The general narrative across the league heading into Week 1 was that the Los Angeles Rams lacked health and experience.
The return of Matthew Stafford and Aaron Donald under Sean McVay’s coaching was discounted until the Rams surprised Seattle at Lumen Field with a 30-13 victory.
Much of the doubt cast came from recent news with Cooper Kupp being placed on the injured reserve with lingering hamstring issues. Rather than being hindered by the missing key presence, Los Angeles receivers responded with a historic opening drive before outscoring the Seahawks 23-0 in the second half.
Now the Rams are 1-0 at the end of Week 1 with a long road to Las Vegas ahead.
Here are three key takeaways from Sunday’s game:
Receivers impress in Copper Kupp’s absence
Two receivers went over 100 yards while Kupp cheered his team on from the sidelines. Third-year wideout Tutu Atwell had a standout game with six caught passes for a career-high 119 yards. But it was rookie Puka Nacua who dominated the field with 10 catches for 119 yards in his debut. According to ESPN Stats, Nacua is the 4th player in NFL history to have 10 receptions and over 100 receiving yards in his first career game.
Aside from Nacua and Atwell, Kyren Williams scored three touchdowns on the ground, the first of his career. Collectively the Rams offense put up 426 Yards against Seattle (the only other team with more than 400 offensive yards at the end of Week 1 is the Miami Dolphins).
Matthew Stafford throws for 334 yards
Stafford saw his team’s 2022 season end at the hands of Seattle while he suffered from a spinal contusion. Now at the start of his 2023 campaign, Stafford is looking healthy amongst a squad full of young talent.
With an inactive backup quarterback in Stetson Bennett, Stafford jumped out the gate guiding his team to a nearly perfect 16-play opening drive to put Los Angeles up, 7-3.
Stafford passed for more than 300 yards, going 24-38 on Sunday. He led the Rams to 27 first downs and 11 successful third downs on 17 attempts.
Defense dominates Geno Smith
Trailing by six points into halftime, the Rams defense held Smith and his offense to under 20 yards across the second half (nine which came on the game’s final play). Smith was especially under duress during the fourth quarter when he suffered back-to-back sacs from Kobie Turner and Donald. For Turner, it was his first career sack for a loss of nine yards. For veteran Donald, he added Smith to his long list of sacked quarterbacks across his career at No. 50.
The Los Angeles Rams have a tough schedule in the first five weeks of play with the 49ers, Bengals, Colts and Eagles all lined up. The team will return home for Week 2 against San Francisco.