Like defense? Then Sunday’s Rams-Panthers tilt was for you. Carolina (3-5) staved off a rugged Los Angeles pass rush to forge a 13-10 win over a Rams club (3-5) clinging for life in the NFC West. Here’s what we learned:
1. Frustrated Rams fans were screaming for Jared Goff long before halftime, but coach Jeff Fisher refused to call on the No. 1 pick in the draft. Placeholder quarterback Case Keenum played from wire-to-wire, generating zero points over the team’s first nine drives. We get it — the Rams don’t believe Goff is ready — but it’s nearly impossible to watch this offense. Los Angeles went six-plus scoreless quarters — dating back to their London game with the Giants — before punching in a field goal with 8:01 left in Sunday’s game.
Keenum isn’t the only problem, but the veteran missed a wide-open Brian Quick deep and tossed a killer third-quarter pick that led to a Carolina field goal. Keenum can’t be blamed, though, for a fourth-quarter pass that hit tight end Lance Kendricks on the numbers at the goal line — only to bounce dumbly to the grass. Keenum’s lone touchdown lob to Kenny Britt with 0:34 left in the game looks better in the box score than real life. Could we finally see Goff next week?
2. The Panthers had problems of their own, with Cam Newton absorbing a string of monstrous hits for a Carolina offense that was forced into six punts and held to just 5.1 yards per play. Newton successfully found tight end Greg Olsen in the end zone for the team’s only touchdown, but the Panthers had no answer for Aaron Donald and a fierce Los Angeles pass rush that swarmed the pocket and pounded Cam with five sacks. Carolina’s ground game was no help, managing just 60 yards at 2.5 yards per rush against a stout Rams front seven.
3. Strengthening his case for Defensive Player of the Year, Donald piled up a pair of takedowns and three tackles for loss in a dominant showing against Carolina’s front five. If voters want to see more gaudy numbers, they aren’t watching just how disruptive this force of nature has been on a weekly basis.
4. The Panthers remain afloat in the NFC with upcoming games against the Chiefs, Saints, Raiders and Seahawks. As for the Rams, Fisher’s team will need to right the ship in a hurry with upcoming games against the Jets, Dolphins, Saints and Patriots.