The Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs distanced themselves from the rest of the NFL Sunday, earning impressive wins to elevate their records to 5-0.
Good luck trying to identify the NFL’s third-best team. The Patriots, Bengals and maybe the Saints would all be part of the conversation, but what’s clear through five weeks is that Los Angeles and Kansas City are playing at a different level than everyone else.
We’ll get to the Chiefs and their big win over Jacksonville in a bit, but first let’s start with a look at the Rams, as I was on the sideline for their 33-31 road victory over the Seahawks.
The Rams entered the game favored by more than a touchdown, but early on, one of the Rams’ few problems was exposed. Twice in the first four games, quarterback Jared Goff was intercepted in the red zone, and on second down from the 2-yard line, Goff had a short pass to running back Todd Gurley batted into the air and picked off by Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark.
“I have to learn my lessons for some of the plays I’m selecting for us in the red zone,” Rams Coach Sean McVay said. “That’s something I have to look critically at myself and be better for our football team going forward.”
The Rams were only able to convert goal-line situations 66 percent of the time Sunday in six chances. Goff noted after the game it cost them 14 potential points.
But one thing that was clear from being on the sideline was how well-coached and in-control the Rams are. McVay does his best to communicate as much information to Goff before each play as he can. The defense, thanks to the leadership of coordinator Wade Phillips, is calm and cool.
This game wasn’t easy, however, and as Seattle took an early 7-0 lead, Rams defensive linemen, including Ndamukong Suh, started signaling for rest. They came to the sidelines trying to figure out what was going on with the Seahawks’ running plays. This was a team that has struggled running the ball for two seasons, and it put up 190 yards on 30 carries against the Rams.
Defense could be a long-term problem for Los Angeles. And if there’s a player who could disrupt the team’s calm demeanor it’s Marcus Peters, who is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL but looks more vulnerable than usual while playing with a bad calf. He had to be calmed down by his coaches after Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson hit Tyler Lockett with a 39-yard touchdown pass and the Seahawks took a brief lead.
But the Rams showed resilience in the second half. Wide receivers Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp were both knocked out of the game with concussions. The Seahawks’ crowd, always one of the NFL’s loudest, sensed an upset brewing and elevated its noise level, making it difficult for McVay to communicate with Goff, who had to come to the sideline to get some of the plays. The Rams had to rely on an offense based around Gurley, and eventually they took a 33-31 lead with six minutes left in the game.
They found themselves at fourth and 1 from their own 42-yard line with 1:39 remaining, and it looked as though the Rams were going to punt. But instead, McVay — as he has been known to do — called on his offense, and Goff took a quarterback sneak over the center for a first down to clinch the game.
“When you look at it initially, you talk about punting it,” said McVay, who added that his players talked him into making the call. “[The Rams players’] belief made me feel confident to make that decision. Ultimately, it was a good decision because they made it right.”
The win keeps the Rams undefeated, and five weeks into this season, there isn’t a Super Bowl contender more impressive than them. They have high-level coaching, a quarterback who is coming into his own in the third year, dynamic players on offense and a defense with enough playmakers that it should be able to overcome some of its early-season issues.
None of that is to take anything away from the Chiefs, who followed their stunning 3-0 start with a very impressive road win against Denver on “Monday Night Football” and Sunday’s dismantling of a Jaguars team that might have the league’s best defense. Patrick Mahomes didn’t throw a touchdown pass, but he was still efficient in leading the offense. And perhaps most importantly, the defense made several big plays, including a pick-six of Jags QB Blake Bortles.
“Our defense was incredible,” Chiefs Coach Andy Reid said. “Five takeaways, they played great.”
The win came at a time some people in Kansas City were calling for the firing of defensive coordinator Bob Sutton. The Chiefs' defense is still a work in progress, and it’ll face a big test next week when Kansas City travels to play the Patriots on Sunday night.
More story lines from around the NFL:
— What a horrible day for the Packers in a 31-23 loss to the Lions. You knew they were in trouble when they didn’t have Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison due to injuries and had to go against Detroit with Davante Adams and three rookies at wide receiver. Mason Crosby missed four field goals and an extra point. The Packers are now 2-2-1, and after a home game against the 49ers next week, they have a bye followed by road trips to play the Rams and Patriots.
— The 23-21 loss to Minnesota shows the Eagles are clearly suffering a Super Bowl hangover. “We’re 2-3 because we’re playing bad,’’ Eagles defensive end Chris Long said.
An offense that was one of the NFL’s best a year ago hasn’t scored more than 23 points in a game this season. They had only 91 yards of offense in the first half against Minnesota.
— The Atlanta Falcons have to be one of the biggest disappointments in football. Being down four starters on defense contributed to their 41-17 loss in Pittsburgh, but everything is wrong. The offensive line gave up six sacks. The team is committing too many penalties. At 1-4, this season is slipping away quickly.
— What a great day for the rookie quarterbacks. All four passers selected in the top 10 of this year’s draft — Baker Mayfield (Browns), Josh Allen (Bills), Sam Darnold (Jets) and Josh Rosen (Cardinals) — started and came away with victories.
— Broncos fans have to be very concerned. The team followed its Monday night loss to the Chiefs with a 34-16 loss to the Jets. The Broncos have become one of the worst road teams in football. They are 1-11 on the road in their last 12 road games, and what was once a dominant defense has eroded. Last week, a news outlet referred to a secondary that used to be known as the “No Fly Zone” as “frequent flier.” They gave up touchdown passes of 76 and 77 yards in the second half, and are now on a three-game losing streak.
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