Rams’ Eric Weddle in concussion protocol after collision with Christian McCaffrey

Rams safety Eric Weddle is attended to by team medical staff after suffering a cut near his eye during the team's win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The Rams’ 30-27 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday came with a potential big loss.

Safety Eric Weddle was carted off the field at Bank of America Stadium in the second quarter after he collided with the left knee of Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, who was attempting to hurdle him.

Weddle suffered a cut to the head, and he was put in the concussion protocol, coach Sean McVay said.

Weddle is in his 13th NFL season, his first with the Rams. The six-time Pro Bowl selection is the defensive signal-caller for a team that plays the New Orleans Saints next Sunday at the Coliseum.


Marqui Christian replaced Weddle and teamed with starter John Johnson and rookie Taylor Rapp in the safety rotation.

Todd Gurley led all rushers with 97 yards, but he was only strong in spurts and didn’t seem to be the same relentless playmaker he once was.

“When you lose somebody like Eric with what he means to our team — the communication, some of those things— it can be deflating,” McVay said. “But I thought our guys did a great job handling it.”

Weddle was in the locker room after the game. He was not made available to reporters but said he was fine.

Making an impression

Linebacker Dante Fowler sacked Panthers quarterback Cam Newton twice, and linebacker Clay Matthews sacked him once.

Matthews signed with the Rams after playing 10 seasons for the Green Bay Packers. He sacked Newton on the fourth play after he was left with a clear path to the backfield.

“It was a layup, but you take ‘em,” Matthews said, chuckling. “I felt like I got off to a hot start.”

Matthews, however, said he experienced back spasms after a few plays.

“I lost a little bit of that edge trying to make it through the game, but it felt good,” he said. “I’m real comfortable with the defense, the guys playing around me and what they’re asking me to do out there.

“Once I get this thing to cool off and calm down, hopefully next week it’s that much better.”

Fowler, a trade deadline acquisition in 2018, is playing on a one-year, $12-million contract this season.

“He’s definitely a double-digit sack guy,” Matthews said. “He plays with a level of energy and athleticism that’s unmatched.”

Linebacker Cory Littleton forced and recovered a fumble on the first series and intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter. He also made a team-best 14 tackles.

Littleton is playing on a one-year contract for slightly more than $3 million.

Asked whether he considered this a prove-it season for a new contract, he said, “Anytime you play the game of football, it’s a prove it thing.”

First starts

Center Brian Allen and left guard Joe Noteboom made their first starts for an offense that produced 349 yards overall — 166 of them on the ground.

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp looked like his old self against the Panthers in his first game back since suffering a torn ACL last season.

“They did a great job,” Rams quarterback Jared Goff said.

Allen and Noteboom participated in joint practices with the Chargers and Oakland Raiders but were held out of preseason games. Noteboom said he was anxious to get the first play over.

“Once you got that, it was just like practice, everything we’ve been through, and I was prepared for it,” Noteboom said.

Not so special

The Rams usually reliable — and sometimes spectacular — special teams had an uneven performance.

Greg Zuerlein made three field goals but missed a 41-yard attempt in the fourth quarter.

Johnny Hekker’s first punt traveled only seven yards, and a fourth-quarter punt was blocked, setting up a touchdown that pulled the Panthers to within 23-20.

Punt returner JoJo Natson fielded a kick inside the five-yard line and was tackled at the six.

“We’ll find a way to get it corrected, and I have full confidence that we’ll be better next week,” McVay said.