The Rams blew a 23-point lead in the third quarter before Matthew Stafford saved them by leading a touchdown drive to open overtime and beat the Colts 29-23. For the second consecutive week, the Chargers were saved by a late interception after failing to convert on fourth down deep in their own territory, L.A. holding on to beat the Raiders 24-17. Rams beat writer Gary Klein, Chargers beat writer Jeff Miller, NFL columnist Sam Farmer and columnist Dylan Hernández discuss what happened in Week 4 and upcoming prospects:
What were you thinking when the Chargers decided not to punt on fourth-and-short in the waning minutes again?
Hernández: Here we go again …
Farmer: I was thinking that Brandon Staley is staying consistent to who he has been. He’s going to tempt fate and make the unconventional decisions, and we should be used to that. Say this for him: He’s not going to buckle to outside pressures.
Miller: I was thinking I sure hope Kellen Moore comes up with something more creative this time. Instead, the Chargers tried the “tush push,” sort of. They had the tush part, but the push was a little lacking. I understand the desire to be a powerful team with the ability to force your will on the opposition. But, since I’ve been covering the Chargers starting in 2018, they’ve never really been a power-running-type team.
What did you think when they lined up for a sneak with a quarterback having his left hand wrapped and bandaged?
Hernández: It was certainly eyebrow-raising at that moment, but if Staley asked him to do it, I figured it was because he could. I had more of an issue with going for it on fourth down.
Farmer: Justin Herbert was wincingly vulnerable doing anything after that hand injury, and it’s easy to imagine that thing getting wrenched in a pile. So I thought they might go to Easton Stick. But, like Matthew Stafford in the Rams game, an injured Herbert made the necessary big plays when he was hurt. That’s got to have some type of galvanizing effect on the team.
Miller: I was thinking it might be some sort of fake, to be honest. Patrick Mahomes once famously got hurt on a QB sneak. I’d understand if the Chargers shy away from putting Herbert in harm’s way on sneaks in the future, especially when their execution looks so shaky.
What were you thinking was going to happen down the stretch before the Chargers surprised with that 51-yard completion on third-and-10 to seal the victory?
Farmer: I thought the Chargers might lose, as we’ve seen before, but they had the good fortune of playing an opponent that also has a tendency to bungle victories within their grasp.
Hernández: I didn’t have much faith in the Raiders’ rookie quarterback, but it was nonetheless shocking the Chargers were in position to blow that lead.
Miller: Two words — freaking overtime! Actually, in all seriousness, I was thinking that if the Raiders take over and score and then miss the extra point, my prediction of Chargers 24-23 will be exactly perfect. On the other hand, overtime would have given Dylan Hernández more time to sweat out his column topic. And who doesn’t root for something like that?
How much patience do you think Sean McVay has for a placekicker these days? Brett Maher has not been great.
Farmer: He should have next to no patience for it. Maher badly hooked two field-goal attempts Sunday, either of which could have saved the Rams from overtime. Through four games this season, Maher has made eight of 12 attempts from 40 yards or longer. So he has missed one-third of those. That just won’t cut it. The Rams should be looking to replace him.
Klein: General manager Les Snead and the pro scouting department are always working behind the scenes, so there is no doubt they have a list of potential candidates should McVay go over the edge. But remember: The Rams’ long-snapper and holder are rookies (punter Ethan Evans had no previous experience as a holder), so Maher’s troubles might not entirely be his own.
The Rams had been counting on Van Jefferson to step up in Cooper Kupp’s absence, but with the emergence of Puka Nacua and Tutu Atwell, how do you see that rotation working when Cooper Kupp returns?
Farmer: Having too many talented receivers is a high-class problem. Cooper Kupp will eventually return, whether it’s this week or later, but at least he knows he doesn’t have to carry the team or be immediately impactful. Yes, there’s only one football, and Matthew Stafford is going to have to figure out how to spread it around. But the Rams have had lean times when they’re scraping to muster up any kind of receiving threat, so here’s betting they prefer this situation.
Klein: Kupp is coming off a hamstring injury. So while ostensibly he will not play until he is capable of handling a full load, McVay is not going to give him 100 targets immediately whether that’s this week against the Eagles or the week after against the Cardinals. There will be plenty to go around. Jefferson got off to a slow start, but he made a big play against the Bengals last Monday and a crucial fourth-down catch in traffic against the Colts. All four receivers will play.
If you had to address the Rams as coach, how would you address the 23-point collapse, as in where did they go wrong?
Farmer: I’d focus on where they went right. That was a really impressive game by Stafford, who clearly was in pain yet led them to victory on the road in overtime, against a team that had won two in a row. Coaches and players will see on tape what they need to clean up, but tearing into them after a hard-fought road win seems counterproductive.
Klein: I have not coached since guiding the Pasadena Central Little League Giants and Angels. I would use the same philosophy: Identify correctable errors but focus on the positives and move on. Quickly. Let’s also not forget that while Colts quarterback Anthony Richardson is a rookie and has a lot to learn, the guy is a playmaker.
Behind a stout offensive line, the Eagles have shown the ability to run or pass depending upon the opponent’s defense. What might be the Rams defense’s biggest worries?
Farmer: The Eagles present all sorts of problems. But the biggest worry for the Rams’ defense might be the health of Stafford. If he isn’t around to generate offense, the Rams defense could be on the field far too often and the game could get ugly.
Klein: Well, if a certain Times NFL editor/roundtable organizer/Eagles fan attends the game, the Rams defense might have to deal with the noise the Philly faithful create inside SoFi Stadium. Beyond that, I agree with Sam. The Rams’ overriding concern should be Stafford, and his ability to remain on the field and sustain drives to take pressure off the Rams defense.
How much does having former Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore on staff help the Chargers when they play Dallas at home on Monday Night Football after week off?
Farmer: It might help some. But coaches generally know what their opponents do well, and know their personnel and tendencies. You’ve still got to stop it.
Hernández: If he can’t figure out how to move the ball better than he did in the second half against the Raiders, it won’t matter.
Miller: If anything, the Cowboys and Mike McCarthy facing Moore might be an advantage to the Cowboys. They’ll know his tendencies very well.
Source: LA Times