie, and the Rams subsequently took control on Henderson’s short touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
“That kind of spurt that we had in execution and good play on offense, we got to continue to do more of it,” said Stafford, who completed 26 of 33 passes for 253 yards. “If we can do that more consistently and play off of our defense a little bit — who played great again — that would be nice.”
The Rams defense did not need much help: It gave up only a first-quarter field goal.
Inside linebacker Ernest Jones sparked the unit by throwing McCaffrey to the turf with a move more akin to the WWF than the NFL.
“I was going to like sling him and tackle him but he a little lighter, so he kind of lifted up in the air a little bit,” Jones said. “I didn’t mean any harm by it. I didn’t try to hurt him or anything like that but definitely got to get him to the ground.”
Jones’ tackle created a ripple effect.
“We call those tone-setting plays,” said Scott, who ended the Rams’ three-game turnover drought when he intercepted a fourth-quarter pass that Jones had tipped.
Last season the Rams bounced back from a no-win November and made a run to win Super Bowl LVI. By defeating the Panthers, the Rams eliminated the potential embarrassment of finishing 0 for October, a month that will end in two weeks when they play host to San Francisco.
After playing the 49ers, they travel to Tampa Bay to play Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. A home game against the Arizona Cardinals comes before back-to-back road games at New Orleans and Kansas City and another road game three weeks later at Green Bay.
But for one day, anyway, the Rams could bask in the glow of a win.
“We know that when we come back, its time to really kick it in gear,” Jones said, “and play better than we played any time before.”