On Sunday at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum, in a rematch of the NFC Championship Game, the Rams defeated the Saints, 27-9. But it wasn’t without a botched call from officials that cost the Saints a touchdown. In the second quarter, quarterback Jared Goff was sacked and fumbled, as the Saints scooped and scored on an 87-yard return. However, officials whistled the play dead, signaling an incomplete pass. After review, it was determined Goff fumbled and the Saints took over at their own 13-yard line.
Nevertheless, the Rams — who have been asked ad nauseum since last January about the botched PI call from the NFC Championship Game — can finally move on with their season and, as outside linebacker Dante Fowler hoped earlier this week, put the controversial no-call “to rest for a little bit.”
Describe the game in two words: Major letdown. It was a highly anticipated Week 2 matchup, but it hardly lived up to the billing after quarterback Drew Brees was sidelined early in the first half because of a hand injury. Neither team appeared close to playoff form.
QB breakdown: For a second consecutive week, Goff had an uneven performance. He completed 19 of 28 passes for 283 yards and a touchdown, and he also rushed for a 1-yard score. In the first quarter, Goff aired out a 57-yard pass to Brandin Cooks on third-and-16. The throw was a perfect example of why the Rams gave Goff a four-year extension worth $134 million, with a record-breaking $110 million guaranteed. But throughout much of the first half, Goff appeared uneasy behind an offensive line that features two first-year starters and lost sturdy right guard Austin Blythe to an ankle injury. Goff had a sack fumble and dealt with pressure in his face. He also looked out of sync early with usual go-to playmakers Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, as several passes were just out of their reach.
Troubling trend: The Rams were fortunate in 2018 as they suffered few serious injuries throughout the season, with exception of Kupp’s torn ACL. But it doesn’t appear they will be as lucky in 2019. On Sunday, defensive tackle Aaron Donald left the game with a back injury, but later returned. However Blythe, their right guard, and tight end Tyler Higbee were not so lucky. Blythe suffered an ankle injury in the first half; he was carted into the locker room and did not return. Blythe was replaced by Jamil Demby, an inexperienced reserve. Higbee suffered a chest injury and did not play in the second half. The fourth-year tight end finished with two catches for 21 yards and the Rams finished with Gerald Everett as their only available tight end.
Promising trend: Ten months after Kupp underwent reconstructive knee surgery, the Rams slot receiver caught five passes for 120 yards. In the fourth quarter, Kupp was out to break the ankles of Saints defenders as he caught a short pass, then bobbed and weaved his down the field for a 66-yard gain. He was tackled one yard short of the goal line. In two games, Kupp has appeared to suffer no adverse effects from last season’s torn ACL.
Saints DE Noah Spence tears ACL while training away from team
Spence was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list since the injury did not occur as part of New Orleans’ offseason training program — which was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. That means he can’t play for the Saints this year and won’t count against their 90-man roster. The NFL Network was the first to report the nature of Spence’s injury.
Situations like this could add another wrinkle to these unusual offseason circumstances. Teams aren’t required to pay salaries in the cases of “non-football” injuries. But they could decide to work out injury settlements or place players on injured reserve when rosters are trimmed in September and continue paying them.
Spence, 26, was scheduled to make $910,000 on a one-year deal if he made the Saints’ 53-man roster. He would have counted $750,000 against their salary cap as part of the veteran minimum salary benefit.
The fifth-year pro originally joined the Saints last December after being released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Redskins earlier in the 2019 season. He was a healthy inactive for all four games with New Orleans, including the playoffs. But he had a chance to earn a roster spot this year to provide depth behind starters Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport.
Spence (6-foot-2, 251 pounds) began his career as a second-round draft pick with the Buccaneers in 2016 and had a terrific rookie season with 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.
His production has tailed off since then, however, in part because of a nagging shoulder injury that limited him to six games in 2017. He had another sack and forced fumble with the Bucs in 2017 and one sack with the Redskins in 2019.
Miami Dolphins to open drive-in theater at Hard Rock Stadium
The Miami Dolphins will soon let fans drive their cars inside the stadium where football players typically play every weekend in the fall.
The Dolphins announced Tuesday that they are launching an outdoor drive-in theater inside Hard Rock Stadium that will be used to show marquee games in team history, classic movies, commencement ceremonies, concerts and more. They are also hosting an open-air theater which can host small groups for an intimate viewing experience in the complex plaza.
The Dolphins have mocked renderings of the drive-in venture, which they say can host up to 230 cars. They are promoting it as a family-friendly event that people can participate in amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
Food and beverage can purchased through an online system and delivered to cars. Restrooms will also be made available for use. Fans can put their name on an email list via the stadium website to be notified when tickets are available.
“We’ve spent several weeks planning this to be able to provide people with a safe option to go out and enjoy movies, classic Dolphins content, concerts, and celebrate 2020 graduates,” said Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium vice chairman and CEO Tom Garfinkel. “It’s a fundamental human need to physically experience and celebrate events and experiences together, and we’re trying to provide options for everyone where they can be safely socially distant and socially present at the same time.”
Hard Rock Stadium became the first public facility to earn the Global Biorisk Advisory Council’s STAR accreditation, the standard used for facilities to implement cleaning, disinfecting and infectious disease prevention work practices to control risks involved with infectious agents like the coronavirus.
Garfinkel and the Dolphins have been proactive and innovative in ways to function during the pandemic. They released mock-up plans earlier this month for what it could like to host approximately 15,000 fans in the stadium for NFL fans if the NFL and the government allows it in the fall. Owner Stephen Ross also said on CNBC Tuesday that there will “definitely” be a football season this fall and the plans as of now is to include having fans in the stands.
Hard Rock Stadium was the host for Super Bowl LIV. It also has hosted Miami Open tennis tournaments, several multiple large music festivals, college football championship games and international soccer games.
Ravens’ Lamar Jackson to host informal workouts for teammates
With the Baltimore Ravens facility unavailable to players due to the coronavirus pandemic, reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson is hosting his Baltimore Ravens teammates for some informal workouts in south Florida next week.
Wide receiver Miles Boykin told reporters in a video conference call that he is scheduled to run plays with Jackson, wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and others in what is believed to be the team’s largest gathering this offseason.
“We’re still finalizing it,” Boykin said Tuesday. “There are going to be a lot of guys down there. There’s only so much you can do in [virtual] meetings without being able to go out on the field.”
And while the Ravens announced Tuesday that they have re-opened their training facility under Phase 1 of the NFL process, it is still closed to players and coaches. Like many other teams, Baltimore’s offseason training activities would’ve begun by now.
What works in the Ravens’ favor is their continuity and familiarity on offense. Baltimore returns 11 of 13 players who caught a pass from Jackson last season in what was the NFL’s highest-scoring offense (33.2 points per game).
Boykin said there are plans for additional workouts with Jackson beyond next week. Jackson’s recent throwing sessions appear to have been limited to Brown, who also lives in Florida. Based on social media posts, it looks like Jackson and Brown have been working on routes at a local park.
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) May 23, 2020
Boykin isn’t sure of the exact details of the workouts.
“Right now, we just have the plan to go down there and be able to run through some plays on offense and just play football a little bit to get back to something that we love doing,” Boykin said. “It’ll be exciting for us to be together, just work on that chemistry.”
This is the second straight year that Jackson has gotten together with teammates in the offseason, which had been a point of contention with the Ravens’ previous starting quarterback. Joe Flacco only held private workouts twice in his 11 seasons in Baltimore.
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