The Los Angeles Rams bounced back from their opening preseason loss to the the Ravens last week with a 19-15 win over the Oakland Raiders on Saturday afternoon at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum. Both the Rams and Raiders elected to rest the majority of their starters, likely because the two teams will meet in Week 1 of the regular season on Sept. 10 in Oakland.
Here are seven stats that stood out in the Rams' first win of the preseason:
1. DEFENSE COMES OUT HOT
The Rams' defense did not allow Raiders quarterback Connor Cook and his offense to reach the first-down marker in the first quarter. The strong defensive effort in the first 15 minutes was capped with rookie linebacker Justin Lawler strip-sacking Cook, and fellow linebacker Ramik Wilson scooped up the ball in Raiders' territory.
2. HODGE HERE TO PLAY
Wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge continued his strong preseason performance on Saturday afternoon with 57 yards receiving. Hodge made a nice catch along the right sideline on a 47-yard pass by quarterback Sean Mannion, the longest of the preseason so far. The Mannion-Hodge connection led to a field goal by kicker Greg Zuerlein with two minutes remaining in the second quarter, extending the Rams' first-half lead to 10.
Hodge added to his highlight reel early in the second half, making an acrobatic catch through contact on a high ball thrown toward the sideline by quarterback Brandon Allen. Oakland challenged Hodge's grab, but to no avail. The Rams capped the drive with a field goal.
Hodge scored L.A.'s only touchdown in Baltimore.
3. KELLY BRINGS IT AGAIN
Rookie running back John Kelly led all Rams rushers on Saturday with 56 yards on 18 carries. Kelly's high number of carries may have come as result of a depleted depth chart for the Rams at running back, with Todd Gurley resting with the starters and Justin Davis nursing a hamstring injury. Malcolm Brown started the game and played for the majority of the first quarter, rushing for 22 yards on seven carries.
Kelly scored the Rams' only touchdown of the game and first rushing touchdown of the preseason with a two-yard carry on 4th-and-goal early in the second quarter.
4. FORCING FUMBLES
The Rams forced three fumbles on Saturday and recovered two of them. The Rams' defense got to both Raiders' quarterbacks on Saturday, forcing Cook and E.J. Manuel to cough the ball up in their own territory.
A season ago, the Rams averaged just over one fumble per game.
5. HAGER LEADS DEFENSE
Linebacker Bryce Hager came up big for Wade Phillips' defense against the Raiders. Hager recorded four tackles in the first half and recovered Cook's second fumble of the afternoon late in the second quarter, which resulted in a Zuerlein field goal.
Hager played in all 16 games in 2017, recording six tackles and forcing one fumble.
6. MANNION IMPROVES
Mannion appeared a bit more ready for non-training camp football in his allotted first half against the Raiders. On Saturday, Mannion was 10-for-16 passing, good for 84 yards — significantly improving on his performance in Baltimore where he had just 16 yards on 3-of-13 passing, with one interception.
7. THIRD DOWN WOES
Both teams struggled to move the chains on third down on a punt/field goal heavy afternoon. The Raiders went 1-for-10 on third down, while the Rams were 2-14. Zuerlein and kicker Sam Ficken went 4-for-5 combined in their field goal attempts. Zuerlein missed a 48-yard attempt wide right in the first half.
Zuerlein's miss may have come of some surprise to Rams fans. When healthy last season, Zuerlein hit 38-of-40 attempts, and has been consistently hitting from long distance in open training camp practices.