They should have named the new pass interference rule after him.
From the moment Nickell Robey-Coleman hit Tommylee Lewis in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship, the Rams nickel back was at the center of a two-week media storm leading into Super Bowl LIII.
And he seemed to relish it.
Then, on the first drive in Atlanta, he was at the crux again, cleanly deflecting a pass thrown by Tom Brady that Cory Littleton intercepted.
You knew he’d be tested early in that game, and you wonder if he might be again on Sunday, this time against the Saints.
That’s where we start our Week Two preview.
There’s no indication the Saints harbor animosity toward Robey-Coleman, personally. Why should they? Just because he delivered the hit doesn’t make him responsible for the lack of a penalty flag.
Nonetheless, at some point on Sunday, a decisive play will involve No. 23 in Horns.
Right? It almost has to.
My partner D’Marco Farr put it this way on Rams All-Access:
“I think there’s going to be some sort of play for him, some sort of moment,” the Super Bowl champion hinted. “If you’ve got Michael Thomas in the slot on Robey-Coleman, they’re going there anyway. At some point, run or pass, he’s going to be put on Front Street.”
If we know anything about NRC, there’s no place he’d rather be.
Tight end Tyler Higbee had an interesting spin on the Saints quest for vengeance.
Our guest on Rams Revealed, fresh off a game-winning touchdown grab in Carolina, Higbee said whatever motivational edge the Saints may bring to Los Angeles will be offset by the change of venue.
“I think that’s one of the biggest things is not having to deal with that insane crowd noise (in New Orleans)… That was the loudest game I’ve ever played in. It might be the loudest I ever play in.”
It was also the most impactful performance of his career, as Higbee hauled in a touchdown in regulation, followed by two clutch receptions in overtime to set up Greg Zuerlein’s game-winner.
How Close It’s Been
Since Sean McVay arrived in Los Angeles, and since the Saints resurfaced as contenders, these teams have been nearly identical.
>> All figures lead the NFC (ESPN Stats & Info)
No wonder this feels like yet another playoff preview.
The Los Angeles Rams will host the New Orleans Saints for the team's home opener this weekend. Check out the practice photos.
Kamara Carves the Rams
One week after surrendering 209 scrimmage yards to Christian McCaffrey, next the Rams defense must contend with a recurring nightmare.
In three meetings with Los Angeles (including postseason), Alvin Kamara has averaged over 138 scrimmage yards and scored five times.
He’s coming off 169 yards of total offense in a Week One victory over Houston in which he was impossible to bring down.
It’s hard to envision the Rams prevailing if they don’t find solutions for one of the NFL’s best backs.
What Can Brown Do For You?
As for the Rams backfield of Todd Gurley and Malcolm Brown, Sean McVay insisted this week that the distribution of touches in Week One is not a blueprint for 2019.
“To say that we wanted to come out of (Carolina) with those guys basically getting close to the same amount of carries is not the case at all,” the head coach told us Monday.
Perhaps it wasn’t the design, but it sure was effective, as Brown scored twice and Gurley racked up 89 yards on nine touches after the half to ice the win.
For all that was written about Darrell Henderson being drafted as a “change of pace” back to complement Gurley, I actually think Henderson is more similar to Gurley than he is different. Brown provides the variety (not to mention experience), and it was great to see him validate the coaching staff’s confidence in him coming off that clavicle injury in late 2018.
Zero to 60, Real Quick
Gurley will play his 60th NFL game on Sunday, and he takes the field against the Saints with 56 career touchdowns, good for eighth in league history over that span. One more this weekend would tie him with Lance Alworth for seventh all-time.
As for his 46 rushing touchdowns, one more would tie Walter Payton for 12th. Two would match our own Maurice Jones-Drew for 11th. Jim Brown holds the NFL mark with 57 rushing touchdowns in his first 60 games; Eric Dickerson rushed for 53 scores to open his career.
Third Down and Kupp
The matchup I like most this week is Cooper Kupp against P.J. Williams in the slot.
Coming off a knee sprain, Kupp scored in the Week 9 loss in New Orleans before suffering a season-ending ACL the following week against the Seahawks.
Now, he’ll play on the Coliseum surface for the first time since that non-contact injury, and how great will it sound to hear “Coooooop” from the home crowd?
Kupp looked terrific against the Panthers, as three of his seven receptions moved the chains on third down.
Clean Up and Win on SPTMS
The opener at Carolina was the rare occasion where the Rams flat out lost on special teams. A week later, I’m still not sure what to make of it.
A kickoff out of bounds, a punt blocked, another shanked, a missed field goal, and a punt fielded inside the Rams five-yard line.
Thankfully, Robert Woods and the hands team secured the onside kick and the win.
But in a game that almost certainly will come down to the wire, those miscues cannot occur against the Saints, who boast the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week in Will Lutz, fresh off a game-winning, career-long 58-yard field goal as time expired to beat the Texans.