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Loss to Bears two seasons ago helped reshape Rams, and they meet again Monday

Rams quarterback Jared Goff has the football stripped from his grasp by the Bears' Khalil Mack in 2018.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff has the football stripped from his grasp by the Bears’ Khalil Mack in their 2018 game.
(Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images)

The late-season loss occurred nearly two years ago on a cold night in Chicago.

The Chicago Bears manhandled the Rams and sent them to a 15-6 defeat.

Sean McVay’s high-powered offense managed two field goals. The Bears intercepted four passes by Jared Goff and sacked him three times, including once for a safety.

“That was kind of our eye-opener that season,” Rams receiver Robert Woods said during a videoconference on Wednesday.

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The Rams recovered and went on to advance to the Super Bowl. But the defeat stuck with McVay. He admired then-Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, and the aggressive scheme his staff utilized to shut down the Rams.

Last January, when McVay went searching for a new defensive coordinator, that loss to the Bears continued to resonate. He hired Brandon Staley, who coached the Bears’ outside linebackers in 2017 and 2018 before moving to do the same under Fangio with the Denver Broncos last season.

On Monday night, the Rams play the Bears at SoFi Stadium.

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The Rams are 4-2 after losing their NFC West opener against the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday. The Rams offense started slow and never got into a rhythm. The defense failed to get pressure, and special teams also had miscues during the 24-16 defeat.

Under third-year coach Matt Nagy, the Bears are 5-1 after last Sunday’s 23-16 victory over the Carolina Panthers. The Rams need to bounce back against a team that once again features a strong defense.

In both of the Rams’ defeats this season, the offense failed to score on its first possession. The Buffalo Bills built a 28-3 lead before the Rams overcame the deficit, only to lose in the final seconds. The 49ers took a 21-6 lead and the Rams’ comeback fell short.

“Just start faster,” Woods said when asked about resetting the Rams offense. “It just goes back to starting off in the first half, starting off in the first quarter, the Rams’ way.”

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Against the 49ers, Goff overthrew several passes. Receiver Cooper Kupp failed to make several catches he typically executes. And the Rams wasted opportunities by committing presnap penalties.

Woods said the offense must “stay at it” when struggling.

Rams wide receiver Robert Woods finds running room against the 49ers.
Robert Woods says practicing against the Rams’ defense, which is similar to what the Chicago Bears run, will be helpful when the teams meet Monday.
(Tony Avelar / Associated Press)

“Even though there are missed opportunities, keep at ‘em, come back to ‘em,” he said, “Because we’re going to make those plays, more than likely.”

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The Rams should benefit this week from Staley’s knowledge of the Bears. The Rams are running a scheme similar to the one Staley helped formulate during his time with the Bears, Woods said.

The Rams offense learned the strengths and weaknesses of the defense during training camp.

“Going against the defense every single day, learning some gaps, learning the holes, learning what’s there and what’s not and try to do that same thing against Chicago this Monday night,” Woods said.

The Rams rank fourth in the NFL in total defense and fifth in scoring defense. The Bears rank seventh in both categories.

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The Rams offense was flummoxed by the 49ers, and some role players could not get on the field, giving the staff a keen understanding that better balance will be needed against the Bears next weekend.

“Any time you can get that matchup with another great defense and kind of have that showdown, it’s pretty cool,” Rams safety Taylor Rapp said. “So we’re looking forward to Monday night.”

As with the offense, the Rams’ defense needs to start fast. In five of six games, the Rams have given up three points or no points in the second half.

“That shows a team that can adapt on the run and change things on the run,” Rapp said.

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McVay’s desire for improved special teams was evident Tuesday when the Rams announced they had signed veteran kicker Kai Forbath from the Bears’ practice squad. The Rams did not waive rookie kicker Samuel Sloman, who missed an extra-point attempt and has had two blocked.

Etc.

Defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson was designated to return to practice after being on the nonfootball injury list since training camp. The Rams have a 21-day window to activate Robinson to the roster. The Rams agreed to terms with Robinson last March, aiming for him to replace Michael Brockers, who had agreed to terms on a free-agent contract with the Baltimore Ravens. But Brockers’ deal fell through because of the Ravens’ concern about an ankle injury he suffered near the end of the 2019 season. The Rams re-signed Brockers. ... The Rams did not practice but had a walk-through Wednesday, a team official said. They return to practice Thursday.


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