After the Rams and Chargers both win their season opener, the Los Angeles Times Rams beat writer Gary Klein, the Chargers beat writer Jeff Miller, and columnist Dylan Hernández assess the teams’ situation. Moderated by NFL editor Athan Atsales.
What was the most surprising thing about the Chargers at the season opener?
Miller: The offensive line’s performance had to be honestly amazing for anyone who’s seen this team, especially over the last couple of seasons. They were more than a good fit for Washington’s vaunted defensive front.
The Chargers could have designed a gem in the Left Tackle Rashawn Slater that was fantastic after every measure available. Center Corey Linsley is a reigning all-pro, and Guardians Matt Feiler and Oday Aboushi played like pros. Proper tackle will be the problem that moves forward, given Bryan Bulaga’s ailing back and the lack of depth behind him.
Hernández: It’s hard to say that Justin Herbert’s performance was surprising considering what he achieved last year. However, think about the number of physically gifted and mentally resilient quarterbacks who failed to become elite players in the NFL. As much as was expected of him, there was no guarantee he would become the kind of quarterback who could orchestrate a six-minute drive to seal a game, especially at this early point in his career.
Gary, the Rams seemed like many expected, but did something surprise you?
Klein: Well, I’m starting to stick with it, that didn’t surprise me at all [Matthew] Stafford’s performance.
I was a little surprised that Sony Michel only carried the ball once. [Coach Sean] McVay said the flow of the game was dictated by Darrell Henderson for almost every snapshot. But Henderson hasn’t finished the last two seasons due to injuries. I thought McVay might go for a 50-50, 60-40, or 70-30 distribution because it’s a long season.
Darrell Henderson, sidelined by Bears Defensive Back Kindle Vildor, carried the burden for the Rams into their season opener.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen such a fiddly call on a seemingly incomplete pass from Herbert the Chargers to Washington. I mean, that wasn’t the “tuck rule”. This ball went on at least 15 yards. What you saw?
Hernández: It didn’t look like a fiddle to me. I don’t know what else to say.
Miller: My opinion is that there might not be much fiddling around in the NFL for the next decade. Herbert “fumbled” from the 15-yard line into the end zone! Personally, I thought his arm moved forward enough that the judgment should have been incomplete. That’s what Herbert and Chargers trainer Brandon Staley thought, too, to get a hold of it.
The bigger question here for me is whether a fumble that goes into the end zone should be awarded to defense. I mean, neither team was able to get possession of the ball, so why not make it an offensive touchback? Put the ball at the 20 yard line, make it and the goal first, and let the offense stay on the field.
The odd thing for the Rams was that their much-touted running defense from last season didn’t look squat at all. Fortunately for them, their leadership forced the bears to throw. What do you think went wrong in running defense?
Klein: Some of that was probably jitter in the first game. Or maybe a lack of combat practice. Maybe just a missed assignment that helped David Montgomery rush 41 of his 108 yards.
But as I mentioned in stories, the loss of Michael Brockers cannot be underestimated. He was the longtime wingman of Aaron Donald. They knew each other’s movements.
It remains to be seen if A’Shawn Robinson, Sebastian Joseph-Day, Greg Gaines, and others can step up.
If you were to coach the Chargers, what would be the most worrying thing about your home game against Dallas?
Hernández: The Chargers had some problems defending themselves against the run at the start of the season. Given Ezekiel Elliott’s presence in the Cowboys’ backfield, that’s likely to be a focus this week.
Miller: Dak Prescott has thrown at least 47 passes for at least 403 yards in four of his last five starts. And the cowboys are 1-3 in these four games. So, like you, I wouldn’t be as concerned about Prescott as Ezekiel Elliott.
As a former all-pro and three-time 1,300-yard rusher, Elliott may no longer be the burden he once was, but he’s still very proud and no doubt sick of talking about Dallas isn’t a passing game that tries to find a running game.
Gary, what about the Rams?
Klein: Week 1 in the NFL is known to be misleading. Are the Rams as good as they looked? Probably. Are the Colts terrible because they lost to the Seahawks? Probably not.
In 2017, McVay’s first season, the Rams beat the Colts at home in the opener and then lost to Washington at home. So there are always concerns about disappointment, but Stafford can make up for a lot of problems.
Did you notice something that Brandon Staley of the Chargers said on the Monday after his first game as head coach?
Miller: Staley’s honesty and openness still impress and amaze me. The guy is a beat writer’s dream because he really tells you what it is like.
On Sunday, Safety Nasir Adderley gave up a 34-yard close from Taylor Heinicke to Terry McLaurin at the start of the second half. Adderley was in position, but the ball went through his hands.
Staley was blunt in his assessment, saying, “I would prefer our defense attorney catch it or knock it down.” Nas has followed it well when it comes to getting there. He had plenty of time to finish this piece. You have to finish this game as a defensive player. “
We hope he stays open with the details and that his players are fine when they are held accountable so publicly.
Hernández: Staley always seemed to be in control of his emotions when he reached out to the media. We still don’t know how Staley will play out as an NFL head coach, but I think his openness and ability to connect with people on an emotional level will help.