Updated: 7:10 p.m. PT
LOS ANGELES — When the Rams hired Sean McVay as head coach in January, the club figured it had brought in a dynamic, young coach with a clear-cut vision for how his team should look and perform on Sundays.
It’s been only one game, yes, but the early returns were stellar, as the Rams defeated the Colts 46-9 to open the season 1-0.
McVay had effusive praise for his staff after the game, saying, “They had our guys ready to go and that’s where you feel so fortunate to have such a great coaching staff.”
“We know it’s not a perfect game, but there’s a lot of things that the players did a great job with and, ultimately, it’s about coming away with a win and we were able to do that,” McVay added.
Los Angeles became the first team in NFL history to score a pair of defensive touchdowns and record a safety in a season opener, accounting for 16 of the Rams’ points. Defensive backs Trumaine Johnson and Lamarcus Joyner each had a pick six, Johnson had an additional forced fumble and fumble recovery, and linebacker Cory Littleton forced a fumble deep in Indianapolis territory the the home team was able to convert into two points.
“Unbelievable,” McVay said of the defense’s performance. “When we come away with the field goal to start the game, and then for Trumaine Johnson to have the pick six — then when they end up getting a little something going offensively, here comes Lamarcus Joyner. So can’t say enough about the defensive effort as a whole.”
“Scoring on defense is big, we put an emphasis on that all week,” Johnson said. “We got a couple of pick-sixes, a couple turnovers. It was good — it was good for our defense.”
The Rams scored 30 offensive points, too, led by the best performance of Jared Goff’s young career. The second-year quarterback finished 21-of-29 passing for 306 yards with a touchdown — good for 10.6 yards per attempt. Los Angeles committed no turnovers and Goff was sacked only once en route to completing passes to seven different targets. The quarterback had a pass of at least 20 yards to five of his receivers.
“I thought we came out and executed well,” Goff said. “I thought there was a lot of things that we can definitely clean up, but for the most part [we’re] 1-0. And 1-0 is always better than 0-1.”
“I thought he did a great job making good decisions, getting the ball out in the timing and rhythm of the play,” McVay said. “Just from Jared as a whole, I’m very proud of him. Thought he did a great job and it was awesome for him to get his first win.”
Rookie Cooper Kupp led the Rams with 76 yards receiving, and caught an 18-yard touchdown pass for an impressive debut. Goff said Kupp “executed everything he needed to do,” complimenting the rookie’s consistency.
Newcomer Sammy Watkins was also heavily in the mix, making five receptions for 58 yards.
“I think Sammy’s done a great job,” Goff said. “I think he’s done a good job of getting himself open. And he has the vertical speed that can threaten guys.
Running back Todd Gurley II had 40 yards rushing and one rushing touchdown, but was frequently targeted as a receiver and finished with 56 yards through the air.
“We’ve got to be able to run the football better, more consistently get a hat on a hat, be targeted the right way and some of the things in the run game,” McVay said.
Making his debut as an outside linebacker in defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme, Robert Quinn had a nice game with two tackles for loss and a sack. Quinn’s 55th sack of his career moved up to No. 4 on the Rams’ all-time list.
In one second-quarter sequence, Quinn got his sack and then a tackle for loss within three plays. Quinn did not play in any of the Rams’ four preseason games this year, and on Sunday called that particular sequence akin to knocking the rust off.
“It was just fun to make a couple plays, help the team win,” Quinn said. “Just doing my little bit that I can while everyone else did theirs. So try not to make too big deal out of it, just doing my job.”
Los Angeles got the ball first and quickly scored, utilizing a no-huddle offense. Goff completed a 13-yard pass to Watkins and a 21-yard pass to wideout Robert Woods to move the Rams down the field. Kicker Greg Zuerlein connected on a 50-yard field goal to give the home team an early 3-0 lead.
But the score wouldn’t stay that way for long. On the Colts’ first set of downs, Johnson undercut what looked like an out route by wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and intercepted Scott Tolzien’s first pass on the defense’s right. Johnson was off to the races from there, returning the pick 39 yards increasing the lead to 10-0.
“Just trying to set the tone early,” Johnson said of his pick six. “Coming in we wanted to score on defense and we did that, and I was glad to make a play for this team.”
Indianapolis got on the board with a 20-yard field goal from Adam Vinatieri — but that was after a strong L.A. goal-line stand. It looked like running back Marlon Mack was about to take in a short pass for a 22-yard touchdown, but Joyner drove him out of bounds at the one-yard line to keep the defense on the field. A few plays later, the extra effort had paid off as the Colts had four fewer points.
Buoyed by a pair of nice catches from rookies, the Rams would extend their lead in the second quarter. First wide receiver Cooper Kupp made a 24-yard reception on a deep crossing route. The pass was nearly out of reach, but the Eastern Washington product tipped the ball up to himself and reeled it in on the left side.
A play later, tight end Gerald Everett dove to catch a 39-yard pass on the left sideline, giving the Rams 1st-and-goal at the Colts’ six. Gurley finished off the drive with a five-yard touchdown run, extending the ball at the goal line before his knee hit the ground.
Kupp would catch his first NFL touchdown in the second quarter, too, making an 18-yard reception on a post route from Goff to cap a six-play, 58-yard drive.
“I’m one of those guys, I probably lean more towards being super serious when it comes to the game, but I was having a blast out there,” Kupp said of his NFL debut.
With a Zuerlein 35-yard field goal, the Rams took a 27-3 lead into halftime.
The home team extended its advantage with a Zuerlein 44-yard field goal early in the third quarter, before Joyner removed all doubt with his pick six.
On 1st-and-10 from the Indianapolis 25, Tolzien attempted a short pass to Hilton on the defense’s right, and Joyner undercut the route, leapt up, and snagged the ball. He had a shorter distance to run than Johnson, taking it 29 yards for Los Angeles’ second defensive touchdown.
“Saw him peek over there at the beginning of the snap and just shot my gun at the beginning of the play,” Joyner said, adding he was hoping to pick it off once he read the play. “Thankfully, I did.”
Check out in-game photos from the Rams' season opener against the Colts at the Coliseum.
With the Rams up 37-3, the Colts inserted their newest quarterback, Jacoby Brissett, into the game. Los Angeles had removed its defensive starters, and Brissett completed a long downfield pass to wide receiver Donte Moncrief to put Indianapolis in scoring position. Mack ran in a three-yard touchdown for the Colts’ first touchdown of the day, which came with 11:36 left in the fourth quarter.
Later in the period, linebacker Cory Littleton stripped Mack deep in Indianapolis territory. Brissett recovered the loose ball, but defensive lineman Morgan Fox touched him down in the end zone for a safety.
L.A. closed out its scoring with a three-yard touchdown by Malcolm Brown — the first of his career — giving the club a 46-9 lead.
With the victory, the Rams move to 1-0 on the season. They’ll be back in action next weekend against Washington at the Coliseum.
“I think it’s a step in the right direction, but it’s all about those players and I can’t say enough about the way that these guys have bought into what we’re trying to do,” McVay said. “We know it’s one win and now, the true measure of performance, is consistency. Let’s see if we can have a great week of preparation and see if we can give ourselves a chance to have a good performance against a tough Washington team next week.”