The first Battle for Los Angeles is in the books and the Rams once again won by double digits. That doesn’t tell the whole story though as the Philip Rivers, and the Chargers offense had several chances to comeback. The Rams’ vaunted defense took a hit when its two prized cornerbacks, Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib left the game with injuries. Les Snead‘s investment in the corner position paid dividends, as they had just enough depth to get through a classic Rivers late game drive.
Marcus Peters went down with a calf strain in the second quarter. Once he did, it was up to seventh year Sam Shields to help cover the Chargers gifted receiving corps. At first, he and slot corner extraordinaire Nickell Robey-Coleman struggled in coverage. As the fourth quarter wore on, they were able to contribute to a defense bend, don’t break defense. Their situation was further exacerbated by Talib going down early in the fourth quarter with a high ankle sprain. Safeties Lamarcus Joyner and John Johnson III were impactful all day. Joyner’s big highlight came getting hurdled by Chargers running back Melvin Gordon. However, in coverage he made it difficult for Rivers to find a target in the end zone.
The Rams’ vaunted defense took a hit when Peters and Talib went down.
A big point of contention for fans was the decision to not resign corner Trumaine Johnson, despite placing the franchise tag on him twice. Johnson was the highest paid corner in the league last year but his impact on the team didn’t merit a long term deal. He took a five year, $72.5 million deal ($34 million guaranteed) with the Jets. Les Snead took the money they saved on Johnson to trade for the last two years of Peters’ rookie deal. Snead would then trade for the one year, $12 million contract of Talib, and resign Robey-Coleman to a three year $15.65 million deal. He also took a base salary flier for the oft injured Shields.
Those moves paid off and while it’s never a good thing to have to demonstrate depth, the Rams now know the secondary won’t fall to pieces without Peters and Talib. That’s good news considering they won’t play in Thursday night’s contest against the Vikings. Granted, there’s a difference between relief duty and actually starting against two game breaking receivers. Shieds and Robey-Coleman will have their hands full with Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs on Thursday.
For now there is no clear timetable for Peters and Talib. If Shields, Robey-Coleman, Troy Hill and Blake Countess can weather the storm, the defense shouldn’t miss much of a beat. For now, the Rams can enjoy their first 3-0 start since their 2001, before having to quickly pivot to Thursday’s key NFC matchup.