INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The highly-anticipated debut took only two pass plays to deliver what fans wanted to see and and ended in a near-perfect performance.
In his first game in a Rams uniform, quarterback Matthew Stafford began the night recording his first touchdown with his new team on his second pass attempt – a 67-yard bomb to wide receiver Van Jefferson– and later ended it with a career-high passer-rating of 156.1, 2.2 points shy of a perfect one.
Overall, Stafford was 20 of 26 for 321 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions, engineering an explosive Los Angeles offense in a 34-14 victory over the Bears Sunday night at SoFi Stadium.
"It was awesome," Stafford said postgame. "It was a complete team win."
Acquiring Stafford on March 18 displayed arguably the strongest signal ensuring Rams head coach Sean McVay would meet his goal of creating more explosive plays this season. Nearly six months later, Stafford had completions of 67, 56, 37, 19, 18, and 17 yards (thrice) in Los Angeles' season-opening victory. Stafford was responsible for 9 of the Rams' 10-longest plays collectively.
Like his longest completion, Stafford's second-longest also went for a touchdown, connecting with a wide-open Cooper Kupp to put L.A. up 20-7 over Chicago early in the third quarter. Both completions marked the culmination of consistent, steadily-built chemistry shown between him and each wide receiver on explosive plays over the course of the offseason program in the spring and training camp in the summer.
"It was great," Jefferson said. "I mean, everybody got involved today. Like I said, it was a great job by all 11. Matt did a great job of facilitating the ball to everyone. This offense can be explosive, and we're just following Matt."
Kupp said after Thursday's practice that one of the things that excited him about the possibilities of a Stafford-led offense was the ability to make all five eligible receivers be part of the passing game. Sure enough, Stafford had completions to Jefferson, Kupp, Robert Woods DeSean Jackson, and tight end Tyler Higbee, plus one to running back Darrell Henderson Jr.
Collectively, that approach helped the Rams come away with points on six of their nine possessions. Of the three scoreless drives, one of them ended with a punt; the remaining two came at the end of the first half and the end of the game when Stafford kneeled to run out the clock both times.
"That's when we're going to be at our best, when everyone gets involved in the game," Stafford said. "I'm not sure how many different guys had catches, but it felt like a bunch. Those guys are talented playmakers. I'll do it a different way. So I'm trying to do everything I can to make sure those guys are able to show their abilities and go out there and play."
As one might imagine, it was hard for McVay to single out just one moment from Stafford's performance that he liked.
"It's hard to say that there was one thing," McVay said. "I loved everything that he did tonight."