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Game Preview: Rams look to get back on track against stingy Bears defense on MNF

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Monday Afternoon Football visits SoFi Stadium for the first time in Week 7.

Yes, I said afternoon.

We're all going to pretend that this showdown with Chicago kicks off at 3:30, so that the Rams second half defense will be there for the opening series at 5:15.

Buffalo is the only opponent to score more than three points in a second half against the Rams, and the 26 points allowed after the break are the fewest in the NFL. But the 88 allowed in the first half present a growth opportunity for Monday night.

I'm sorry – Monday AFTERNOON.

U-G-L-Y

After improving to 5-1 with a win at Carolina, Bears quarterback Nick Foles asked fans whether they'd rather lose pretty or win ugly.

Suffice it to say, if offered an ugly win in Week 7, both Sean McVay and Matt Nagy would race to the printer to sign the contract.

Because this Bears defense is nasty, too.

Since the Colts scored on their opening drive three games ago, Chicago has held Indianapolis, Tampa Bay, and Carolina to just two touchdowns collectively on their last 32 possessions.

To put that in perspective, the Rams' last 32 true offensive possessions (excluding victory formations and desperate end-game lateral situations) have yielded nine touchdowns.

YAC story

If you're looking for a strength against strength, it's worth monitoring yards after catch in this matchup.

Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods are both top-five in the league in that category. Meanwhile, the Bears defense has allowed only 242 yards all season after the catch, fifth fewest in the NFL.

Seldom do the Bears blitz, and they'll feed the opposition a healthy diet of two deep safety structures. Not only are they adept at playing deep to short and limiting passing windows, they then rally to the ball and secure tackles as well as any defense.

23 and Me?

Returning from Santa Clara feeling like they left points on the field, what a remarkable test for the Rams offense eight days later.

Could be another grind against Chicago. In their last two meetings with the Bears, the Rams have scored a combined total of 23 points.

Are you taking the over or under on 23 in Round Three?

I'm optimistic that total will be enough to win.

Get Goff the Schneid

In his career, Jared Goff has thrown five interceptions without a touchdown against the Bears. They are the only opponent the Rams signal-caller has played twice without throwing for a score.

Speaking of Goff, I reject the notion he played poorly against the Niners. If that's a sign of his new "floor," then fans should be extremely encouraged.

And in the latest installment of "Completion Percentage Is Meaningless," Goff was awarded the throw of the week for an incompletion in that loss.

Third Down Distance

What would absolutely help Goff is fewer third-and-long situations. The Rams yards-to-go on third down has been steadily rising since a pristine 4.78 in the opener against Dallas.

Thankfully, Goff and the offense have continued to avoid falling behind the chains. But against the 49ers, they had a season-low four opportunities in third and less than five yards.

Those are the ideal circumstances, with more of the playbook available to McVay as play-caller and a higher likelihood of treating the situation as four-down territory and extending a drive even if without converting on third down. 

Pick to Click

Last week, we made a short list of Rams still waiting for their first touchdown of 2020, and from that group, Josh Reynolds delivered.

This week, let's go with those who are hunting their first interception. The Rams only have four as a team, which ranks in the bottom half of the league. But they've all been extremely high leverage picks.

Starting defensive backs Darious Williams, Troy Hill and John Johnson all have theirs.

Taylor Rapp saves all his for Kyler Murray, we know. So we'll put him down for Weeks 13 and 17 against the Cardinals.

Jordan Fuller is on the shelf; his first NFL interception will have to wait until after the bye. Terrell Burgess had some nice reps against George Kittle last week, though, so he's a candidate!

But you know who's due? Jalen Ramsey.

Due mostly to lack of targets, he only has one interception in his last 24 outings.

And Foles will throw you some chances. He owns the NFL's longest interception streak with at least one in five straight games.

The Los Angeles were back on the practice field in preparation for the Week 7 Monday Night Football matchup against the Chicago Bears. Check out the best photos from Thursday's practice!

Just for Kicks

I was reminded this week one of the reasons why the Rams sought a replacement for Greg Zuerlein, and why Samuel Sloman was ultimately given the first shot.

Field goals in the 40-to-49-yard range.

Greg the Leg had been inconsistent from those distances in 2018-19, going 9-for-17 (after making all 12 in 2017). For what it's worth, he's connected on all four attempts in that range this season with the Cowboys.

Sloman reportedly prevailed in the three-man competition during training camp, in part because of his accuracy from that distance, and he just drilled his first opportunity in the forties last week at Levi's Stadium, making a season-best 42-yarder.

As for Forbath? He has been solid in that range, striping 18 of his last 19 attempts over the past four seasons. He's also converted extra points at a .903 clip since the NFL extended the distance to 33 yards.

Answers for A'Shawn

Whether or not he debuts against the Bears, or next week in Miami, or even after the bye, I sought some clarity on A'Shawn Robinson and his NFL roster designation this week that I wanted to share with you.

It had been reported a few times that the defensive tackle would be able to practice after six games (and indeed he did join the Rams on the field in Thousand Oaks this week), but unable to debut until after the eighth game of the season.

As it turns out, that's not the case; he's eligible immediately. And here are a few things I learned about why, within the unique constructs of this 2020 pandemic season:

First, players have the same ability to return to the field under the three standard designations: Reserve/Injured, Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform, Reserve/Non-Football Injury. Those labels have various stipulations and implications, but with respect to when the club can get a player back on the field, they're similar.

Secondly, clubs this year are not limited to the normal restrictions on designating only two players for return. Hence, the ability to place Jordan Fuller and Joe Noteboom and Obo Okoronkwo on Reserve/Injured with plans to hopefully see them all back in uniform soon.

Thirdly, while these designations are not made public, an injury is classified as either "minor" (three games) or "major" (six games).

And finally, this is the key: The league removed the stipulation that a player must wait at least eight games from being placed on any of those lists before returning to the active roster.

For more context on Robinson's situation, I recommend this article.

SoFi the Fortress

Look, we all know there's no home field advantage in 2020. At least not in the traditional sense; not until you get to attend.

But Monday, the Rams play their only home game in a stretch of 42 days, and they have a chance to go to 3-0 in their new building.

The schedule tilts toward Inglewood after the bye, with the Rams playing five of their last eight at SoFi Stadium.

Wouldn't it be nice – even while it's empty – to set a precedent that the only thing visiting teams should expect to leave with is a picture of the video board to share with their friends and family?

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