Sun, 17 Jan 2021

Rookie trio steps up in win over Buccaneers

Los Angeles Rams
25 Nov 2020, 17:24 GMT+10

Stu Jackson

Against one of the NFL's most experienced quarterbacks and offenses and one of the league's toughest defenses, a trio of Rams rookies stepped up to help them earn a primetime win.

Safety Jordan Fuller recorded the first two interceptions of his NFL career, while running back Cam Akers and wide receiver Van Jefferson each scored their first NFL touchdown in Monday night's 27-24 win over the Buccaneers in Tampa.

"I was very pleased with those guys," Rams head coach Sean McVay said in his postgame video conference.

Fuller's first pick lived up to the Rams defense's reputation for timely takeaways this season, and actually led to Akers' score.

New Los Angeles kicker Matt Gay had just missed a 44-yard field goal which would've given L.A. 20-17 lead approaching the midway point of the third quarter. Two plays later, Fuller intercepted a pass deep over the middle by Bucs quarterback Tom Brady intended for wide receiver Chris Godwin.

The ensuing drive ended with Goff throwing a 4-yard touchdown pass to Akers.

"I was just in my zone, eyes on the quarterback, and he ended up throwing it in my direction," Fuller said. "I was just telling myself, 'don't drop it, don't drop it, don't drop it.'"

The second pick came on a deep Brady pass to the right intended for tight end Cameron Brate and effectively clinched the victory, since it came on the change of possession after Gay's go-ahead 40-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter.

"Second one, kind of the same thing, I was just reading the quarterbacks eyes," Fuller said. "He threw it up there, and I was able to go get it."

"He's really been dominating from that safety position ever since he got here," Rams wide receiver Robert Woods said in his postgame video conference. "Plays like that, to seal the game as a rookie, (we) expect that from him."

Akers' and Jefferson's touchdowns were just as crucial as Fuller's pair of picks. Akers' gave the Rams a 24-17 lead late in the third quarter, while Jefferson's 7-yard grab - his only catch of the night - tied the game 14-14 late in the second quarter.

"He can do a lot of things," Rams quarterback Jared Goff said of Jefferson in his postgame video conference. "We like him and hope to get him a little more involved as the season goes on."

Between those three rookies, Fuller has had the most immediate impact despite being limited by a shoulder injury. Akers' opportunities earlier in the season were hindered by a rib injury and explosive performances from fellow running back Darrell Henderson Jr. While Jefferson quickly earned the trust of Goff and Rams coaches, he still had three experienced receivers around him dominating the wide receiver rotation's snap count.

Still, that didn't deter sixth-round draft pick Fuller and second-rounders Akers and Jefferson from stepping up Monday night, and it certainly bodes well for their future to make huge plays in such a critical game. Though their involvement varied - Fuller played all 69 defensive snaps, Akers 12 of the 72 offensive snaps and Jefferson four - each made their reps count.

"What I've been really proud of is a lot of these guys are part of our draft class, they're just great football players that have really exceeded the expectations given their draft slot," McVay said. "You look at Jordan Fuller, we knew he was a great player. It was amazing that he was available when he was. But he came in and continued to demonstrate why we probably waited too long to get him when we did, actually. Cam Akers and Van are going to continue to get better."

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