The LA Rams were both blessed and cursed going into their home opener to face the Chicago Bears. Blessed in the sense that the team has an intense commitment to make the offense more explosive. Blessed in the sense that newly acquired veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford had a cannon of an arm and could heave the ball deep downfield with uncanny accuracy. Blessed in that the LA Rams had one of the most talented yet underrated wide receiver groups in the NFL.
But the team was cursed too. The Rams running backs were afflicted with a diabolical number of serious injuries, so severe in fact that the team had to trade for running back Sony Michel before the season began. And also cursed in that the Chicago Bears defense, one of the most proficient defenses in the NFL in recent years, knew that the Rams offense had to throw bombs. And they would be ready for them.
Well, knowing what Matthew Stafford wants to do and stopping him from doing it seem to be two very different things in the 2021 NFL season. After the LA Rams created a turnover in their own end zone, the Rams were in business. The offense opened up with a strong six-yard run up the middle by running back Darrell Henderson. Then a short pass out to tight end Tyler Higbee was good for seven yards, moving the ball out to the 33-yard line and moving the chains.
Stafford shakes SoFi Stadium
What happened next was exactly what the LA Rams needed to do and exactly what the Chicago Bears defense had to know that they were going to do. Stafford dropped back and launched the football nearly 55 yards through the air into the waiting arms of second-year Rams wide receiver Van Jefferson. In a move certain to fill NFL highlights this week, he fell down untouched between two Bears defenders, got back up, and scampered the last 15 yards or so into the endzone.
And then SoFi Stadium literally shook with excitement. No, this is no figure of speech. The place literally shook.
It was how the first touchdown had to happen.
After the LA Rams head coach Sean McVay put his neck out, and reputation at stake, to trade for veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford, the first score of this game was going to be crucial. A rushing touchdown would be too ho-hum. A passing touchdown after a long drive would be effective enough, but it would not emphasize the explosive nature of this offense. It wouldn’t force NFL defensive coordinators to scramble and burn the midnight oil trying to stop this team from scoring.
With an exclamation point
McVay wanted to punctuate this offense with a statement. What statement? Simple. The Rams offense can score touchdowns and can score them from practically anyone on the field in a matter of seconds. To prove their point, the LA Rams scored their first touchdown in just 1:18. The Rams scored their second touchdown in just 1:08. That drive ended in a 58-yard touchdown strike to Cooper Kupp.
Need more proof? In 2020, Jared Goff averaged 7.2 yards per completion. In the opener, the LA Rams averaged 12.3 yards per completion. Perhaps the fans at SoFi Stadium did not burst into loud cheers after the offense scored the first touchdown on a 67-yard TD bomb off the hands of Matthew Stafford. Perhaps the crowd cheered loud and long because of the performances that they expect he would deliver for the rest of that game and will deliver for years to come.
The Matthew Stafford era has arrived. And the crowd went wild.