THOUSAND OAKS – It looked like a disastrous start for Raheem Morris as the Rams’ defensive coordinator.
Instead, it turned into an early signing moment for the defense of Morris and the 2021 Rams.
In the second play from scrimmage in their season opener against the Bears on Sunday, Chicago took a handoff from quarterback Andy Dalton, trailing David Montgomery, who cut between well-blocked defensive linemen Aaron Donald and Sebastian Joseph-Day. , escaped longtime outside linebacker Leonard Floyd’s hand and got away with five chasers. Only the desperate pace of linebacker Kenny Young, who pushed Montgomery out of bounds, prevented a touchdown. The run went for 41 yards, to the 12-yard line.
At the edge of Sophie Stadium, Morris didn’t get angry or stop to find out what had just happened.
He said calmly in his coaching headset: “Let’s take a turnover.”
Just like the calm, after three plays, Rama’s rescue is found.
Cornerback David Long’s end zone interception of Dalton pass tipped by Young was one of a series of first-half takeaways and big hits that put the ball in the hands of Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford and gave LA a 34–14 victory. sent on the way. .
“I thrive in adversity,” Morris said of the Bears’ 41-yard run, telling the story between practice sessions on Thursday. “When that happened, I thought, ‘Well, let’s do a turnover.’ That was the first thought that crossed my mind. And not because of arrogant or egotistical talk. You just have to find ways to calm people down.
“If you get caught up in the feeling of being upset, the next thing to do is to know you’re down 7-0 and you have a problem.”
As the Rams (1-0) prepared to face the Indianapolis Colts (0-1) at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday, they were looking to improve their defensive performance.
Although he held on to the Bears for a pair of touchdowns, the Rams ran to Montgomery for 108 yards and dropped 134 on the ground for a total.
Coach Sean McVay blamed the missed tackle and admitted that early seasons starting with the preseason game could have contributed to the fight.
“I think we’ll see improvement from week 1 to week 2, but that’s something we’ll definitely be addressing with some immediate,” McVay said.
This is especially necessary as the Colts have a strong running game led by Jonathan Taylor (1,169 yards and 11 touchdowns as a rookie last season).
“I don’t know what was going on there,” said Donald, who was not immune to the missing tackle. “I was letting the plays slip through my hands. So I’ve been working on my grip throughout the week, making sure everything goes well. I changed my gloves. They’re not going away now.”
For Morris, the problem of a run on the 41-yard gut-punch was not to deal with but the lineman’s failure to fight off the block and the poor position of the secondary.
“(Cornerback) Darius Williams should have been on the left, (Safety Jordan) Fuller should have been in, and the 41-yard run is a 7-yarder,” Morris said.
But the momentary setback may have helped the 45-year-old former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach and interim coach of the Atlanta Falcons, hired last winter after defensive coordinator Brandon Staley to coach the Chargers, on a Rams defense of his own. , which allowed the fewest points and yards in the NFL last season.
Part of that identity is the importance of “make-a-difference play” as a takeaway. A bad moment in the first minute of the season opener sets up Ram to make one of those plays. And then he made more.
Outside linebacker Justin Hollins forced a Dalton fumble recovered by Young in a quarter-down attempt by the Bears, and cornerback Jalen Ramsey loosened a pass from Alan Robinson on another fourth down.
It would be reassuring, when the Rams’ defense inevitably runs into trouble at times this season, to learn that a quiet voice over the headset would be hoping to find a solution.
There was certainly no panic in Morris last Sunday.
As he put it: “I wasn’t thinking about my legacy as the defensive coordinator on the second play.”
Defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day (knee), the only Ram injured in the win over the Bears, was a limited participant in Thursday’s practice after sitting out on Wednesday.