Rams vs. Lions matchups: Matthew Stafford and Sean McVay looking for fast start

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford scrambles for a first down against the Arizona Cardinals on Oct. 3.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Breaking down how the Rams (5-1) and the Detroit Lions (0-6) match up heading into their game at 1:05 p.m. PDT Sunday at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood. The game will be carried on Fox (Channel 11).

When Rams have the ball: Quarterback Matthew Stafford faces his former team for the first time with an arsenal of receivers unlike any he played with at one time in Detroit. After last week’s 38-11 victory over the New York Giants, Stafford, coach Sean McVay and other players on offense were not happy about another slow start, or uncharacteristic sacks and penalties. Stafford has passed for 16 touchdowns, with four interceptions in a scheme in which McVay has used more straight drop backs than in the past with Jared Goff. Cooper Kupp has a team-best 46 catches, seven for touchdowns. Robert Woods and Van Jefferson also have been involved the last two games, but McVay could once again find it necessary to increase the role of DeSean Jackson. Running back Darrell Henderson continues to play through a rib issue. Against the Giants, he rushed for 78 yards and a touchdown in 21 carries and made a nice play on a 25-yard touchdown catch. Running back Sony Michel was limited in practice because of a shoulder injury but is expected to play Sunday. Former Rams defensive tackle Michael Brockers anchors the Lions line. Linebacker Charles Harris has four sacks. Cornerback Amani Oruwariye has intercepted three passes.

A season ago Jared Goff was the face of the Rams franchise while Matthew Stafford was languishing with the Lions. A season later it’s a role reversal.

Oct. 23, 2021


When Lions have the ball: Quarterback Goff spent the previous four seasons playing in one of the NFL’s most creative and talented offenses with the Rams. Now he is pretty much on an island without near the same talent. Goff has passed for 1,505 yards and seven touchdowns, with four interceptions. Running back D’Andre Swift has rushed for three touchdowns, and he has 34 receptions, one for a touchdown. Tight end T.J. Hockenson has 32 catches, two for touchdowns. Swift and Hockenson are listed as questionable because of groin and knee injuries, respectively. Receiver Kalif Raymond has two touchdown catches and receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, a USC product, also is a target. The Rams aim to repeat last week’s performance against the Giants when they forced four turnovers, including two interceptions by safety Taylor Rapp. Aaron Donald has 31/2 sacks, edge-rusher Leonard Floyd 41/2, but the Rams also have been getting production from outside linebackers Terrell Lewis and Obo Okoronkwo. Lewis, a second-year pro who was slowed by knee issues last season, has three sacks in the last three games. Okoronkwo had a strip-sack against the Giants. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey continues to torment offenses from all points.

When they kick: Rams kick returner Jake Funk suffered a season-ending hamstring injury against the Giants, so punt returner Tutu Atwell could take that role as well. The Lions have lost two games on last-second field goals. This does not seem like a game that will be close enough to end that way. Rams kicker Matt Gay has made 11 of 12 field-goal attempts.

Gary Klein’s prediction: The Rams talked all week about how the Lions played opponents tough. Sure, but Goff and his new team are 0-6. The only debate is how large the Rams’ margin of victory will be.