INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Rams cornerback David Long Jr. knew he'd be ready.
Starter or not, he has kept the same approach over the last two-plus seasons. So when Rams linebacker Kenny Young deflected a pass by Bears quarterback Andy Dalton, Long was there to get underneath it and make the interception.
The pick was Long's first of his NFL career.
"It felt good," Long said after the Rams' 34-14 Sunday Night Football win over the Bears at SoFi Stadium. "Just to get that experience help, the team out. Big momentum change, they were driving, so just be able to help and contribute was good."
The Bears arrived inside the Rams' 20-yard line in just three plays, the first a 50-yard kickoff return by running back Khalil Herbert and the third a 41-yard run by running back David Montgomery to get within striking distance. Three plays later on 3rd and goal from the Rams 8, Dalton dropped back and fired a pass to his left toward wide receiver Darnell Mooney, only for it to get tipped by Young and land in the arms of Long, who was able to grab and secure the ball before it fell to the ground in the endzone.
The Rams capitalized on the takeaway three plays later with a 67-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matthew Stafford to wide receiver Van Jefferson.
"The pick by David Long and the tip from Kenny Young was outstanding," Rams head coach Sean McVay said.
Though Long's night ended earlier than he probably expected due to cramping with 9:56 left in the third quarter, he still put together an overall productive performance. In addition to the interception, he also had a pair of pass breakups and five total tackles.
"You got a guy who's really been unproven thus far, just hasn't had a lot of experience playing in the NFL yet, in D-Lo, and he came out today and he popped us off with the first pick and played well," Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey said.
Entering the 2021 season, Long had played in 24 career games with one start through his first two years in Los Angeles. It made sense that he hadn't had many opportunities to prove himself on defense, with veterans like Nickell Robey-Coleman during his rookie season in 2019 and Troy Hill in 2020 holding down the cornerback spot.
Now, he's in an expanded role and being counted on to make plays alongside Ramsey and fellow cornerback Darious Williams.
"I feel like my mindset's been the same every year – just come in, mind set (to) go in and contribute, start, master my role and be the best player I can be," Long said. "(Defensive coordinator) Raheem (Morris) got in there, and I was eager to just feed off of his energy, and Jalen and Darious. After the guys left, Troy and all those other guys, I just felt like I wanted to jump in and not miss a step for the defense."
The Los Angeles Rams take on the Chicago Bears for the first game of the 2021 season at SoFi Stadium.