Injuries are never ideal, but they're a part of football. And the Rams had to deal with plenty on Sunday during their 35-23 victory over the Chargers.
The club was able to absorb significant blows and still win. But the injuries will likely have an effect on at least the next game — especially because the Rams will take on the Vikings this Thursday night.
Both starting cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib both left the game and did not return, and head coach Sean McVay said they each sustained an ankle injury. Outside linebacker Dominque Easley left the game with a knee injury, though he did return. And returner JoJo Natson — filling in for injured All-Pro returner Pharoh Cooper — suffered a broken hand and may require surgery.
"We lost some guys today," McVay said postgame. "Aqib and Marcus — it's their ankle. Not exactly sure the extent of that. Dominique Easley got his knee got his knee as well — came back in, didn't feel great. If those guys aren't able to go it's going to be some big voids that we've got to be ready to fill and step up for a short week, Thursday, against a great team in the Minnesota Vikings coming here."
In Sunday's game, a combination of corners Sam Shields, Nickell Robey-Coleman, and Troy Hill were used to replace Peters and Talib. Peters went down in the second quarter, and Shields stepped in for him. When Talib limped of the field during the second half, it appeared the Rams used Robey-Coleman on the outside during early downs, then shifted him back to the slot with Hill covering the outside when the club went to its nickel or dime package.
Check out game photos from the Rams' Week 3 matchup against the Chargers at the Coliseum.
Should both Peters and Talib be out for Sunday, McVay said the starters will likely be dictated by situations.
"Those will be things that we'll decide and we'll find out once of the specific nature of the injuries and if they are for sure ruled out," McVay said. "But, fortunately, [cornerbacks] coach [Aubrey] Pleasant does a good job of getting all those guys ready to go. Sam got a chance to play a lot today. We know how much Robey's played in a lot of our sub packages. And then Troy Hill, when you go back to last year, he's played good football for us. So if those guys are called to step up in a short week, then we have confidence they'll be ready to go."
Though the Rams' top two corners were out, defensive signal-caller Cory Littleton said not too much changed for the unit as a whole.
"We have backups for every player on this team, and we believe in every one of them," Littleton said. "We go in with the same game plan no matter who's here."
The Rams held the Chargers to 23 points and 16 first downs with 356 yards on 42 plays.
Though the Rams' offense kept pressure on the Chargers defense all day, quarterback Jared Goff said the O didn't do anything special due to the injuries. The quarterback said he knew Peters was out because play stopped and he saw it. But there was no added pressure on the offense once Talib went down, too, because the quarterback said he only found out about Talib's absence at the end of the game.
"It's good that I don't know, that we don't kind of realize until the end," Goff said. "Marcus and Aqib are incredible players who we love and want to have out there again soon. But it's good to see guys set up — guys like Sam and other guys who step into that role and are able to fill in nicely."
The Natson injury is particularly significant because it means Los Angeles once again has to find another returner. The Chargers did not punt once Natson had gone down, but if they had wide receiver Cooper Kupp likely would've fielded the kick. Safety Blake Countess, however, took back the Chargers' kickoffs — taking one for 26 yards and another for 25.
At this point, it's unclear what direction the Rams will turn for their returner in Week 4 against the Vikings.
With Easley, Los Angeles was able to rotate in outside linebackers Samson Ebukam and Matt Longacre, with lineman John Franklin-Myers also appearing on passing downs.
As with every team, when injuries occur the motto is "next man up." And that's exactly what running back Todd Gurley said after the game, as players were already going through the recovery process in the locker room for Thursday Night Football.
"It's the same stuff every year. Guys are going to get hurt. That's the thing about now — you kind of want to win these games early. You don't want to be catching up at the end because, unfortunately, injuries are a part of the game," Gurley said. "But at the end of the day, one man [goes] down, the next man has to step up. That's why we play this game. And it's not like we're the only ones hurt — there's people on the Vikings, people on every team's hurt. So you kind kind of have to deal with it."
McVay is scheduled to address the media on Monday at 5 p.m. PT, which is likely when the next update on all the injuries will come.