Recasting in Hollywood is a common occurrence in its endless stream of franchises. A literal change of face helps diffuse real-world drama. Other times it's necessary to keep the operation moving ... that's why Harrison Ford wasn't called back for "Solo: A Star Wars Story."
The Los Angeles Rams have likewise been forced into the situation, the cause being health rather than age: injuries have eaten away at the blue-and-yellow starting lineup, their roster slowly resembling a preseason contest rather than an active Super Bowl defense.
Yet, the replacements have conducted themselves well over the past two weeks, putting the Rams in the desirable parts of the standings column after a disappointing effort against Buffalo on opening night.
In the aftermath of the latest understudy showcase, Rams head coach Sean McVay lauded the way his backups conducted themselves in a 20-12 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday afternoon in Glendale.
"I thought the coaches did a great job and then ultimately the players stepping in and doing a handful of really good things," McVay said to open his weekly statements. "I was really pleased overall with the coaches and the players doing a phenomenal job of not allowing that to be an excuse and just get ready to go and try to find a way to get a win, and that's what they did.”
On the line, Alaric Jackson's entry, necessitated by season-ending injuries to Logan Bruss and Tremayne Anchrum, forced Coleman Shelton into the center's spot. The pair, united with the regulars, would pave the way for a 100-yard effort on 20 ground attempts that yielded both Los Angeles touchdowns and allowed only one sack of Matthew Stafford.
Stafford's targets likewise took on a loss, with Van Jefferson placed on injured reserve. That led to extended opportunities for Brandon Powell and Ben Skowronek, the latter of whom led the team with 66 yards on a quartet of receptions. Powell, on the other hand, got the Rams' offense off to a good start, erasing a holding penalty on the first play from scrimmage, one that led to the first of two Matt Gay field goals and gave the Rams (2-1) an eternal lead.
Newcomers on defense were immediately thrown into the fire, with Arizona running a jaw-dropping 81 plays compared to only 46 for the Rams. Terrell Burgess, Grant Haley, and Derion Kendrick each held their own against a Cardinal offense riding a wave of Kyler Murray momentum, bending but not breaking to the tune of four opposing field goals but no touchdowns.
"We had some weird kind of things occur as far as how those injuries came about, but nobody flinched, nobody blinked, and those guys played a really good game," McVay praised. "(They) did an excellent job of helping us secure the win.”
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Perhaps true to the Rams' star-crossed nature, even Sunday's win saw its losses, with Kendrick forced to enter concussion protocol. McVay was relatively mum on his status for next Monday evening's visit to San Francisco (5:15 p.m. PT, ESPN) but remarked that he appeared to be "trending in a positive direction."
The wins earned through depth have allowed McVay to be at relative peace with a pair of victories that are obviously counted in the official NFL ledger though their ingredients have been questionable: the Rams are still less than 10 days removed from a curious victory over the rebuilding Atlanta Falcons that saw them nearly lose a 25-point lead before prevailing 31-27.
"I think what I've gotten a better appreciation for, just through your experiences, whether it's learning from the people you're around, being around the players, is that there's different formulas, and it's really about what's the best formula to win as a team," a reflective McVay said. "Not necessarily trying to pile up points or prevent people from scoring, but how do we play our offense, our defense, and our special teams against the opposing opponent in the best way given all the circumstances and scenarios? I thought that was reflected in some instances (on Sunday)."
I think that's what the good organizations that have sustained a level of consistency over time do," the coach continued. "It's never the same exact formula, but there are different ways to find a way to win with your players, with your coaches, and I think that's what we're continuing to learn. I think that's what we've seen over the last couple of weeks, that our guys have done a great job being able to handle that."
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags
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