Rams vs. Colts matchups: Sean McVay, Matthew Stafford aim to continue offensive roll

Rams coach Sean McVay and quarterback Matthew Stafford talk against the Chicago Bears on Sept. 12, 2021.
Rams coach Sean McVay and new quarterback Matthew Stafford were on the same page during a season-opening 34-14 win over the Chicago Bears last Sunday night.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Breaking down how the Rams (1-0) and the Indianapolis Colts (0-1) match up heading into their game at 10 a.m. Pacific time Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The game will be carried on Fox (Channel 11).

When Rams have the ball: It might be difficult for quarterback Matthew Stafford to improve upon his opening-week performance when he passed for 321 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-14 victory over the Chicago Bears. In that game, receivers Van Jefferson and Cooper Kupp caught long touchdown passes, and Robert Woods a short one. Look for coach Sean McVay to show the Colts — and future opponents — that the playbook also will include longer routes for Woods, veteran deep threat DeSean Jackson and perhaps rookie Tutu Atwell as the offense expands. Also keep an eye on running back Sony Michel, who should become more involved. Michel, a fourth-year pro acquired in a late preseason trade with the New England Patriots, got only one carry in the opener because McVay said short scoring drives and flow of the game dictated that Darrell Henderson remain on the field. The Colts gave up four touchdown passes and 140 yards rushing in their 28-16 season-opening loss to the Seattle Seahawks. All-Pro tackle DeForest Buckner and All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard are top players for a unit under the direction of defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus.

The Rams’ Aaron Donald had one of three sacks on Bears quarterback Andy Dalton in the opener, but he feels as if he should have had more.

Sept. 16, 2021


When Colts have the ball: Colts coach Frank Reich was the Philadelphia Eagles’ offensive coordinator in 2017 when quarterback Carson Wentz set the team on its way to the Super Bowl before he was injured in a late-season game against the Rams. Now Reich is the coach and Wentz the quarterback for a Colts team that features an offensive line considered among the best in the NFL. Wentz passed for 251 yards and two touchdowns in his Colts debut against the Seahawks. Running backs Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines can be a formidable duo. As a rookie last season, Taylor rushed for 1,169 yards and 11 touchdowns, but the Seahawks limited him to 56 yards in 17 carries. With receiver T.Y. Hilton sidelined because of a neck injury, the running backs and former USC receiver Michael Pittman are Wentz’s top targets. The Rams’ pass rush is led by tackle Aaron Donald, who helped free outside linebacker Justin Hollins for two sacks against the Bears. Linebacker Kenny Young tipped a pass that led to an interception, and Young also recovered a fumble caused by Hollins’ strip sack. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey influenced and ended plays from multiple angles. The Rams, however, let David Montgomery rush for 108 yards, including a 41-yard run in the first series.

When they kick: In the opener, Kupp served as the returner on the Bears’ only punt, ostensibly because there was no return opportunity. Atwell could make his debut as the punt returner against the Colts. Atwell returned only four punts in three seasons at Louisville. Matt Gay made 53- and 22-yard field goals in the opener.

Gary Klein’s prediction: The Rams need to shore up their run defense, but otherwise there is no reason to think Stafford won’t continue his fast start for a Rams team that could eclipse 30 points for the second week in a row.