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Another Rams injury affects offensive line, and secondary is short-handed too

The Falcons' Ta'Quon Graham (95) hits Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford as he throws in the first half.
Ta’Quon Graham (95) and the Falcons kept the pressure on Matthew Stafford, who had two passes intercepted. The Rams quarterback has had five passes intercepted in two games.
(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

The Rams open play in the NFC West on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals — and they will do so with another different offensive line combination and possibly an injury-depleted secondary.

Guard Tremayne Anchrum suffered a season-ending ankle injury, and cornerbacks Troy Hill and Cobie Durant suffered groin and hamstring injuries, respectively, in the Rams’ 31-27 victory over the Atlanta Falcons, coach Sean McVay said Monday.

McVay said he would be surprised if Hill is ready to play against the Cardinals and that Durant would be “week to week.”

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Anchrum, a third-year pro, had his first career start end after two plays. McVay said Anchrum was injured on the first play, but he played one more snap before he was carted off the field. He had surgery Monday.

Alaric Jackson replaced Anchrum and helped the Rams rebound from their season-opening loss to the Buffalo Bills. Jackson, a second-year pro, had practiced primarily as a swing tackle to back up Joe Noteboom and Rob Havenstein.

The Rams might be remembered for almost blowing a big lead in Week 2 against the Atlanta Falcons, but the victory could serve as a jumping-off point.

But Jackson helped a line that gave up seven sacks against the Bills reduce that number to one against the Falcons.

“It was really impressive, on short notice for a guy that didn’t take a single rep at guard this past week to come in and play the whole game and play at such a high clip,” McVay said.

Hill was injured during the second quarter on a long pass play. Durant, a fourth-round draft pick, replaced him and, one series later, intercepted a pass and returned it 51 yards to set up a touchdown.

McVay said Durant later told him that his hamstring injury occurred before the interception.

“Which lets you know this guy can freakin’ roll with a strained hamstring,” McVay said. “He said he felt it throughout the game, kind of gutted through.”

Rams defensive back Cobie Durant, right, celebrates with linebacker Terrell Lewis.
Rams defensive back Cobie Durant, right, celebrates with linebacker Terrell Lewis after his interception set up a touchdown.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

If Hill or Durant is unable to play against the Cardinals, rookie Derion Kendrick and second-year pro Robert Rochell would step in.

The Rams survived a wild ending to defeat the Falcons. Now they play a Cardinals team that beat the Las Vegas Raiders in even more dramatic fashion.

After trailing 20-0, quarterback Kyler Murray ran for a touchdown on the final play of regulation, and then completed a two-point conversion pass to tie the score, 23-23.

During overtime, cornerback Byron Murphy recovered a fumble by Raiders receiver Hunter Renfrow and returned it 59 yards for a game-winning touchdown.

“That just an example of any given Sunday,” Rams safety Nick Scott said Monday during a videoconference. “A testament to those guys staying in the game and pulling that off.

“That’s the tough part of this league — teams aren’t out of it till there’s zero seconds on the clock.”

Matthew Stafford and the Rams picked up their first win of the season, holding on for a 31-27 win over the Atlanta Falcons. Here are some of the best photos of the game.

McVay said he saw the end of the Cardinals’ game in the locker room after the Rams’ victory but had not communicated with Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury.

“That was [a] wild finish,” McVay said. “Talk about making the plays when you had to make them in those critical moments, and they came away and found a way to do it.

“I think it’s safe to say both of us needed a good drink.”

McVay noted the importance of winning a division to ensure a playoff spot and host a playoff game.

Last season, the Rams finished first in the NFC West and defeated the Cardinals at SoFi Stadium in a wild-card game. The Rams beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road in a divisional-round game, and then defeated the San Francisco 49ers at SoFi Stadium in the NFC championship game before defeating the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium.

As a few NFL teams did Sunday, the Rams blew a big lead. However, unlike the others, they did not lose, holding on to beat the visiting Atlanta Falcons 31-27.

What else we learned from the Rams’ victory:

Quarterback Matthew Stafford still must reduce turnovers: Coach Sean McVay and Stafford are quick to explain that every interception has a different story.

OK, no argument there.

But Stafford, who had a league-high 17 passes intercepted last season, already has had five intercepted in two games.

Stafford insists that his throwing arm is fine and Sunday he completed 27 of 36 passes for 272 yards and three touchdowns.

But if the Rams want to repeat as Super Bowl champions, Stafford cannot continue at this turnover pace.

Receiver Allen Robinson can be a factor: After targeting Robinson only twice in the season-opening defeat to the Buffalo Bills, McVay and Stafford said they needed to involve him more.

Against the Falcons, they waited all of one play.

Rams receiver Allen Robinson makes a catch in front of Falcons safety Erik Harris in the second quarter.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Robinson was targeted five times. He had four catches for 53 yards, including a touchdown.

Cooper Kupp remained Stafford’s go-to receiver, catching 11 passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns in 14 targets. Tight Tyler Higbee was targeted nine times and had seven catches for 71 yards.

Running back Cam Akers responded to McVay’s call for more urgency: Akers rushed for 44 yards in 15 carries against the Falcons. He also caught two passes for 18 yards.

The third-year pro delivered on McVay’s request after he gained zero yards in three carries against the Bills.

“Got more reps, got more burn,” Akers said. “Made the most of them.”

What must he do to get more opportunities?

“Do more of what I did,” he said.

Receiver Ben Skowronek added another role: Throughout the game, Skowronek lined up as a fullback in the I-formation.

“Just to be able to mix it up a little bit,” McVay said.

Skowronek caught two passes for 16 yards, helped protect Stafford and cleared the way for Akers and Darrell Henderson.

He remains a special teams staple.

Jackson provides versatility: Anchrum suffered an ankle injury on the second play of his first career start, so Jackson stepped in.

Jackson, a second-year pro, was set to serve as a swing tackle.

But he showed he also can play guard, and he helped an offensive line that gave up seven sacks against the Bills surrender only one against the Falcons.

The defense was much better on third down: After allowing the Bills to convert nine of 10 times on third down, the Rams stopped the Falcons seven of 10 times. The Falcons converted two third downs on the first drive and only one thereafter.

Linebacker Ernest Jones had a game-high 12 tackles for the Rams.

Ask the L.A. Times’ football team your questions about Los Angeles’ local teams and we will try to answer them.

Durant, inside linebacker Bobby Wagner and outside linebacker Justin Hollins sacked Marcus Mariota, who completed 17 of 26 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns, with two interceptions.

The punt unit needs work: In the second game of the 2022 season, the Falcons blocked a punt by Riley Dixon and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown.

It harked to last season when, in the second game, a snap bounced off the Rams punt protector and the Indianapolis Colts recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.

Rams special teams units showed last season that they could improve by season’s end. They need a repeat if they aim to repeat as Super Bowl champions.


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