Why Rams coach Sean McVay aggressively intercepts Matthew Stafford’s turnovers
It’s not a problem for Rams coach Sean McVay.
Not yet anyway. Maybe ever.
Two games into the season, Matthew Stafford is right where he was at the end of the 2021 regular season: No. 1 in the NFL in most passes intercepted.
Stafford goes into Sunday’s NFC West opener against the Arizona Cardinals (1-1) having had five passes intercepted — three in a season-opening rout by the Buffalo Bills and two in last Sunday’s victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
“You want to have those at a minimum,” McVay said Wednesday, “but I also want to make sure that it’s a fine line between not allowing him to compete at a high level. Where we want to be smart but aggressive.”
Rams lose their only backup tight end on the active roster, Brycen Hopkins, to three-game suspension for violating the NFL Policy on Substances of Abuse.
Voluminous interceptions do not necessarily portend disaster for a Rams team trying to become the first in the NFL to repeat as Super Bowl champion since the 2004 New England Patriots.
Last season, Stafford’s 17 interceptions tied then-Jacksonville Jaguars rookie Trevor Lawrence for the most in the NFL.
But Stafford passed for 41 touchdowns, and the Rams went on to win Super Bowl LVI.
Stafford, 34, is in his 14th NFL season, his second with the Rams. He has had 166 passes intercepted in 184 regular-season games.
“You don’t ever want to turn the ball over, don’t want to hurt the team,” Stafford said. “That’s what it’s about.
“It’s not about me, it’s not about my stat. It’s about what it does to our team, and I want to make sure that I’m doing everything I can … to help our team win, and not the opposite of that.
The Times’ Sam Farmer analyzes each matchup and predicts the winners in NFL Week 3. Tom Brady and the Bucs will beat Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
“So, it’s a fine line to, obviously, make sure you play the game the way you know how to play the game but do a great job of taking care of it. And I can do obviously a better job in the first two.”
The Cardinals, who got routed by the Kansas City Chiefs in their opener and came back to defeat the Las Vegas Raiders, are giving up a league-high 33.5 points a game. They rank second to last in pass defense, giving up 302 yards a game, have not intercepted a pass and have only one sack.
Since joining the Rams, Stafford mostly has enjoyed success against the Cardinals, passing for seven touchdowns, with only one interception.
In a Week 4 game last season, Stafford completed 26 of 41 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns, with an interception, in a 37-20 defeat at SoFi Stadium.
Two months later, he was 23 of 30 for 287 yards and three touchdowns, without an interception, in a 30-23 victory at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
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In a 34-11 NFC wild-card victory at SoFi Stadium, Stafford completed 13 of 17 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns, without an interception.
Stafford is “a Hall of Fame quarterback,” and “one of the toughest players I’ve ever seen,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said.
“It seems like when you blitz him, he has an answer,” Kingsbury said during a conference call with Los Angeles beat reporters, “and when you try to sit back and play coverage, he’s going to find the open guy. That’s what he’s done for a long time.”
As with Stafford, Kingsbury is a Texas native.
“I’m excited for the success he’s had,” Kingsbury said, before quipping, “just hope he plays really bad on Sunday.”
The NFL announced that tight end Brycen Hopkins has been suspended for three games for violating the league’s policy on substances of abuse. Hopkins, who was not targeted in the first two games, cannot return to the active roster until after the Rams’ Oct. 9 game against the Dallas Cowboys. Tyler Higbee is the only remaining tight end on the roster. Jared Pinkney and Roger Carter Jr. are practice squad tight ends. ... The Rams signed defensive end Takkarist McKinley, the team announced. McKinley had been on the Tennessee Titans’ practice squad. McKinley played at UCLA and was selected by the Atlanta Falcons with the 26th pick in the 2017 draft. He played four seasons with the Falcons, where Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris was on the staff, and last season with the Cleveland Browns. McKinley has 20 career sacks. ... Cornerback Cobie Durant (hamstring) did not practice. Cornerback David Long (groin) was limited, according to the Rams injury report.
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