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Five Takeaways: Woods Shines in Rams 33-7 Victory

Posted Nov 13, 2017

WR Robert Woods' career day, DT Aaron Donald's big sack highlight this week's five takeaways.

Despite a slow offensive start, the Rams defeated the Texans with a lopsided 33-7 final score. Los Angeles has now won four games in a row for the first time since 2003, and owns a one-game lead in the NFC West with a 7-2 record.

Here are five takeaways from the contest.

1) Woods has a career day

Wide receiver Robert Woods has been a consistent, reliable target for quarterback Jared Goff throughout the 2017 season. But Sunday’s game was something else.

Woods made eight receptions for a career-high 171 yards receiving and two touchdowns, including a 94-yard touchdown in the third quarter. That play was the franchise’s longest from scrimmage since 1964.

“I heard the play call, I looked up, checked the coverage and pretty much saw the matchup and ran my route,” Woods said of the long touchdown. “I felt like I beat the guy and took three steps and saw the ball fly out. The ball was on the money, Jared Goff put it right in the palm of my hands, so I was just able to catch it and run. Saw the end zone and [it was] just a race to the end zone.”

In some ways, Sunday represented a culmination of everything Woods has provided to the team since signing with L.A. back in March. Players consistently praise the USC product for his leadership, as fellow wideout Sammy Watkins did following Sunday’s game.

“I think for me it’s that Robert Woods leads this group,” Watkins said. “The way that he practices, the way that he plays the games, the way he does everything kind of moves this wide receiver group. He’s a pro and I have had to push my game up with the way that he’s competing and that’s what all of us are doing.”     

Woods now leads the Rams with 39 receptions and 622 yards receiving, and is tied with Watkins for the team lead with four receiving touchdowns. He’s on pace for 1,106 yards receiving, which would be the highest output since Torry Holt’s 1,189 yards in 2007.

2) Donald remains ridiculous

When was the last time you heard of a player ending opening drives in consecutive weeks with a sack-fumble?

Well, it had never happened in Rams franchise history. That is, until Sunday’s game when Aaron Donald did it.

The fourth-year pro out of Pitt continues to play almost more like a machine than a human, having recorded a sack in each of the Rams’ last four games. And Donald’s strip-sack of his college teammate, Tom Savage, gave Los Angeles the opportunity to begin the game with a 3-0 lead.

And yet, asking Donald about the play elicited only the following response:

“Just got a one-on-one, won my one-on-one, and then got to the quarterback.”

Head coach Sean McVay, however, was much more effusive in his praise postgame.

“He’s a special player, special person. He continues to kind of epitomize a lot of the things that we talk about in terms of what you want your players to look like — the way that they prepare and then it shows up on game day,” McVay said. “He’s doing a lot of other things that might not show up on the stat sheet that end up freeing up some other guys that are making plays on the defense. But, Aaron has done a great job, been a huge part of why our defense has played so well and very happy that he’s on our team.”

Donald leads the Rams with 5.0 sacks this season, and has eight tackles for loss and 14 quarterback hits.

3) Gurley has a “quiet” Week 10

With Woods rightly receiving many of the headlines coming out of Sunday, it’s maybe easy to miss what a productive day running back Todd Gurley had.

The Georgia product finished with 17 touches for 136 yards from scrimmage — the seventh time this season the running back has had at least 100 total yards.

Gurley had two of the Rams’ three longest plays on Sunday. One was a 43-yard screen in the second quarter that put the offense in scoring position. Another was a 34-yard run that gave the Rams a key first down in the fourth quarter.

With 754 yards rushing and 406 yards receiving, Gurley now leads the league with 1160 yards from scrimmage. He’s also No. 1 with 10 touchdowns.

4) Young bulls making an impact

The Rams’ defense recorded four takeaways against the Texans, and two came courtesy of a pair of young players.

Rookie outside linebacker Samson Ebukam recorded his first career sack in the third quarter, forcing Savage to fumble on the play. And safety Blake Countess grabbed his first career interception in the fourth quarter, keeping the Texans from scoring on fourth down.

“I think these guys have done a great job getting a little bit more time these last handful of weeks,” McVay said Monday. “Samson is a guy that continues to demonstrate why you liked him so much coming out of college – he’s explosive, he can play in space, you see how quickly he closes to Savage when he forces that fumble. He made a handful of plays on special teams as well, a big block that sprung Pharoh [Cooper] down the sidelines [on a punt return], so Samson is doing a lot of really good things.

“Blake is a really important part of our team because of the versatility that he provides being able to play the nickel, corner, the safety position – he’s excellent on ‘teams’ for ‘Bones,’” McVay continued, referring to special teams coordinator John Fassel. “He’s done a really good job and it’s exciting to see those guys be able to make some plays a little bit later on in the game and it ended up being very important for us.”

Both plays show how the Rams have built up some depth on defense, and continue to get contributions everywhere.

5) Cooper records another quality return

Wide receiver Pharoh Cooper has done a nice job all season with kick returns, averaging 30.2 yards on 18 attempts — including a 103-yard touchdown in Jacksonville. But since taking over as punt returner, Cooper has shown a knack for getting the Rams into good field position there, too.

Cooper had another strong return in Sunday’s game, going 27 yards up the right sideline to set up Watkins’ touchdown in the third quarter. The South Carolina product has now had a punt return of at least 20 yards in each of the Rams’ last three games.

“He’s done a good job. I think he’s really brought a spark to our return game as a whole,” McVay said. “He’s got so much confidence that we want to be smart about some of the decisions in the kick return game, as far as when we’re taking it out, when we’re not. But, you look at the punt return, how consistent he’s been catching it and then he’s just got such a good feel, he can set up the blocks. On that one down our right sideline, he just does a really nice job of being able to kind of skinny through, set guys up. Guys are competing hard for him. It definitely takes all 11 on that unit and those guys have done really good job.

“I think when the ball is in his hands good things have happened,” McVay continued. “Whether it be on offense or specifically in the return game, he’s definitely brought a spark and it’s been instrumental for us.”