Rams defense living up to early expectations after shutout
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Only two games have been played, yet the Rams defense is living up to its lofty expectations.
Los Angeles put on a dominating display in Sunday's 34-0 victory over Arizona as it gave up only five first downs and didn't allow the Cardinals to cross midfield until the final minute of the game.
"If we can play elite defense like that and put up zeroes across the board and let our offense just run up and down the field, so be it," defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said.
The Rams ended up making the Cardinals a one-dimensional team. Arizona averaged only 2.6 yards on first-down plays and often found itself getting behind schedule on second and third down.
David Johnson also was never able to find any consistency as he was held to 48 yards on 13 carries. While the Rams had 10 plays in which they gained 17 yards or more, Arizona's longest play went for 15 and it had only three of 10 yards or more.
"I can't remember the time I've seen a defense play that complete from whistle to whistle," Rams coach Sean McVay said. "We're playing good situationally, stopping the run on early downs and getting ourselves into situations where you can really dictate things."
The Rams haven't allowed a point in their last six quarters and have only given up one touchdown, but they face a larger challenge next week against the Chargers and Philip Rivers.
Even though things are clicking right now, defensive tackle Aaron Donald thinks there still is a lot ahead of them.
"I think we can even get better. That's the scary thing," he said.
LONG TIME COMING
The Rams are 2-0 for the first time since 2001, when they made their third Super Bowl appearance.
What made McVay even more pleased was how his team responded on a short week following last Monday's 33-13 win at Oakland. The Rams had only one day of a regular game week practice, using Wednesday as more of a walkthrough instead of what is normally one of the toughest practice days of the week.
"When you've got mature players that know how to take care of themselves, but also get them ready physically and mentally you can take those types of approaches," he said. "Really for the players to be able to handle this week the way that they did says a lot about our team and hopefully we'll continue to take steps."
Greg Zuerlein's status is questionable after he strained his groin during pregame warmups and was unable to play. Punter Johnny Hekker handled kickoff duties and was good on a 20-yard field goal and extra point. Hekker is normally the holder on field goals and extra points, but wide receiver Cooper Kupp handled that on Sunday.
"I can't imagine thinking you're going to punt the whole game and then like, 'Hey, Johnny (Hekker) you're going to kick field goals, too.' I don't think anyone flinched," quarterback Jared Goff said. "We love Greg and we need him out there and we want to have him back as soon as possible, but stuff like that may happen."
If Zuerlein has to miss any more games, the Rams are likely to give Sam Ficken a call.
Ficken was with the team during training camp before being released and was with the team for three games last season, including the playoffs, when Zuerlein suffered a season ending back injury. He was 4 of 5 on field goals and 5 of 6 on extra points.
STUCK IN NEUTRAL
The Cardinals have scored only one touchdown in their first two games and have just two plays of 20 yards or more, which came in their Week 1 loss to Washington.
Coach Steve Wilks said he didn't consider replacing quarterback Sam Bradford with first-round pick Josh Rosen during the game and ran down a long list of problems that he has to solve before next week's game against Chicago.
"I don't even know where to start right now. We've got to do a much better job running the football. We've got to do a much better job protecting. Receivers got to get off the jam at the line of scrimmage," Wilks said. "I think you have to find ways, number one, you have to find a way to generate positive plays on first and second down, so we don't find ourselves in a third-and-long type situation."
Cardinals: WR Larry Fitzgerald injured his hamstring during the fourth quarter and did not return. Fitzgerald said after the game that he could have continued to play but that he didn't know how effective he would have been.
Rams: RB Todd Gurley did not play during the fourth quarter due to cramping but was fine in the locker room after the game.