CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A slew of timely takeaways and clutch running from Malcolm Brown helped the Rams (1-0) fend off the Panthers (0-1) for a 30-27 season-opening road win at Carolina.
The Rams won the coin toss and deferred to the second half. The Panthers crossed midfield, but LB Cory Littleton came up with a timely forced fumble and fumble recovery which allowed Los Angeles to take over at its own 33. Their ensuing series fizzled at the Panthers 42-yard line.
L.A.'s first offensive series featured seven pass attempts by Goff but no carries by Gurley. Kupp, however, looked sharp with four catches for 24 yards on the opening drive.
Carolina's first chance at points came on a 53-yard field goal attempt by Joey Slye, starting in place of the injured Graham Gano and appearing in his first NFL regular season game. However, the kick went wide right. The Rams turned that miss in to a 49-yard field goal by kicker Greg Zuerlein for the game's first points and a 3-0 lead with 13:43 left in the first half.
Rams LB Samson Ebukam tipped Newton's backwards pass intended for WR D.J. Moore and Los Angeles recovered at Carolina 10-yard line. Two carries and 10 yards later, RB Macolm Brown reached the endzone for the Rams' first touchdown of the 2019 season, giving Los Angeles a 10-0 lead with 12:44 left in first half.
Late in the second quarter, Rams safety Eric Weddle took a knee to the helmet on an attempted hurdle by Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey. Weddle had to be taken off the field on a cart and was replaced by Marqui Christian. Weddle was later diagnosed with a head laceration and evaluated for a concussion and did not return.
Los Angeles extended its lead to 16-3 on a 27-yard field goal by Zuerlein early in the third quarter. The scoring drive was made possible by Gurley breaking loose for a 25-yard run. However, Carolina would respond with an 8-play, 60-yard scoring drive finished off by a McCaffrey 8-yard TD run off a direct snap and fake handoff to Newton.
The Rams answered with a 12-play, 75-yard scoring drive which ended with Brown's second touchdown of the day to give them a 23-10 lead with 2:51 left in the third quarter. However, Carolina quickly made it a one possession game by scoring 10 unanswered – a 52-yard field goal by Slye, then McCaffrey's second rushing touchdown of the day off a blocked punt early in the fourth quarter.
Building on that momentum, CB James Bradberry intercepted a Goff pass intended for WR Robert Woods, but the Panthers' offense went 3-and-out on the ensuing drive. Thanks to excellent field position from JoJo Natson's following punt return, the Rams bounced back with a 7-play, 57-yard yard drive featuring a heavy dose of Gurley and a 5-yard touchdown pass from Goff to TE Tyler Higbee.
Already with one key takeaway, Littleton added another late in the fourth quarter, only to see Zuerlein miss a 41-yard field goal.
Carolina took advantage of the miscue with a 1-yard touchdown run by FB Alex Armah to pull within three. However, the ensuing onside kick was recovered by Robert Woods at midfield, and with only one timeout left for the Panthers, the Rams were able to ride Gurley to run out the clock and escape Charlotte with the victory.
The Los Angeles Rams take on the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America stadium for week one of the regular season.