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Rams roll over Texans as expected, but next comes big test in clash with Titans

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford gets off a pass as he is pressured by the Texans' Ross Blacklock.
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford, shown getting off a pass as he is pressured by the Texans’ Ross Blacklock, threw for more than 300 yards again.
(Justin Rex / Associated Press)

Forget the final score. Disregard the junior varsity fourth quarter.

The Rams’ 38-22 victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday at NRG Stadium was a predictable rout, the precursor to the real business at hand.

The Rams, in a boom-or-bust season, continue to look like a team capable of a deep playoff run and perhaps a Super Bowl appearance. They have won four games in a row for the first time since 2018, the season in which coach Sean McVay led his team to Super Bowl LIII.

But getting an accurate read on how good these 7-1 Rams really are will have to wait at least another week. Tuesday is the NFL trade deadline. Next Sunday night, the 6-2 Tennessee Titans and star running back Derrick Henry visit SoFi Stadium.

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For the moment, give McVay and the Rams credit. They beat the Seattle Seahawks and then dispatched the undermanned and overmatched New York Giants, Detroit Lions and Texans.

On Sunday, quarterback Matthew Stafford passed for three more touchdowns, running back Darrell Henderson and wide receiver Robert Woods each scored twice, rookie linebacker Ernest Jones intercepted a pass in his first start, and Leonard Floyd and Aaron Donald led a pass rush that amassed five sacks.

P.J. Williams scored off a Tom Brady interception late in the fourth quarter to send the New Orleans Saints to a 36-27 victory over the Buccaneers.

It was an impressive display against a listless 1-7 opponent contending only for the one of the top picks in the NFL draft.

Far more interesting will be what happens in the next seven days.

By the time of their “Sunday Night Football” kickoff against the Titans, the Rams’ roster might be stronger and deeper.

Last week, general manager Les Snead traded starting inside linebacker Kenny Young to create salary-cap space. A few days later, he began shopping wide receiver DeSean Jackson.

Given Snead’s penchant for making deals — and the enormous pressure on Snead and McVay to make sure owner Stan Kroenke’s team is playing in the Super Bowl in his $5-billion stadium — the Rams could be active.

“There’s always things that you’re looking at,” McVay said after the Rams’ victory Sunday. “We’re always going to look into different avenues and ways that we can potentially improve the roster.

“Whether that’s out there based on the landscape of the rest of the league is something that we’ll kind of put our heads together and figure that out over the next 24 hours.”

The Rams made their biggest deal before the season when they traded for Stafford.

On Sunday, McVay continued to give him plenty of opportunities, and the 13th-year pro responded by passing for 305 yards in three quarters as the Rams built a 38-0 lead.

Stafford is thrilled to be flourishing and playing for a 7-1 team for the first time in his pro career. He is eager to see what, if anything, the Rams do at the trade deadline.

Rams rookie linebacker Ernest Jones made first start since Kenny Young trade and had an immediate impact with an interception in victory over Texans.

“I’ve been a part of it both ways, buyers and sellers — and a whole lot of nothin’,” said Stafford, who played 12 seasons with the Detroit Lions. “I know we got a great group of guys in our locker room right now.

“If we end up getting somebody, whoever comes in is going to be pleasantly surprised by a bunch of guys that really work hard and are about playing football the right way. And if we ride with who we got, I love it.”

Jones, a third-round draft pick from South Carolina, wasted no time demonstrating he could step in for Young and provide the defense with another playmaker.

His second-quarter interception set up a touchdown that gave the Rams a 17-0 lead.

 Rams linebacker Ernest Jones (50) celebrates his interception against the Texans.
Rams linebacker Ernest Jones (50) celebrates his interception against the Texans.
(Justin Rex / Associated Press)

“I wanted to go out there and show they could trust me, that they could depend on me,” said Jones, who earned a game ball.

Second-year wide receiver Van Jefferson showed again that the Rams might not need the seldom-used Jackson as a deep threat. In the third quarter, Jefferson caught a 68-yard pass from Stafford, setting up Stafford’s touchdown pass to Cooper Kupp.

Other players also stepped up. Joe Noteboom started in place of injured left tackle Andrew Whitworth and helped anchor a line that cleared the way for a season-best 165 yards rushing and gave up just one sack.

With defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day sidelined because of a chest injury, Greg Gaines made four tackles, including a sack that he shared with Donald.

Breaking down the notable numbers behind the Rams’ 38-22 road victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday — scoring and statistics.

Now it’s on to playing the Titans, who extended their winning streak to four games Sunday with a 34-31 overtime victory against the Indianapolis Colts.

Former Rams offensive lineman Rodger Saffold plays for the Titans, and he clears space for the indomitable Henry, the NFL leader in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns.

Gaines trains with Saffold during the offseason.

“That dude’s one of the strongest dudes I’ve seen,” he said, “so, I’m kind of excited to go against him and see what I can do.

“It should be really fun, and Derrick Henry’s going to be an awesome challenge as well.”


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