CLEVELAND — The Los Angeles Rams spent the offseason adjusting their offense and adding new wrinkles after the high-scoring unit was brought to a screeching halt by the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII.
On Sunday night, they escaped Cleveland with a 20-13 victory over the Browns inside a raucous FirstEnergy Stadium to improve to 3-0. But it is apparent the 2019 edition of coach Sean McVay’s offense has plenty of work to do to earn a return trip to the Super Bowl.
Defensive win: The Rams’ defense, for a third straight game, did all it could to slow explosive playmakers — this time in quarterback Baker Mayfield, receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry and running back Nick Chubb. The pass rush kept Mayfield off balance, and the QB was sacked three times.
QB breakdown: For a third consecutive game, Jared Goff was unable to develop a rhythm and establish connections with his receivers in the first half. In several instances, passes were thrown behind or out of reach of his targets. In the second quarter, Goff was stripped, and the Browns converted the takeaway into a field goal. In the third quarter, Goff threw a pass that was intercepted by Browns defensive back T.J. Carrie. And in the fourth quarter, Goff was intercepted by Juston Burris. Goff completed 24 of 38 passes for 269 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Troubling Trend, Part I: For a third consecutive game, the Rams did not score a touchdown in the first quarter, and for a second time this season, they did not score a touchdown in the first half. Last season, they failed to score a first-half touchdown in only one regular-season game. The offense also had a slow start during a Week 1 win over the Carolina Panthers, as the Rams were held scoreless in the first quarter. In a victory over the New Orleans Saints last week, the Rams were held to a field goal in the first quarter.
Troubling Trend, Part II: The offensive line. The unit underwent a significant offseason makeover when left guard Rodger Saffold departed in free agency and the team declined the option on center John Sullivan’s contract. On Sunday, with right guard Austin Blythe sidelined because of an ankle sprain, the Rams had three first-year starters on the interior of their line with left guard Joe Noteboom, center Brian Allen and right guard Jamil Demby. The run-game suffered, as five players rushed for a combined 91 yards, and Goff was under duress throughout the game.