THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — As long as Matthew Stafford is on the field, the Los Angeles Rams have shown they can compete.
It was all the more evident when Stafford overcame a hard landing on his hip early in the fourth quarter to direct a 29-23 overtime win against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.
“Obviously, you want him to be healthy, but something about him, he always plays with a pretty good edge when he’s got something to work through too,” Rams coach Sean McVay said Monday.
Stafford sustained a hip contusion. McVay expects his quarterback to be available to play this week.
“He is a stud and, obviously, we saw him gut through that yesterday. Definitely took a good shot there, but we feel like he should be good to go,” McVay said.
McVay said Stafford had further testing after sustaining a “good deep bruise." Those evaluations did not indicate anything that might keep Stafford out of practice or threaten his status against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
“He’s nice and sore today, but I feel like he’ll continue to make progress throughout the week,” McVay said.
The Rams (2-2) have a good sense of what Stafford is capable of when playing through injury. He dealt with tendinitis in his right elbow during their Super Bowl-winning 2021 season.
McVay said there is an art to playing at less than perfect health, something Stafford has mastered after 15 years in the NFL.
“Once you get about four weeks into the season, a lot of these guys that are playing every single snap, you never quite feel perfect,” McVay said. “And they kind of learn how to be able to play through it, and it’s certainly something that you don’t take for granted. But I’ve seen him operate at a pretty high level when he’s got something that he’s working through.”
After an injury-plagued 2022 campaign that saw him deal with concussions and a spinal cord contusion that ultimately ended his year prematurely, Stafford is currently directing the second-best passing offense in football despite not having his best wide receiver available. He has consistently made enough plays to keep a retooled team with a young defense in position to hang around.
Stafford has thrown for 1,229 yards through four games, although his touchdown-to-interception ratio is not nearly as impressive, with three scoring passes and five picks.
That production should only improve with the impending return of wide receiver Cooper Kupp from a hamstring injury sustained in training camp. Kupp is set to return to practice this week and can be activated off injured reserve.
McVay is excited to see what putting Kupp on the field alongside standout rookie Puka Nacua can do for both of them and the passing attack as a whole.
“There’s certain skill sets that each guy possesses,” McVay said. “Some of which are similar and some which can be reflected in some different ways, but I think you’ll see that come to life and we’ve got to figure that out ourselves too.”
The offense. The Rams drove inside the opposing 30-yard line on all five of their first-half possessions before closing out the game with an efficient eight-play, 75-yard march in overtime. There was good balance between the pass and run, with Kyren Williams and Ronnie Rivers totaling 150 yards on the ground on 34 carries.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Late-game execution. It took plenty of mistakes by the Rams to let their 23-point lead drift away and force overtime, including an interception by Stafford, a missed 48-yard field goal by Brett Maher and a bunch of breakdowns on defense.
Nacua continued the remarkable start to his NFL career, catching a 22-yard touchdown pass in overtime for the win and cap off a nine-catch, 163-yard outing. Nacua has 39 receptions for 501 yards through his first four games, breaking records previously held by Anquan Boldin.
Safety Russ Yeast struggled in coverage in the fourth quarter and was slow to react on receptions of 21 and 22 yards during Indianapolis’ game-tying drive. Yeast had been called for unnecessary roughness on a hit earlier in the fourth.
LT Alaric Jackson (hamstring) was able to work out before the game Sunday but was inactive as the Rams decided to err on the side of caution.
2020 — Aaron Donald has at least a half-sack in three of his first four games for the first time since 2020. It's the third time in his career that Donald, known for slow starts, has at least 2 1/2 sacks through four games.
After playing three of their first four games on the road, the Rams will gladly enjoy a two-game homestand that starts against Philadelphia on Sunday. Facing an offense that is averaging 29.5 points per game, the young Los Angeles defense will have to be more consistent to give themselves a chance against one of the most complete attacks in football.