5 stats and facts to know for Rams vs. 49ers in Week 4

Even with Aaron Donald in the middle of the defensive front, the Rams have struggled to generate much pressure on opposing quarterbacks. According to Pro Football Reference, the Rams have just 13 total pressures this season, which is a rate of 11.4%. That’s the lowest in the NFL, 1.6% lower than the next-closest team.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the 49ers lead the NFL with a pressure rate of 36.5%, even though they have just one more sack (8) than the Rams (7).

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Rams move up one spot, jump ahead of Bills

The Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Rams started the season at No. 1 and 2 in Touchdown Wire’s power rankings. After the Bills beat the Rams, Los Angeles dropped one spot to No. 3 – and then another spot after beating the Falcons in Week 2.

The Rams won their second straight game on Sunday by taking down the Cardinals on the road, an impressive win by a shorthanded team. In this week’s power rankings, the Rams moved up one spot to No. 3, which is actually ahead of the Bills now.

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Buffalo fell from No. 1 to 4 after losing to the Dolphins, a shocking plummet for the Super Bowl favorites.

The Rams got a win over a struggling Cardinals squad. The Rams are still favorites to own the NFC West, as has been the case for much of the Sean McVay era. So far the Rams have been doing what contenders are supposed to do, and that is to mop up lesser teams, not play down to their level.

Los Angeles still hasn’t played a perfect game yet and there’s plenty of room for improvement, but Sean McVay has to be pleased with being 2-1 after three weeks – with the team’s only loss coming to the Bills in the opener.

Up next, the Rams have the 49ers on Monday night then the Cowboys in Week 5, a game Dak Prescott could be back for. So the upcoming schedule isn’t all that easy for Los Angeles.

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Jalen Ramsey urged Raheem Morris to play Ernest Jones last season

Ernest Jones played a key role in helping the Los Angeles Rams win Super Bowl LVI last season. Though he didn’t become a starter until Week 8, he played well when he was given a bigger role on defense. He shined in the Super Bowl, too, recording seven tackles (two for a loss), three QB hits and a sack in the Rams’ win.

Jalen Ramsey knew early on that he was going to be special. Despite only being a third-round rookie, Jones caught the attention of Ramsey and some teammates during the season – to the point where Ramsey and others urged Raheem Morris to play Jones.

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“I remember last year, a couple of us, we were going to Rah like, ‘Hey, Ernest is gonna be the one. Ernest gotta play. You gotta put him in there. Ernest gotta play,’” Ramsey said on his podcast, “Straight off the Press.”

During the offseason, Ramsey also pounded the table for another guy: Bobby Wagner. He knew that if the Rams brought in Wagner, he would not only help the entire team, but specifically Jones.

“I’m like, we gotta get Bobby Wagner because what Bobby Wagner is gonna do for this team and not only this team, but what Bobby Wagner is gonna do for Ernest Jones,” he said.

Wagner, who was a guest on the podcast, chimed in by saying how he was looking forward to playing alongside the second-year linebacker.

“I was really excited to play with Ernest,” Wagner said.

Jones and Wagner have formed an awesome tandem in the middle of the Rams’ defense. Wagner is essentially playing every snap, but Jones has still played 66% of the plays, too. They’ve both been used as blitzers at times and have stepped up as run defenders, also proving capable in coverage.

The Rams have an excellent pairing on their hands with Wagner and Jones, and Ramsey is one of the many people who knew that combination would work out in a positive way.

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Jalen Ramsey talks to Bobby Wagner about free agency decision

Bobby Wagner was one of the Rams’ prized additions of the offseason, signing him as a free agent after the Seahawks released him. It was a unique situation not only because Wagner got the opportunity to return home to Los Angeles, but also because he represented himself as his own agent – and it was his first time as a free agent, making it a new experience for the longtime Seahawk.

The Rams weren’t the only team interested in Wagner, but they always made sense as a landing spot. On the latest episode of his podcast, “Straight off the Press,” Jalen Ramsey talked to Wagner about his free agency decision and the process of joining the Rams.

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“As soon as it happened, my first mindset was I wanted to stay on the West Coast,” Wagner said. “I didn’t want to go too far. … As things start playing out, we had a lot of East Coast teams interested, but the Rams were interested as well. I was kind of pulling for the Rams and hoping it would work out because I wanted to be home.”

While Wagner is thrilled to be a member of the Rams, he said there were times when he thought it wasn’t going to happen.

“There was a couple times I thought the door was closed. And I was like, ‘All right, let me move on because I couldn’t just sit there and wait.’ Every time I thought the door closed, somebody hit me up and was like, ‘Don’t sign nowhere else. We’re gonna work this out.’

“I wasn’t necessarily waiting (on the Rams). You’re kind of just looking. I’m doing my thing. Obviously, because I represent myself, I’m calling, I’m doing all these different things. But I’m looking over there, I’m watching the moves, I’m watching Von didn’t sign over there. I’m watching A-Rob signs there. So I was paying attention to it.”

As his own agent, Wagner had to be proactive in establishing relationships with general managers around the league because he didn’t have an agent to do that for him. So he began sending texts to GMs around the NFL to connect with them.

Some GMs actually thought his texts were a joke and that they didn’t come from Wagner himself.

“This time, because I was free, I had to talk to all the GMs. But I also had to establish a relationship because either everybody didn’t know or forgot that I represented myself. I got all the GMs’ numbers and I sent a text to every GM, like, ‘Hey, this is Bobby. Representing myself.’”

Ramsey joked that he put all the GMs in the group text, but Wagner said that’s not what happened.

“Individually, but it was funny because at first, I wasn’t getting no texts back, so I’m like, ‘Dang, is nobody interested?’ After a day or so, I started getting text messages and calls, and every GM that hit me – even Les – was like, ‘We thought this was a joke. We didn’t think this was really your number.’”

Ramsey and Wagner talk more in-depth about the process of a player being his own agent, Wagner’s free agency decision, their post-football goals and the opportunities that Los Angeles presents players for life after football.

Check out the full conversation below.

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Rams Week 3 report card: Grading every position vs. Cardinals

The Rams took care of the Cardinals on Sunday to earn their second win of the season and their 11th victory in 12 tries against Arizona since 2017. Los Angeles is getting progressively better as the season progresses, even though there are still plenty of spots where the team can improve.

We handed out grades for every position group on the team in Week 3, and overall, the report card is much more positive than it was the previous two weeks.

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Cooper Kupp was NFL’s 10th-fastest ball carrier in Week 3

Cooper Kupp isn’t known for his speed. He ran a 4.62 in the 40-yard dash at the 2017 combine, which undoubtedly caused him to slip in the draft that year. The Rams didn’t care that he wasn’t a burner. They took him anyway, selecting him in the third round at No. 69 overall.

Since then, Kupp has become one of the best receivers in the NFL, and he showed on Sunday that he’s still plenty fast. According to Next Gen Stats, Kupp hit 20.45 mph on his 20-yard touchdown run. That made him the 10th-fastest ball carrier in the NFL in Week 3.

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You can tell he was moving when watching him come around the edge, too.

On the year, Jalen Ramsey is the only Rams player in the top 20 for fastest ball carriers. He hit 20.78 mph on his interception return against the Falcons, which is the second-fastest speed among all defensive backs this season.

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Ben Skowronek pancaked J.J. Watt and caught a pass on the same play

Ben Skowronek isn’t your typical receiver. By no means is he a game-changing pass catcher, but his newfound versatility as a wideout-fullback hybrid has really provided a spark for the Rams on offense.

He showed off that unique skillset on one play Sunday against the Cardinals. Lined up tight to the formation, Skowronek chipped J.J. Watt before going out for his route. But he didn’t just chip Watt. He laid him out, putting him on his back. Skowronek then caught a pass for a 4-yard gain on second-and-9.

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That’s a play some tight ends make, but not many receivers can put a 290-pound defensive end on his back – even if it was a chip block that Watt wasn’t expecting.

The photos are just as good as the video, too.

Skowronek finished the game with four catches on four targets, leading the team with 66 yards receiving. He was also the lead blocker on Cam Akers’ 14-yard touchdown run, taking linebacker Zaven Collins out of the play with another good block.

He’s not the receiver that Cooper Kupp is, but Skowronek is someone who prides himself on being a good blocker the way Kupp does.

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Dak Prescott says he’s eyeing Week 5 vs. Rams as return date

After Dak Prescott fractured his thumb in Week 1 and underwent surgery to correct the issue, it appeared as though he’d be out a couple of months. With a lengthy recovery timeline, it seemed highly unlikely that he’d be on the field against the Rams in Week 5.

But that’s actually the game he’s targeting for his return. Prescott told USA TODAY’s Lorenzo Reyes on Monday night that Rams-Cowboys is the game he’s looking at.

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“Nah, probably not,” he said of playing in Week 4. “But Week 5 against the Rams? That’s the one I’m looking at.”

The Cowboys have remained more than relevant in the NFC during Prescott’s two-week absence so far, winning both of their games with Cooper Rush under center. Now 2-1, they have the same record as the Rams.

Prescott still isn’t feeling 100%, of course, but he’s happy Rush has kept the team afloat.

“I’ve been better,” Prescott said. “But now that we’re winning it’s all good. And I’ll be back soon.”

The last time the Rams and Cowboys met was in Week 1 of the 2020 season. Los Angeles won that one, 20-17, and has taken three of four against the Cowboys since Sean McVay became the head coach in 2017.

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Rams are only team above .500 after 3 games

It was widely expected that the NFC West would take a step back from being the best division in football this year. Russell Wilson got traded, DeAndre Hopkins was hit with a six-game suspension, the 49ers had an inexperienced quarterback in Trey Lance and the Rams suffered some notable departures in the offseason.

Through three weeks, those expectations were accurate. The NFC West hasn’t gotten off to a great start this year, with only one team sitting above .500 after three games. That team, of course, is the Rams.

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They knocked off the Cardinals on Sunday, 20-12, their first divisional matchup of the season. That improved Los Angeles’ record to 2-1, one game ahead of the rest of the division. Here’s a look at the standings through Week 3.

  1. Rams: 2-1, -9 net points (1-0 Div.)
  2. 49ers: 1-2, +10 net points (1-0 Div.)
  3. Seahawks: 1-2, -23 net points (0-1 Div.)
  4. Cardinals: 1-2, -25 net points (0-1 Div.)

The Rams can really begin to separate themselves next week when they visit the 49ers on Monday Night Football. If they win that game, they’ll be two games up on the 49ers and potentially two up on the Cardinals and Seahawks, too.

The Seahawks are on the road against the Lions in Week 4, while the Cardinals will visit the Panthers on Sunday. The Rams have a great opportunity to establish themselves as the premier team in the NFC West once again.

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Rams used heavy dose of play action to pick apart Cardinals in Week 3

When Jared Goff was at quarterback, few teams used play action as much as the Los Angeles Rams did. In 2020, they had the most play-action pass attempts (194) in the NFL, according to Pro Football Reference. That number dropped to 128 last year with Matthew Stafford under center, ranking them 16th in the NFL, right in the middle of the pack.

On Sunday against the Cardinals, Sean McVay hit Arizona’s defense with a heavy dosage of play action. Next Gen Stats shared that the Rams used play action on 46.2% of their passing plays Sunday, which is Stafford’s highest rate in the last seven seasons.

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It was working to near perfection, too. He completed 10 of 11 throws off play action, totaling 168 yards. He didn’t have a touchdown in the game, but Stafford was sharp overall – and most importantly, he avoided costly turnovers.

It was good to see Stafford in a rhythm, especially when the Rams used play action. It helps that the running game was relatively effective with Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson Jr. combining for 78 yards on 16 carries, but Stafford did a nice job finding open receivers over the middle – an area of the field he hadn’t been targeting much.

It’s no secret that play action works best when there’s a legitimate threat of running the ball, so as long as Akers and Henderson keep picking up chunks of yardage, linebackers and safeties will be forced to bite on the fakes.

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