Sunday Night wrap-up: Rams offense catches up

The only time a Sean McVay-coached Rams team scored fewer than three points in a first half was in the Super Bowl loss to the Patriots last year.

So it stands to reason that it’s hard to hold them down all night.

After a sluggish start, the Rams came back to beat the Browns 20-13, with their offense looking more like what we’re accustomed to.

Quarterback Jared Goff threw a pair of touchdown passes to Cooper Kupp in the second half, and looked much sharper after the break than before (at least until a mystery interception late in the fourth).

The Rams had gained just 144 yards in the first half, but finished with 345, doing just enough to keep the Browns at arm’s length.

Goff was 24-of-38 for 269 yards, so it wasn’t a great night, but it was timely.

It was far from perfect, but it was a good adjustment and enough to keep them undefeated (3-0).

Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:

1. For all the excitement Browns fans enjoyed this offseason, the locals sounded disgruntled with what they saw in a rare SNF appearance.

A fourth-and-9 draw play in the fourth quarter drew their particular ire, an unimaginative choice for the situation.

It’s the kind of play that will demand explanation, and coach Freddie Kitchens better have a good one (Maybe he lost track of downs?). There was also some curious timeout usage on their final possession, the kind of problems a first-time coach needs to solve quickly.

Coupled with a lackluster night from quarterback Baker Mayfield (just 195 yards) and some shabby offensive line play (two sacks late were defining), it was reminiscent of some Browns teams of recent vintage who weren’t regular guests in prime time.

2. The Rams made the Super Bowl without him last season, so it’s tempting to say they didn’t miss Kupp that much.

But the third-year wideout is clearly someone they trust, and that was easy to see Sunday.

Kupp finished with 11 catches for 102 yards and the two scores.

He makes his space by running precise routes, and he doesn’t look like a guy who tore his ACL last November. His recovery adds a layer to an offense that was obviously good already.

3. Browns defensive coordinator Steve Wilks didn’t get much of a chance in Arizona, but he has a chance to make a real impact in his current job.

Playing without a starting secondary, Wilks had the Browns pressuring the Rams throughout the first half, keeping them from getting into any kind of offensive rhythm.

Despite not having cornerbacks Denzel Ward or Greedy Williams or safeties Damarious Randall or Morgan Burnett, Wilks blitzed aggressively to keep the Rams’s passing game off balance, and trusted his players to hold up. The Rams eventually found some creases, but it was still a solid showing for what was left of the Browns defense.

Wilks’ one year as head coach in Arizona was a disaster by any measure, but not having a General Manager (Steve Keim was serving his DUI suspension) with a rookie head coach and a rookie quarterback in training camp didn’t give him much of a chance to succeed. But he was well-regarded in previous stops, and has a chance to rebuild his reputation with a team that’s actually more stable than the one he left (and that’s saying something).

4. Even if it wasn’t to the ridiculous scale of the opener, the Browns still struggle with self-inflicted problems.

An illegal shift penalty on Odell Beckham Jr. negated a Nick Chubb touchdown in the third quarter. They recovered to score later in the possession, but it was the latest example of making things harder than they need to be.

The Browns committed 18 penalties in the opener against the Titans, and cut that to nine last week. That’s still a league-high total, even if the arrow was pointed in the right direction.

Sunday, they committed eight for 60 yards, so progress is being made, but it’s still an issue.

5. The Rams are clearly trying to pace themselves, and Todd Gurley.

Their star running back has been held back a bit early in games, allowing him a chance to have an impact later (in the season, they hope).

Gurley had 11 carries for 34 yards through the first three quarters, as the Browns concentrated on pinching in the outside run game.

He finished with 14 carries for 43 yards, as they didn’t need him as they did to close out the Panthers in the opener.