Rams QB Matthew Stafford promises to be sharper against Falcons

Matthew Stafford had a career season in 2021, leading the Rams to a Super Bowl win at their home stadium.

But reducing turnovers – he intercepted 17 passes – was among the veteran quarterback’s goals at the start of his second year under the coach. Sean McVay.

This did not happen in the Rams season-opening loss by the Buffalo Bills. Stafford intercepted three passes.

“Definitely two or three that I would love to have back,” he said this week, “there’s no doubt about it.”

Until Stafford plays effectively, there will always be questions about the condition of his much-scrutinized right elbow and how the tendonitis he allegedly suffered impacted his performance.

Stafford continues to say he feels “good”.

The final test comes Sunday when the Rams take on the Atlanta Falcons (0-1) at SoFi Stadium.

“I just have to do a better job of seeing it,” he said of passing opportunities, “and hitting it.”

Stafford’s turnovers are just one of many issues that must be resolved for the Rams to beat the Falcons — and for McVay to avoid his first 0-2 start.

The Bills crossed the Rams offensive line and sacked Stafford seven times. The Rams failed to establish a running offense and a new receiver Allen Robinson has only been targeted twice.

The Rams defense forced four turnovers but allowed the Bills to convert nine of 10 third downs.

It was an embarrassing performance from a team that proclaimed its bid to “backtrack” and become the first in nearly two decades to repeat as Super Bowl champions.

“Sometimes,” McVay said, “until you get punched in the face, you really find out about people.

“And that’s what I like, that’s the opportunity to respond.”

It starts with Stafford, at 14e-an pro.

Arthur Smith was a Tennessee Titans assistant for 10 years before being hired as Falcons coach last season. I have watched Stafford throughout his career.

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) heads the ball.

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) heads the ball against the Buffalo Bills.

(Ashley Landis/Associated Press)

“He’s very smart, he’s got instinct, he can hit every shot,” Smith said. “So it’s a huge challenge, and that’s why he won the Super Bowl last year and he had the success he had.”

The Rams can help Stafford by keeping him up. The seven sacks he absorbed against the Bills were the most he had taken with the Rams.

“I took a few hits, fired a few hits and got up every time,” offensive coordinator Liam Coen said. “[He] … wanted to continue competing. Sometimes it’s your night. I think it was probably a night off.

Now the Rams will try to protect Stafford with a revamped offensive line.

Due to a knee injury suffered by center Brian Allen, Coleman Shelton is moving from right guard to center. Third-year pro Tremayne Anchrum will start at right guard for the first time. If a sprained knee suffered by left tackle Joe Noteboom isn’t healed enough, second-year pro Alaric Jackson will start in his place.

The line must also help improve a rushing offense that produced a league-low 52 yards in Game 1.

Darrell Henderson ran hard against the Bills, but McVay said that Cam Akers needs to play with more “urgency”. Akers, a third-year professional, has only played 12 times on the court. I gained zero meters in three runs.

“There’s always room for improvement,” Akers said. “And I want to improve. I don’t think I’m perfect.”

The Falcons are coming off a 27-26 loss to the New Orleans Saints in which they lost a 16-point fourth quarter lead.

Quarterback Marcus Mariota, running back Cordarrelle Patterson, rookie receiver Drake London and tight end Kyle Pitts are star performers for an offense that produced 416 yards, 201 rushing, in Game 1.

Patterson was an All-Pro kick-returner and he also played catcher in his first eight NFL seasons. Last season, the Falcons played him at running back.

Patterson rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries last Sunday against the Saints.

“He runs with absolute power,” Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris said.

After their lackluster performance against the Bills, the Rams will have waited 10 days to show they’re worth more than their season-opening performance.

The Rams are eager to move on, linebacker Bobby Wagner said.

“A team’s testament is how you respond,” he said, “so I anticipate that we respond.”