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INGLEWOOD, California. – Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford faked a pass, rolled to the left and let it fly.
The SoFi Stadium crowd jumped to their feet as Stafford’s 67-yard pass finally landed in the hands of receiver Van Jefferson, who bolted untouched behind the Chicago Bears’ defense and then crossed the finish line for a touchdown.
It was the opening drive for a possible 34-14 route Sunday night over the visiting Bears and just the beginning of Stafford’s official welcome-to-LA party.
“He did great,” Ram’s cornerback Jalen Ramsey said after the game. “His command, his swag, as if everything was great. It’s like a debut that should probably go down in history, just like I played.”
Stafford’s debut was long overdue after the Rams agreed to a blockbuster deal last January that sent quarterback Jared Goff, two first-round picks and a third-round pick to the Detroit Lions in exchange for the veteran quarterback.
Stafford finished 20-of-26 for 321 yards and three touchdowns, with a career-best 156.1 passing rating, becoming the first player in NFL history to win his team debut while passing for 300 yards and three touchdowns , without an interception, according to Elias Sports Bureau research.
“A lot of anticipation for this game,” Stafford said during a post-match press conference, where he appropriately donated a jersey with a big smiley face on. “It’s a new experience for me, new place, new stadium, new fans, everything, but this team has embraced me and I really appreciate that.”
After playing last season without a vertical threat and struggling to consistently create games down the field, Rams coach Sean McVay stressed during the offseason and throughout training camp the need for the offense to be more explosive this season.
Stafford delivered big-play ability in his debut as he averaged a career-high of 12.3 yards per game. Attempts while completing passes to six different players.
“He trusted his teammates, he expected to play well and he did a good job,” said McVay, who is 5-0 in season openers since becoming the Rams’ coach in 2017. “I loved everything he did. did tonight. “
Stafford’s scoring pass to Jefferson limited an opening drive to three games, covering 80 yards, stretching over 1 minute, 18 seconds and resulting in Stafford rising high down the field as Ramsey and teammates broke out on the sidelines.
“I was fine,” Stafford said of his touchdown party. “It’s a pretty good start. … I was just jacked up and having fun out there.”
“It was a good job [Stafford] to be able to turn the hips and make an incredible throw, “McVay said. I think it’s one of those things – he’s gifted, he has an amazing ability to switch arms and make all kinds of throws, whether it’s short, mid or down the field, but he is – you are not limited to anything you can do with him in the care. “
Stafford delivered more of the same to open the second half. After converting on third-and-10 with a 19-yard completion to receiver Robert Woods, Stafford went deep to receiver Cooper Kupp, who did not have a defender within 10 yards, for a 56-yard touchdown that gave the Rams a 20- 7 lead.
“It was exactly what we wanted and it was from a bunch of different guys,” McVay said of the explosive games generated from Stafford, Jefferson, Kupp, Woods and tight end Tyler Higbee catching a 37-yard pass .
“Matt did a great job of lightening the ball for everyone,” Jefferson said. “This offense will be explosive and we’ll just follow Matt.”
Stafford warned in his postgame suspense that their win over the Bears was just a game and that the Rams should continue to build on the performance.
But for a team with Super Bowl expectations on their shoulders for their new quarterback, it looked like a solid start.