The defense, without quite possibly the best defensive player in the NFL, returned two interceptions for touchdowns and consistently generated pressure. The offense, the NFL’s worst each of the past two years, flowed in near-perfect harmony, exceeding 30 points before the midway point of the third quarter and nearly finishing with 50.
A new day, indeed, for the Los Angeles Rams.
Playing at home, against an undermanned Indianapolis Colts team, the Rams were dominant, impressive, fun — and through that, unrecognizable. They won, 46-9, on Sunday, and in the process scored more points than they did at any point in 2015 or 2016. A defense led by Wade Phillips, one of the most successful coordinators in NFL history, held a Scott Tolzien-led Colts offense to 225 net yards. An offense led by Sean McVay, the youngest head coach in modern NFL history, gained 373 yards, more than they did at any point last season.
It went down as the most points the Rams had scored in a season opener in the Super Bowl era, with the previous high being 41, put on by the 2000 Rams against the Broncos.
Jared Goff was calm and collected, operating behind a clean pocket and going 21-of-29 for 306 yards and a touchdown on a turnover-free day to capture his first NFL win.
Todd Gurley ran hard inside and made some nice moves in space, gaining 96 yards from scrimmage and running hard for a touchdown despite some struggles in run blocking.
The receivers were constantly open, with Cooper Kupp (four catches for 76 yards and a touchdown), Sammy Watkins (five catches for 58 yards) and Robert Woods (three catches for 53 yards) leading the way.
Then there was the defense, without defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who returned from his holdout on Saturday but still isn’t ready to play. Even without Donald, the Rams racked up four sacks, caused three turnovers and registered a safety, with Robert Quinn in particular applying constant pressure.
Trumaine Johnson, a captain because of the way he handled the disappointment of not getting a long-term extension, jumped a route and registered a pick-six only five minutes into the game. Lamarcus Joyner, transitioning to free safety and looking at an expanded role this season, did the same at the seven-minute mark of the third quarter. And Nickell Robey-Coleman, filling in on the outside after Kayvon Webster was ruled out with a shoulder injury, almost did the same with about two minutes left in the third quarter.
The Rams became the fifth team since the 1970 merger to have two pick-sixes and a safety in the same game, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
They played a bad team, but they dominated on defense without their best player — and their offense should only grow as it settles into McVay’s season.