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LA Rams special teams did their part in TNF victory

Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

The LA Rams special teams stepped up to seal the victory on Thursday Night Football

The LA Rams have not been setting the world on fire this season on special teams. So the game plan when facing the very good special teams’ unit of the New England Patriots was simple. Don’t lose this game. And they didn’t.  Simple enough, right? Well, little victories start with modest achievable goals.

Why are we talking about this? Well, a championship team needn’t be elite from top to bottom on the 53-man roster. In fact, many winning teams are not built upon 53 players who contend for the NFL Pro Bowl. Winning teams are built with players who can compete and make plays well enough to keep the team in the game.

Team mindset

We highlighted the ‘team mindset’ culture that new defensive coordinator Brandon Staley infused into the Rams’ stellar defense. We had also highlighted that same mentality that is prevalent in the offense, particularly so with the wide receivers. This LA Rams team has come to trust one another in such a way that good things are happening to this club. But no phase of this club is more under siege, and more trusting, than the special teams’ unit.

This certainly has proven to be a difficult unit to work on turning the corner with.  So far, the LA Rams special teams are ranked 30th by Football outsiders (subscription required) and are ranked 27th by Lineups. So far the weakest part of the Rams special teams play? Coverage units and return units.  The Rams have not done well at returning the ball on punts or kickoffs this year. And ironically, the Rams have not done well at covering either kickoffs or punts this year.

Changing tide?

While the LA Rams may not have fixed everything, they did not allow the Patriots to dictate the outcome of the game through special teams play. The Patriots did not return a single kick, while the Rams’s very own Van Jefferson returned a kick for 13 yards to the Rams 26 yards line. On punt returns, the LA Rams Nsimba Webster returned one punt for eight yards. Meanwhile, the Patriots Gunner Olszewski was able to return five of the Rams’ six punts for 47 yards.

The Patriots punted six times for a total of 310 yards.  The Rams punted six times for a total of 246 yards.  Finally, the Patriots kicker Nick Folk booted a 29-yard field goal. The Rams kicker Matt Gay had a perfect night of kicking, as he booted a 35-yard field goal as well as all three extra points. And he forced a touchback on all ensuing kickoffs.

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Heading into the game, nobody expected the Rams to outplay the Patriots on special teams. Rather, the hope was that the Rams would be able to hold their own against the Patriots, which they did. Baby steps. Little victories. They won’t win games for the LA Rams. But they will prevent the team from losing them going forward.