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Rams

What we learned from the Rams’ 30-27 victory over the Carolina Panthers

Rams tight end Tyler Higbee
Rams tight end Tyler Higbee catches a touchdown pass in front of Carolina Panthers Shaq Thompson, left, and Eric Reid on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.
(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

Here’s what we learned from the Rams’ 30-27 victory over the Carolina Panthers:

Todd Gurley’s left knee appears to be fine

The offseason load-management program the Rams instituted for Gurley looked like it paid off, at least for now. The three-time Pro Bowl selection rushed for 97 yards in 14 carries.

Gurley got more series off than in the past, giving way to backup Malcolm Brown.

Gurley looked somewhat tentative at the start of the game, but he seemed to grow more confident as the game progressed. And he was effective not only with his feet. His stiff-arm technique is among the NFL’s most effective.

Gurley was at his best in the fourth quarter, when the Rams needed him most.

Malcolm Brown was worth the price

After the 2018 season, the Rams matched an offer sheet from the Detroit Lions and signed Brown, who got a two-year, $3.3-million contract, according to overthecap.com.

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It was a smart move, not only because he has been an effective backup for Gurley. He also is a special teams stalwart.

Brown rushed for 53 yards and two touchdowns in 11 carries against the Panthers. He ran with determination, quick moves and strength, dragging would-be tacklers for extra yards.

Brian Allen and Joe Noteboom smoothly transitioned to starting roles

Second-year pros Allen and Noteboom replaced John Sullivan and Rodger Saffold, respectively, for an offense that rushed for 166 yards and allowed only one sack against the Panthers.

It was a solid performance by young players who had participated in joint practices with the Chargers and Oakland Raiders but had been held out of preseason games.

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Allen and quarterback Jared Goff appeared to have no issues with snap exchanges. And Noteboom looked comfortable playing left guard alongside veteran tackle Andrew Whitworth.

Cooper Kupp is fully recovered from knee surgery

Kupp played for the first time since suffering a season-ending knee injury against the Seattle Seahawks on Nov. 11, 2018.

He caught seven passes for 46 yards.

Perhaps more important, Kupp restored the next-level confidence and synchronicity Goff has with the Kupp-Robert Woods-Brandin Cooks receiving triumvirate.

Woods caught a team-best eight passes for 70 yards and also rushed for 20 yards in two carries. Cooks caught two passes for 39 yards.

The rushing defense needs improvement

It’s too early to describe this as a major concern.

Christian McCaffrey is one of the NFL’s most dynamic running backs. He rushed for 128 yards and two touchdowns in 19 carries and also caught 10 passes for 81 yards.

Many of McCaffrey’s longest runs were right up the middle.

Rams safety Eric Weddle left in the second quarter after he collided with the knee of the Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey and was put in concussion protocol.

Cory Littleton and Dante Fowler are on salary drives

Littleton is earning just over $3 million on a one-year contract, Fowler $12 million. Both would like extensions from the Rams.

Littleton forced and recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass. He also made a team-best 14 tackles.

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Fowler had two sacks, celebrating with dramatic bows after each one.


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