KANSAS CITY —
There will be no easing into it.
On Sunday, Rams quarterback Bryce Perkins is expected to make his first NFL start, and it will be against one of the best teams in the NFL, in one of the league’s loudest environments with a frontrunner for most valuable player at quarterback for the opponent.
Other than that, not much of a challenge for a player the Rams signed as an undrafted free agent in 2020.
“You’re going to have a little of those kinds of heartbeats,” Perkins said of maintaining his composure against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium, adding, “a little butterfly, a little heartbeat here and there, but once that first play snaps, we’ll get rid of it.”
With Matthew Stafford sidelined because of injury, Perkins will direct the offense for a struggling Rams team that is 3-7, has lost four games in a row and is on the brink of elimination from playoff contention.
The Rams are two-touchdown underdogs against the Chiefs (8-2) and Patrick Mahomes, who engineered another last-minute, game-winning drive to defeat the Chargers last Sunday at SoFi Stadium.
Perkins, 25, made the Rams roster for the second consecutive season with preseason performances that forced the Rams to not risk exposing him to waivers.
Three weeks ago, with Stafford in concussion protocol, Perkins backed up John Wolford and played five snaps in his NFL debut. Last Sunday, Stafford started against the New Orleans Saints but went into concussion protocol after he was sacked in the second half. Perkins came on and directed two field-goal drives.
Now, with Stafford out and Wolford questionable because of a neck injury, the 6-foot-3, 214-pound Perkins is poised for the opportunity he dreamed about growing up in Arizona before playing at Arizona State and Virginia.
Perkins welcomes the chance to play in one of the NFL’s toughest venues for visiting teams.
“I love the rough, rowdy environments,” he said. “To get a chance to go out there, feel the energy, that’s what you live for, those movie-type football scenarios.”
With seven games left, the Rams’ season fits the disaster genre.
Perkins will be operating behind an injury-ravaged line that could feature the 11th different starting group in 11 games, including a fourth left tackle.
Star receiver Cooper Kupp is on injured reserve following ankle surgery, and tight end Tyler Higbee is questionable because of a knee issue.
Perkins will go up against the Chiefs defense, not Mahomes, and looks forward to competing against a dual-threat player he has long admired.
“Just the things he does, how he throws the ball, the plays he gets out of, plays he makes with his legs, it’s definitely like something that’s like, ‘Wow,'” Perkins said, adding, “It’s going to be fun to get out there, see him in person, and I know our defense is ready for it.”
Mahomes has passed for 28 touchdowns, with seven interceptions, in an offense that leads the league in passing and scoring.
Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris described the 6-3, 227-pound Mahomes in otherworldly terms.
“Let’s be honest,” Morris said, “like he’s an alien.”
“It’s just something that you can’t compare it to,” linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “He’s one of one. He’s a special talent.”
Said cornerback Jalen Ramsey: “I mean, what can’t he do?”
Mahomes, 27, was in his second NFL season in 2018 when he introduced himself to the Rams.
In one of the most exciting games in “Monday Night Football” history, Mahomes passed for 478 yards and six touchdowns in a 54-51 defeat of the Rams at the Coliseum.
The next season, he led the Chiefs to a Super Bowl title. Three years later, he is even better.
“Looks comfortable,” Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald said, “like he doesn’t get rattled much.”
Defensive lineman Greg Gaines put it another way.
“Gotta try and just keep him from getting out of that pocket, running around in circles, going 30 yards deep and then throwing a dime,” Gaines said.