The Rams made headlines this offseason with big trades and a free-agent signing that strengthened the defense.
Receiver Brandin Cooks was the only major addition on offense.
Cooks, acquired in an April trade with the New England Patriots, paid immediate dividends Monday night in the Rams’ 33-13 victory over the Oakland Raiders at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
Cooks caught five passes for 87 yards and drew several pass-interference penalties as the Rams began what many had predicted would be the start of a deep run into the playoffs.
Cooks caught passes of 17 and 30 yards during a third-quarter drive that ended with Jared Goff’s touchdown pass to Cooper Kupp for a 20-13 lead.
After a holdout that lasted throughout the offseason, training camp and the preseason, Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald finally got onto the field in a game.
Donald had one tackle and no sacks.
Rams coach Sean McVay had said that Donald would not be limited by a snap count, and the reigning NFL defensive player of the year would play the entire game.
Donald, who signed a $135-million extension on Aug. 31, appeared to have a sack late in the first quarter, but officials instead penalized him for a personal foul. The penalty kept alive a drive that ended with a field goal that gave the Raiders a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter.
Last season, Donald sat out training camp and reported on the eve of the season opener.
He did not play in the first game but still finished the season with 11 sacks and was voted NFL defensive player of the year.
With Mark Barron sidelined because of an Achilles issue, Ramik Wilson started at inside linebacker next to Cory Littleton, who called defensive signals for the first time.
Littleton had 11 tackles and an interception, Wilson one tackle, but the Rams struggled to contain Raiders tight end Jared Cook, who caught nine passes for 180 yards.
Wilson, 26, played the last three seasons for the Kansas City Chiefs. He started 11 games for the Chiefs in 2016 and four last season.
He started every preseason game for the Rams, and had said he would be prepared if called upon against the Raiders.
“I know the system,” he said last week. “I’m ready to go.”
Littleton only played eight snaps during the preseason, but he said in the days leading up to the game that it was enough.
“It’s a big deal,” he said of calling plays. “But at the same time it’s not. I still have a lot of smart players on the field helping me with all the calls and everything.
“I’m not out there doing it by myself.”
Zuerlein alive and kicking
After the preseason, kicker Greg Zuerlein said he was glad he had more than a week to prepare for game against the Raiders because he was still not striking the ball consistently.
Zuerlein still has work to do.
He missed from 46 yards in the second quarter, preventing the Rams from tying the score.
But after safety John Johnson intercepted a pass, he kicked a 20-yard field goal to tie the score 10-10 late in the first half.
He also kicked a 28-yard field goal to tie the score 13-13 early in the third quarter, a 55-yard field goal in the fourth to give the Rams a 23-13 lead, and a 20-yard field goal to make the score 26-13.
Zuerlein sat out the final two regular-season games and a playoff game last season after undergoing back surgery.
He still led the NFL in scoring with 158 points.
The last time kick returner Pharoh Cooper played in a game, he muffed a punt and fumbled a kickoff in the Rams’ 26-13 playoff loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
Cooper has said he put the costly miscues behind him.
On Monday night, he had two punt returns for a total of 12 yards and three kickoff returns for 75 yards.