Join columnists and beat writers from both Bay Area News Group and Southern California News Group as they discuss the future for the National Football League. This webinar series will highlight the plans of each league for opening, the 2020 seasons at large, and what fans can expect from it.
Thursday, August 6, 10 a.m. inPacific Time (US and Canada)
Host: Todd Harmonson, Executive Editor
SCNG– Kevin Modesti (Rams) and Gilbert Manzano (Chargers)
BANG– Cam Inman (49ers) and Jerry McDonald (Raiders)
LOS ANGELES — Dante Fowler said Russell Wilson was “in his own league” among pro football’s growing class of elusive quarterbacks.
If that’s true, the Rams might be ready for almost anyone the NFL can throw — and run — at them.
A few days after he heaped praise the Seattle Seahawks quarterback, Fowler jumped all over Wilson and played a huge role in the Rams’ latest strong defensive effort in a 28-12 victory Sunday night at the Coliseum.
The outside linebacker was credited with 1 1/2 of the Rams’ five sacks of Wilson, and three of their 11 hits on the quarterback. He celebrated his sacks with his trademark dance, featuring a theatrical bow and kick.
Fowler’s, Samson Ebukam’s (two sacks) and Clay Matthews’ work on the edges were a key to keeping Wilson from making plays out of the pocket.
“Just doing our jobs rushing in our lanes, trying to keep him in the pocket and trusting that our guys up front were going to clog it up in the middle (while) we were taking care of the edges,” Fowler said.
“Our guys on the back end did a really good job of covering and let us get to him tonight.”
The Rams have bottled up Arizona’s Kyler Murray and Seattle’s Wilson since giving up five touchdown passes and 95 yards rushing to Baltimore’s Jackson.
Fowler’s performance gave him the team lead in sacks with nine, one more than Matthews. Fowler’s 13 quarterback hits are second on the team to defensive tackle Aaron Donald’s 22.
The nine sacks and 13 quarterback hits this season are new highs for Fowler, who is in his fourth NFL season and first full season with the Rams after a 2018 trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
He already had career highs this season in tackles (now 44) and tackles for loss (13).
Rams quarterback Jared Goff on Todd Gurley’s stiff-arm on his touchdown run: “He’s a bad man, that’s what I told him. He’s a bad dude and it was vintage Todd.”
Rams coach Sean McVay, asked if there was a playoff atmosphere at the Coliseum: “I thought that there was a buzz even just walking out. The players had that good feel again, very similar to last week (before the win over the Arizona Cardinals) and they came out from the jump.”
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said the Rams “played great”: “Without question, early in the game they were controlling the tempo and … we just didn’t handle it as well as we would like. And it took us a while to get settled down, and then once we got settled down, then in the second half was a different game.”
Tyler Higbee’s 107 and 116 yards receiving against Arizona and Seattle made him the first Rams tight end with 100 yards in consecutive weeks since Carroll Dale in 1962.
Todd Gurley’s 79 yards rushing and 34 on four receptions gave him 7,319 from scrimmage in his career, climbing over Dick Bass into eighth on the Rams’ all-time rushing list.
The Seahawks were held without a touchdown on offense for the first time since Week 1 of 2017.
Needing a lot of help, the Rams didn’t get it in the earlier games Sunday that affected their chances of qualifying for the playoffs.
The San Francisco 49ers won on the road against the New Orleans Saints on a last-second field goal by Robbie Gould to improve to 11-2, temporarily moving back into first place over the Seahawks in the NFC West, meaning the Rams had to beat Seattle to avoid official elimination from the race for the division title.
The Minnesota Vikings, who began the week holding the second of the NFC’s two wildcards, won at home against the Detroit Lions. At 9-4, the Vikings probably would have to lose two of their three remaining games for the Rams to have a realistic chance of getting a wildcard on a tiebreaker with a 10-6 finish. The Vikings play the Chargers in Carson and the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears at home.
The Packers won at home against the Washington Redskins and are 10-3, staying ahead of the Vikings in the NFC North.
Tackle Rob Havenstein, whose injured knee presented the only mystery about a Rams player’s availability for Sunday’s game against the Steelers, was declared inactive along with six others 90 minutes before kickoff.
It’s the fourth game Havenstein has missed since getting hurt against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Rookie Bobby Evans has filled in at right tackle.
It’s also the fourth straight game that the offensive line, shaken up by injuries, has started Whitworth, Austin Corbett, Austin Blythe, David Edwards and Evans from left to right.
‘My Cause’ cleats
When Todd Gurley laced up lavender cleats with the word “MADE” on the sides before the Sunday’s game, his feet were at the Coliseum but his heart was in his hometown of Tarboro, North Carolina.
The shoes were the running back’s contribution to the NFL’s one-week My Cause, My Cleats campaign, which allows players to promote a cause or charity with specially designed footwear.
Gurley’s promoted his MADE (Make a Difference Every Day) Sports Foundation, which he co-founded with hometown friend Jameon Willis.
The foundation sponsors football camps for kids, but Gurley hopes to expand it to other sports and projects with the goal of uniting people and inspiring young people through sports, he said this week.
“As I keep telling the kids each year, I’ve been in the league for five years, went to college (at Georgia) for three. Less than 10 years ago, I was in these kids’ shoes,” said Gurley, 25.
“I’m still learning myself, still figuring stuff out myself. Just trying to do the right thing, man. I was raised the right way and I’m trying to pass those things along to other people.”
Rams quarterback Jared Goff’s rainbow-colored cleats promoted California Strong, the charity he helped found after the 2018 Thousand Oaks shootings and state wildfires.
Among other causes promoted by Rams players with their choice of cleats involved various cancer charities (Josh Reynolds, Austin Blythe, Dante Fowler, Troy Hill, Troy Reeder), the Make a Wish Foundation (Robert Woods, Andrew Whitworth), the American Heart Association (Gerald Everett), the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (Cory Littleton), suicide prevention (Morgan Fox), the Special Olympics (Tyler Higbee), Down Syndrome (Tanzel Smart), underprivileged youth (Aaron Donald), the poor and vulnerable in Africa (Samson Ebukam), and opposition to the money bail system (JoJo Natson).
LOS ANGELES — The Rams’ and Baltimore Ravens’ star cornerbacks had avoided saying anything controversial in the week before their teams’ first meeting since Jalen Ramsey essentially replaced Marcus Peters in the L.A. secondary.
When the diplomacy ended, it ended loudly and profanely.
The Ravens’ Peters and the Rams’ Ramsey had to be separated and bundled up the tunnel to the locker rooms by big security guards after engaging in a shouting match on the Coliseum field in the minutes after Baltimore’s 45-6 victory Monday night.
It wasn’t clear what precipitated the altercation, other than Peters’ sense of vindication after intercepting a pass against the team that traded him and Ramsey’s frustration about the one-sided defeat. But Peters was heard chiding Ramsey about the Rams’ shrinking chances of making the playoffs. And Ramsey was heard insulting Peters in unprintable language.
“Get your a– out of the playoffs,” Peters shouted at Ramsey before entering the locker room.
Ramsey had earlier said in Peters’ direction: “They (the Ravens) got who they wanted, and he is a w—-,” as if to say Peters is a defensive back of ill repute.
Ramsey refused to discuss what happened when a reporter asked.
“If y’all have some questions about the game, I’ll answer that. Other than that, I ain’t going to answer no, uh, BS,” he said.
Peters didn’t speak with reporters.
Peters was traded from the Rams to the Ravens in October for linebacker Kenny Young and a fifth-round draft pick in 2020. Ramsey was acquired by the Rams later the same day from the Jacksonville Jaguars in a deal for first-round picks in 2020 and 2021 and a fourth-round pick in 2021.
When Peters intercepted a Jared Goff pass in the fourth quarter, it was his third in five games for the Ravens.
The Rams’ worst offensive showing since their Super Bowl loss to New England in February was all the more remarkable because they had receivers Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp and running back Todd Gurley on the field together, only the second time that has happened in the past six games.
The team was averaging 30.5 points this season in games when they those four offensive stars for most of the game, and 15 points when they didn’t.
So it was a relief for the Rams when Woods appeared at the Coliseum about three hours before kickoff, a week after he missed the Rams’ win over the Chicago Bears to take care of a family matter. It had been assumed that Woods would be available to play Monday. But coach Sean McVay had stopped short of saying for sure.
Woods caught six passes for 97, Kupp six for 35 and Cooks two for 32, but almost all of that yardage came after that the Ravens had taken control of the game.
Woods, 27, from USC and Serra High in Gardena, has kept the nature of his family issue private. He has expressed gratitude to the Rams for supporting him as he deals with the family matter.
“I’m very thankful for the fans, family and just this team. Very supportive and a great family,” Woods said after the game.
Marquise Brown, the wide receiver who caught the first two of Lamar Jackson’s five touchdown passes, played a season at College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita before becoming All America at Oklahoma.
“It was very fun,” Brown said of Monday’s game after catching a team-high five passes for 42 yards. “I saw my coaches at College of the Canyons.
“I have family out here. They never get to see me play in person, so for them to see me in person today was pretty cool.”
About that field …
The grounds crew couldn’t quite get rid of markings from Saturday’s USC-UCLA game before Monday’s Rams-Ravens game. The Trojans logo peeked out from under the Rams helmet at midfield, the Pac-12 logos showed between the 20- and 30-yard lines, and the college yard numbers were visible next to the NFL yard numbers.
Members of the St. Louis Rams’ 1999 Super Bowl-winning were honored on the field during the first quarter, part of a two-day reunion that included Pro Football Hall Famers Marshall Faulk and Orlando Pace as well as Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt and Mike Jones.
Members of the Watts Rams youth football program stood with Rams players during the national anthem. Their appearance coincided with the launch of a short film, “What’s Watts — A Story of Transformation,” telling the story of the youth team.
The Rams go to Glendale, Ariz., next Sunday to face the Arizona Cardinals (3-7-1). The Cardinals have lost four games in a row and are the only team without a winning record on the Rams’ remaining schedule. Arizona and L.A. will meet again at the Coliseum on Dec. 29, the final Sunday of the NFL regular season.
But the Cardinals could be dangerous if the Rams look past them to upcoming games against the Seahawks and on the road against the Cowboys and 49ers. Cardinals rookie Kyler Murray averages 6.2 yards per rushing attempt, second to the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson among quarterbacks who carry the ball at least five times per game. And Arizona will be coming off a bye week, while the Rams will have a short week of preparation after their Monday night game.
The Rams’ remaining opponents have a combined record of 31-22-2 (counting Arizona’s record twice).
The Rams plan to practice every day this week. Players won’t have their usual Tuesday off. A midday practice is scheduled for Thanksgiving day.
CLEVELAND — It was a big night for Clay Matthews, the father and the son.
At halftime, Clay Jr. was inducted into the Cleveland Browns Ring of Honor. In the game, Clay III made big contributions to the Rams’ defensive triumph.
The younger — but not young — Matthews had two sacks among three tackles and forced a fumble in the Rams’ 20-13 victory over the Browns on Sunday.
The big sack threw Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield for an eight-yard loss, back to the 2 yard line, forcing Cleveland to punt the ball back to the Rams with 4:23 left in the game.
“It was just (a matter of) staying with it, really,” said Matthews, 33. “I got stopped on the block, but I just kept fighting. I got him around the legs.”
Matthews left the stadium wearing a Browns jersey with his father’s old No. 57.
The Browns inducted Clay Matthews Jr. into their Ring of Honor in a ceremony at the break.
Matthews, who led the NFL in tackles in three seasons with the Browns between 1978 and 1993, is the son of 1950s San Francisco 49ers lineman Clay Matthews Sr. Clay Jr. and Clay III played at USC, as did Clay Jr’s brother, former NFL lineman Bruce Matthews.
The Rams’ Clay Matthews recorded a video message that was played on the scoreboard, congratulating his dad and saying, “Sorry I can’t be with you right now.”
But then, because the ceremony was still going on as the teams came back for the second half, the Rams linebacker was able to hop on the stage and give Clay Jr. a hug.
The crowd gave him the only cheer for a Ram on Sunday.
“It was a special night for all of the Matthews,” he said.
The Browns’ Ring of Honor at FirstEnergy Stadium is one of the most impressive in football, starting with Paul Brown and including players Jim Brown, Otto Graham, Lou Groza, Marion Motley, Paul Warfield, Leroy Kelly, Ozzie Newsome, Bobby Mitchell, Len Ford, Frank Gatski, Gene Hickerson, Mike McCormack and Bob Willis.
Rams running back Todd Gurley finished with 43 yards, none longer than nine yards, on 14 carries.
Coach Sean McVay tried afterward to put the blame on his own play calling, but Gurley’s lowest-yardage game of the season is sure to raise more questions about his effectiveness and health.
The injured list
The Rams played without two starters on offense.
Right guard Austin Blythe, who’d hoped to recover quickly after spraining his left ankle a week earlier, had been declared questionable but was among the seven Rams listed as inactive 90 minutes before Sunday’s game. Jamil Demby made his first NFL start.
Demby committed two false-start penalties, one putting the Rams in third-and-long, before Jared Goff was sacked and fumbled, and the other taking the Rams back from the Browns’ 1 to the Browns’ 6 before a Goff-to-Cooper Kupp touchdown bailed him out.
Tight end Tyler Higbee, who’d been declared out Friday, was replaced by Gerald Everett, making his first start since 2017.
Everett caught two passes for 15 yards.
The Browns were in worse shape.
The entire first-string defensive secondary on their depth chart was listed as inactive: safeties Damarious Randall (hamstring), who’d been declared out Friday, and Morgan Burnett (quad); and cornerbacks Denzel Ward (hamstring) and Greedy Williams (hamstring).
Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey (chest) was out too.
It was a bad day for the teams on the Rams’ 2019 schedule. They went 4-7, the wins coming from NFC West rival San Francisco (3-0) as well as Carolina, New Orleans and Dallas, the losses from the division’s Seattle (2-1) and Arizona (0-2-1) as well as Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Cincinnati and Baltimore.
Rams 2019 opponents are 17-19-1 going into the Monday night involving Chicago, the Rams’ Week 11 opponent, and Washington.
The Rams host the Buccaneers next Sunday at 1:05 p.m.
Second-year Rams linebacker Micah Kiser, projected as a likely starter this season, will undergo surgery Tuesday to repair a pectoral injury and will be out indefinitely, the team announced Sunday night.
Kiser, a fifth-round pick of the Rams in the 2018 NFL Draft, was injured in the Rams’ 14-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in an exhibition game Saturday in Honolulu. He underwent an MRI Sunday, and the results apparently revealed the need for surgery.
With Kiser out, four-year veteran Bryce Hager is likely to move into Kiser’s spot as a starting inside linebacker next to Cory Littleton in the Rams’ 3-4 alignment. Hager, a seventh-round draft choice of the St. Louis Rams in 2015, has contributed mostly on special teams during his first four seasons.
Before learning the extent of Kiser’s injury Sunday, Rams coach Sean McVay was asked about Hager’s ability to play a bigger role in the event Kiser were to miss extended time and said Hager is “capable of being a starting player in this league.”
“In practice, you certainly feel his ability to play at a high level, understand some of the intricacies of that inside linebacker spot and what that entails from a communication standpoint from the adjustments that are necessary based on what offenses present,” McVay added. “He’s a guy that we do have a lot of confidence in and that’s exactly why we re-signed him in free agency this year.”
Micah Kiser will undergo surgery on Tuesday + will be out indefinitely.
Either the Rams, and in particular quarterback Jared Goff, take the humbling experience of Sunday night in Atlanta, learn from it and apply the lessons the next time they get to the big stage. The other alternative? Their immense offensive futility in their 13-3 loss to New England scars Goff to such a degree that he doesn’t get this far again.
Anyone who saw this team score 54 points against Kansas City in November must have been rubbing their eyes and wondering if they were seeing things, because the Rams offense couldn’t have looked worse in its first Super Bowl experience if Yu Darvish were throwing, instead of Goff.
They are now one of only two teams, out of the 106 participants in 53 Super Bowls, to not score a touchdown. Their first half was abysmal: two first downs, 22 plays to New England’s 40, 57 offensive yards to the Patriots’ 195. Goff finished with a 57.9 passer rating, and don’t let his 229 passing yards fool you: 102 of them came in the last two possessions after the Patriots had taken the lead.
The first of those possessions, when the Rams had a chance to tie the game, was halted by a Stephon Gilmore interception just short of the end zone, when Goff tried the exact same pass he’d just missed with Brandin Cooks on the previous play but threw it off his back foot and left it short.
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He looked jittery, confused, and very uncomfortable against the stuff the Patriots were showing him. He looked, in short, like the prototypical young quarterback making his first Super Bowl appearance.
What hurt worse was that he felt he let his defense down.
Until that critical drive early in the fourth quarter, when Tom Brady sliced and diced the Rams on a five-play, 69-yard drive that ended with Sony Michel’s 2-yard run for the game’s only touchdown with 7:00 left, the Rams had made plays and kept the Patriots not only out of the end zone but out of the red zone.
“It kills,” Goff said. “It hurts me so much just knowing how well our defense played against their team, against Tom. I couldn’t hold up our end of the bargain. It’s our job to score points, and we didn’t do that tonight.”
There were a couple of almosts. He had Cooks wide open in the end zone on one third-quarter heave, but the pass was late to arrive and Jason McCourty raced over to break it up. And Cooks had a step on two defenders on the fourth quarter end zone pass, and might have held onto it if Duron Harmon hadn’t yanked his arm, undetected by anyone in a striped shirt.
But it was an unsatisfying Super Bowl debut for Goff, and it brought to mind the debut of another young quarterback, Cam Newton, for Carolina against Denver in Super Bowl 50, in 2016. Newton was rattled by Denver’s defense in a 24-10 loss, didn’t handle the aftermath particularly well, and he hasn’t been back to a Super Bowl, or close, since then.
How Goff handles this will determine a lot.
“I’m somebody who believes in adversity and what it can do to you, just in how you respond to it,” said veteran offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth. “For him, I think it’s important to respond the right way – which I know, knowing the kid, that he will, and this will make him a stronger player.
“And I have no doubt, with this franchise and Sean (McVay) and the direction they’re headed, that Jared’s gonna be a special player.”
Goff said most of the right things Sunday night, talking about “so many things you can take away as far as the experience, different situations, different approaches … There are some good things you can take from it, but right now there’s nothing (positive).”
True to form, head coach McVay took the heat for his quarterback.
“I think the biggest thing is that the play selection didn’t really give him much of a chance,” he said. “I think it starts with me, and that is where you have to look back and see what are the things that we can do to be better for our players, and then what can the players do to execute.”
Goff’s response to that:
“He has been so good for us all year, and I feel his pain. But for him to say something like that, we wouldn’t be here without him. We wouldn’t have won 13 games in the regular season without him. We wouldn’t have done all the great things we did on offense without him. We wouldn’t have the culture we have without him. We wouldn’t have any of the people here without him.
“He has done so many, so many good things for this whole organization. I hope he knows that, and we’re still behind him.”
The first step to moving forward is to make sure you’re back on the same page. It doesn’t sound like there’s much to worry about there.
@Jim_Alexander on Twitter
Los Angeles Rams QB Jared Goff looks to hand off to Todd Gurley in the third quarter of Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on February 3, 2019 in Atlanta, GA. (Staff Photo By Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)
Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn wrap up Rams Jared Goff near the end of second quarter to Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia on February 3, 2019. (Staff Photo By Christopher Evans/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)
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Los Angeles Rams’ Jared Goff (16) stands on the field during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game against the New England Patriots Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Los Angeles Rams’ Jared Goff drops back to pass against the New England Patriots during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Los Angeles Rams’ Jared Goff (16) gets sacked by New England Patriots’ Kyle Van Noy, rear, during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Los Angeles Rams’ Jared Goff (16) looks to handoff during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
New England Patriots’ Dont’a Hightower, top, sacks Los Angeles Rams’ Jared Goff (16) during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Los Angeles Rams’ Jared Goff (16) reacts after his pass was intercepted during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Los Angeles Rams’ Jared Goff (16) throws from the pocket during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game against the New England Patriots on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Los Angeles Rams’ Jared Goff (16) looks for a receiver under pressure from New England Patriots’ Danny Shelton during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Los Angeles Rams’ Jared Goff (16) looks to throw during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Los Angeles Rams’ Jared Goff (16) runs during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Los Angeles Rams’ Jared Goff (16) works under pressure from New England Patriots’ Adrian Clayborn (94) during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff takes the field with his teammates before Super Bowl 53 between the Rams and the New England Patriots Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Ram quarterback Jared Goff leaves the field after the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, in Atlanta. The Patriots won 13-3. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)