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Week 1 Game Recap: Los Angeles Rams 30, Carolina Panthers 27


What you need to know

Los Angeles Rams

The Rams escaped with a narrow road win, depending on their defense and running game than their prolific passing attack from 2018. Jared Goff struggled overall despite Cooper Kupp returning from injury to reform the Rams’ strong trio of receivers and Todd Gurley surpassing 100 total yards on 15 touches. Malcolm Brown was the clear No.2 running back and impressed with two red zone touchdowns as Darrell Henderson barely saw the field.

Carolina Panthers

Cam Newton was evidently still knocking off some ring rust in his first game of the season, with several passes sailing high and some basic plays not being executed correctly. Newton's downfield accuracy left him down on several occasions, including a pass to Curtis Samuel that, had it been completed, could have been a long touchdown. The offensive line kept Newton clean for the most part, but he often failed to capitalise from a clean pocket. Christian McCaffrey picked up the slack, dominating in all facets of the game. The running back even lined up as a receiver on a few snaps, making short work of the Rams defenders in coverage. McCaffrey was close to unstoppable and showed excellent vision, balance and power throughout to make life miserable for those chasing him down. Jordan Scarlett, who the Panthers picked in this year's NFL Draft to spell McCaffrey, did not feature; it was McCaffrey's show - and the offensive line's run blocking was outstanding as a support act. D.J. Moore was involved in two turnovers, the first of which was a throwback to his rookie year ń trying to do too much after the catch and having the ball punched free. Samuel could have had a bigger game if not for some passing game inaccuracy from Newton. Greg Olsen, too, was let down by his quarterback at times, though the Rams started to key on him as the game wore on.

Los Angeles Rams

QB Jared Goff, 77 offensive snaps, Pass: 23 - 39 - 186 - 1 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 4 - 0 - 0
The Rams escaped with a narrow road win, depending on their defense and running game than their prolific passing attack from 2018. Jared Goff struggled overall despite Cooper Kupp returning from injury to reform the Rams’ strong trio of receivers and Todd Gurley surpassing 100 total yards on 15 touches. Malcolm Brown was the clear No.2 running back and impressed with two red zone touchdowns as Darrell Henderson barely saw the field.

RB Todd Gurley, 54 offensive snaps, Rush: 14 - 97 - 0, Rec: 1 - 4 - 0 (1 targets)
Gurley was a full-go by reports for Week 1, however, he logged a mere 15 touches and Malcolm Brown was heavily involved with 11 carries, including high-leverage red zone work. Gurley was sluggish on his scant opportunities in the first half but surged to life in the second half with two runs of more than 15 yards and two other strong runs through contact, vintage Gurley plays. Gurley posted more than 100 total yards but did not see any touchdown opportunities as Malcolm Brown was the preferred short-yardage option near the goal line. The Rams draw the Saints in Week 2, a potential shootout in Los Angeles.

RB Malcolm Brown, 21 offensive snaps, Rush: 11 - 53 - 2
Brown was on the field for less than half the snaps of starter Todd Gurley but saw all the meaningful red zone work and short-range touchdown opportunities against Carolina. Brown was the clear No.2 back over rookie Darrell Henderson, who barely saw the field in Week 1. Brown was excellent versus contact on inside runs in his first action back from a midseason injury in 2018. Brown broken multiple tackles on a highlight red zone carry and saw more snaps as the game progressed. Despite the disparity in snaps, Brown had 11 touches to Gurley’s 15 on the day.

RB Darrell Henderson, 2 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 0 - 0
Henderson barely played in his NFL debut as he was on the field for only two snaps, including being stuffed on a red zone carry. Henderson is clearly behind Malcolm Brown as the No.2 back and Brown excelled in his first game back from a midseason 2018 injury. Henderson needs at least one of the backs ahead of him out of the way to be a viable projection for weekly usage until further notice.

WR Robert Woods, 73 offensive snaps, Rush: 2 - 16 - 0, Rec: 8 - 70 - 0 (13 targets)
Woods was the central figure in the Rams passing game against Carolina, seeing a team-high 13 targets. Despite the usage, Woods was limited to short range targets outside of a wide-open opportunity downfield, which Jared Goff airmailed over Woods. The veteran receiver logged two drops to temper his overall performance, a clunky one for the Rams passing game overall. Woods added two rushing attempts, including a surprising inside run design. Woods rarely left the field with a 95% snap share as the Rams had three receives all log at least 90% of the snaps.

WR Cooper Kupp, 69 offensive snaps, Rec: 7 - 46 - 0 (10 targets)
Kupp’s offensive involvement against the Panthers, his first game back from injury in 2018, was front-loaded to the early moments. Kupp had four receptions on the opening drive alone, adding two third-down conversions later in the game to bolster his volume-infused stat line. Kupp’s targets were all close to the line of scrimmage and Kupp offered minimal yards-after-the-catch opportunity on his receptions.

WR Brandin Cooks, 71 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 39 - 0 (6 targets)
Cooks performance had potential against the Panthers, but Jared Goff overthrew the speedy receiver on a long target to siphon one big-play opportunity and Cooks drew a defensive pass interference penalty beyond the box score on another downfield attempt. Cooks’ receptions both came in the second half of a subpar overall performance by the Rams passing game and Cooks was third on the team in targets to Robert Woods and a back-from-injury Cooper Kupp.

TE Tyler Higbee, 40 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 20 - 1 (5 targets)
Higbee has a new contract, but his snaps were merely a shade above Gerald Everett as a concerning aspect against Carolina. Higbee did find the end zone on a goal line curl route in the fourth quarter, a critical play for the Rams’ struggling passing offense in the game. Higbee, more of the blocker compared to Gerald Everett, was fourth on the team in targets and offers minimal big-play upside outside of getting lost by defensive coverage.

TE Gerald Everett, 30 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 7 - 0 (1 targets)
The Rams utilized a split committee at tight end against Carolina in terms of snaps and Everett did not see a target until late in the first half, juggling a catch over the middle. Everett also added a holding penalty in the game in his non-descript performance clearly behind their strong three wide receivers.


Carolina Panthers

QB Cam Newton, 67 offensive snaps, Pass: 25 - 38 - 239 - 0 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 3 - -2 - 0
Cam Newton's first real game action since last season started off encouragingly, with a beautiful completion from the left hash to the right sideline on a comeback route to D.J. Moore. The offense seemed to be energised by that moment, but things bogged down soon after. A play fake was botched as Newton faked to the right when the backs had veered left, then a touch pass to Moore was thrown too far in front for him to haul in. Newton's old demons haunted him again as the game progressed, with passes sailing ahead of receivers and taking potentially explosive plays off the board. He managed to re-establish his rapport with Greg Olsen on some short to intermediate throws, but he let a few get away from him with inaccurate passes. The team's second turnover of the game was partially Newton's fault, a pass into the left flat to Moore being thrown backwards, making it a fumble. Moore was unable to corral it, but it appeared the pass should have been thrown out in front of Moore so that he could run behind the blocks set up for a screen. Newton missed Curtis Samuel and Olsen on critical third down plays; on both occasions the passes were outside of the catchable range. Newton threw a pick late in the game, with LB Cory Littleton reading his eyes and breaking on a pass intended for Olsen. To his credit, Newton made the eventual tackle to prevent a touchdown.

RB Christian McCaffrey, 67 offensive snaps, Rush: 19 - 128 - 2, Rec: 10 - 81 - 0 (11 targets)
Christian McCaffrey made every touch look like it could be his last in this game, setting the tone for the entire offense with his tenacious running style. The offensive line asserted itself effectively against the Rams front seven, blowing open holes that McCaffrey was more than capable of exploiting. The shifty back added value to every touch, seeing the field well and frequently breaking tackles. A beautiful cutback run on his second carry summed up his drive. The play was designed to go left, but McCaffrey spotted the right side of the line caving in the Rams' front and cut back right for a nice gain. McCaffrey frequently lined up as a wideout, putting the defense in a bind. Expectedly for a player of his talent, he fully exploited those opportunities and often added yards after the catch. As an outlet receiver, McCaffrey was as reliable as ever, beating defenders in space and displaying great toughness into contact. McCaffrey capped off an incredible performance with two rushing touchdowns. The first came on a direct snap in the red zone, with Cam Newton lined up alongside McCaffrey. After a fake to his quarterback, McCaffrey followed his blockers through a gaping hole into the end zone. His second score came on a physical carry close to the goal line. It appeared he had been stopped shy, but he kept his knees off the turf and reached the ball out the last two yards to break the plane. The only blotch on McCaffrey's copybook was a missed assignment in pass protection, with Dante Fowler busting in past him to get to Newton for a sack.

WR D.J. Moore, 63 offensive snaps, Rec: 7 - 76 - 0 (10 targets)
D.J. Moore suffered some rookie year redux against the Rams, coughing up a fumble early in the game after a routine catch in the right flat. Moore put a stutter-step move on the defenders who were closing in, but as he tried to shoot the gap between them the ball was popped loose with a punch. Moore was involved in another turnover as the first half progressed. Lined up in the backfield, he motioned into the left flat and Cam Newton tossed him the ball on a screen pass. The ball, however, was thrown backwards and Moore was unable to handle it. The Rams pounced for a crucial sudden change turnover. Moore came alive when the offense went to no huddle, using his quickness and route-running nous to bamboozle defensive backs. He made a particularly nice snag in traffic on a deep dig in the two-minute drill, hanging on despite contact. Two deep targets from Newton were too far out in front of Moore for the receiver to haul in, though he was open on both occasions.

WR Curtis Samuel, 62 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 32 - 0 (4 targets)
Curtis Samuel was unable to carry forward his momentum from the preseason into the first live game action. He slipped and fell on his first catch, preventing him from turning up the field. After that Samuel came alive, adjusting well on a comeback route near the sideline and showing off his trademark speed on a shallow crossing route catch and run. Samuel put on a move Neo from the Matrix would have been proud of later, securing a pass before ducking under a would-be tackler and scooting up the field for bonus yardage. Samuel was wide open on a streak pattern down the right sideline on a crucial third down in the second half, but Cam Newton's pass was too far in front to be hauled in.

WR Jarius Wright, 40 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 14 - 0 (1 targets)
Jarius Wright caught only one pass, settling down in the Rams' zone coverage to find a soft spot for his quarterback to zip a ball into him.

TE Greg Olsen, 63 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 36 - 0 (9 targets)
Greg Olsen's first outing of the 2019 season amounted to an exercise in frustration. On multiple occasions his connection with Cam Newton lacked precision, an issue that was apparent on a seam pass ń a link-up the two have made routine in the past ń that was thrown to the wrong shoulder. Newton missed his tight end on two straightforward and expected completions ń one on a pass into the flat off a bootleg action which was too high; the other a third down pass to the right sideline which was too tall as well. There were times the two were in sync, including a low throw that Olsen scooped up on a crucial third down late in the game, but most targets failed to find their mark. Olsen looks every bit the player he was pre-injury.