May 19, 2024

The Rams remembered in the second half that they were permitted to run the ball and rallied to beat the Arizona Cardinals, 26-9. The Chargers failed down the stretch in a 20-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night. Los Angeles Times Rams beat writer Gary Klein, NFL columnist Sam Farmer, Chargers beat writer Jeff Miller and columnist Dylan Hernandez discuss what happened and upcoming prospects:

Kyren Williams has made a bigger impact than many expected, except for maybe himself. The Rams’ back certainly is not a “burner” and not a “juker.” How would you describe his running style and why it is working?

Farmer: Williams is patient and doesn’t let the first guy bring him down. He lets his blocks develop in front of him, staying on schedule, and keeps moving forward. Doesn’t lose yards. So I’d say he’s an unrelenting runner. He’s second in the NFC in rushing yards to Christian McCaffrey. What’s more, Puka Nacua is third in the NFL in receiving. Who saw that coming?

Klein: Williams runs with emotion and surprising power. He keeps moving after initial contact. It worked in the second half against the Cardinals because Sean McVay allowed Williams and the offensive line to build confidence and ride the wave of emotion.

Editor’s note: The Rams announced since that Williams has an injured ankle. He might miss their next game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Is there a good explanation why the Rams were not even trying to run the ball in the first half?

Klein: Doesn’t seem like it. The Cardinals defense is not some impenetrable force. As dynamic as Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua can be, McVay’s offense always works better when there is a run element.

Farmer: But they didn’t have a lot of opportunities — 18 offensive snaps, not counting punts, versus 34 in the second half. Matthew Stafford checked out of a lot of runs in the first half.

Can Byron Young develop into the wingman Aaron Donald needs in order to get more maneuvering room along the line? Could he be another Leonard Floyd?

Klein: Young is becoming a force on the edge. He is not as tall as Floyd but he is relentless. Anyone who can force opposing offensive coordinators to account for them is going to deflect attention from and help Donald.

Rams Aaron Donald (99) and Byron Young confer before a play.

The presence of Rams linebacker Byron Young on the edge could help free Aaron Donald.

(Gregory Bull / Associated Press)

Farmer: With three sacks in six games, Young is on a Leonard Floyd pace of roughly nine per season. Although his pass-rush moves are raw, Young is extremely athletic and fast enough to chase down quarterbacks and running backs. A productive third-round pick.

What is your scouting report on the Pittsburgh Steelers, other than Steelers Nation is sure to invade SoFi Stadium. They have been up and down so far this season but are very much an AFC contender at 3-2.

Klein: I’ll defer to Sam on the Steelers. He knows the league better than I do, especially on a Monday. What I do know is that Aaron Donald will be amped to play his hometown team.

Farmer: Defense is pretty solid. Offense is really struggling, and that could provide some big opportunities for a Rams defense that can be stifling. In each of the Rams’ three wins this season, their defense has pitched a shutout in a half — second half against Seattle, first half against Indianapolis, second half against Arizona.

The score tied 17-17 and the Cowboys facing third and 18 on their 17 with 5:52 to go, who started thinking … “Hey, the Chargers are set up to win this game?”

Editor’s note: Defensive holding gave Dallas a first down.

Hernandez: I just never had a good feeling about this game. Take the first play of the fourth quarter. The Cowboys faced a third and 11 on their 24, Dak Prescott scrambled around and hit Tony Pollard, who broke a tackle by Michael Davis while two other Chargers players just stood and watched. Pollard went for 60 yards and the Cowboys scored a touchdown later on that drive. After seeing that, I didn’t think anything could be taken for granted.

Miller: This team’s inability to get off the field in super-critical situations has been an issue, no doubt. But it is odd in that the Chargers rank third in the league in third-down defense for the season and limited Dallas to five of 13 overall Monday. But the third-and-18 failure against the Cowboys was crucial.

What do you make of how many throws were off target for Justin Herbert, who usually is pin-point? Was it simply the rush despite only being sacked once or the coverage? Or … ?

Miller: I have to believe the rush played a part in Herbert’s shaky moments. Like every quarterback, he operates better with time. Herbert has been great against the blitz this season, but pressure has been an issue at times. It was again in this game.

Hernandez: It doesn’t matter whether it was the rush or the coverage or, as Brandon Staley said, the absence of the Chargers’ rushing game. Herbert has to be better. He was well-protected on the two passes he missed to a wide-open Keenan Allen. That probably cost the Chargers 10 points. Now that he’s paid like a franchise quarterback, Herbert has to play like a franchise quarterback. That means finding a way to make plays and win games under adverse conditions.

Even with Austin Ekeler back, the Chargers were not able to get the run game going yet again. Is rushing going to have to be an extracurricular activity for this offense with Herbert pulling the trigger?

Miller: It has to be more than that if this team is ever going to go anywhere. The loss of veteran center Corey Linsley, who is dealing with a heart-related ailment, is probably a bigger deal than we make it out to be. Linsley is vital to this offense with his experience and ability to communicate, particularly for a team that — because of the typical crowd at SoFi Stadium — doesn’t play many home games.

The Chargers' Austin Ekeler is stacked up at the line of scrimmage by the Dallas Cowboys.

The Chargers’ Austin Ekeler did not find much running room against the Cowboys defense, running for just 27 yards in 14 carries.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Hernandez: This is starting to look a lot like last year. The Chargers couldn’t run the ball and we saw how that went. What if, God forbid, the Chargers have a lead? They almost blew a 17-point lead two weeks ago, and that was against a bad Raiders team. If they don’t fix this problem, something worse is bound to happen.

Despite a very good defensive effort, the Chargers could not stop the Cowboys down the stretch. Considering they face Patrick Mahomes and the champion Kansas City Chiefs on the road next, are the Chargers doomed in that AFC West matchup?

Miller: “Doomed” seems a little strong, especially five, six days before kickoff. But this will be another difficult matchup for the Chargers, who’ve actually won three of their past five games at Arrowhead Stadium, although K.C. rested its regulars in one of those games. My bold prediction: another one-score finish, of course!

Hernandez: The Chargers still have high-end talent, so you can’t dismiss them entirely. But they have to turn around things quickly. They can’t count on another late-season winning streak to salvage their season.

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