LOS ANGELES — Because the free soccer wiggled, rolled and hopped round on the inexperienced grass in entrance of him Monday night time, Samson Ebukam — who was solely a scoop away from a wide-open path to the top zone — heard the commanding voice of his head coach, Sean McVay, repeating one factor:
“Bend your knees, bend your knees, bend your knees,” Ebukam, recalled to Yahoo Sports activities with a hearty chuckle.
You see, after failing to scoop and rating in an identical scenario in observe Saturday, McVay had explicitly informed Ebukam to bend his knees subsequent time as he reeled within the ball, as a result of he would probably rating a landing if he did.
And within the largest sport of the season, Ebukam — an out of doors linebacker with the Los Angeles Rams — listened to his coach and he was rewarded with an 11-yard fumble return landing that was, amazingly, solely the second-most spectacular defensive landing the 23-year-old would rating of their 54-51 win over the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs on the L.A. Memorial Coliseum.
The opposite was a highlight-reel, no-look pick-six, one which gave the Rams a second-half lead. It finally spoke to the general dynamism of this nationally televised prompt basic that each of Ebukam’s touchdowns — the significance of which epitomized the important thing to successful in The New NFL — nonetheless discovered a solution to be a footnote within the highest-scoring soccer sport within the historical past of “Monday Evening Soccer.”
Oh sure, this barn-burning, college-style shootout featured all of the drama and intrigue the NFL may ask for in a prime-time showdown. Referee consternation? Examine (21 mixed penalties for 195 yards). A revenge factor? You wager, as Rams cornerback Marcus Peters squared off in opposition to his previous group. And don’t neglect, all of the touchdowns (14), yards (1,001) and factors (105) you possibly can ask for.
That is the sport that epitomizes The New NFL, people. That is now the league the place two elite, 9-1 squads can group as much as punt solely seven occasions in 28 possessions. That is the place a second-year wunderkind at quarterback (Patrick Mahomes) can throw for 478 yards, a Monday night time report six touchdowns and lose. That is the place the one manner for defenders who’ve been crippled by the NFL’s rule modifications to get stops in opposition to an elite offense is to not solely create turnovers, however rating factors, too.
That’s why Ebukam’s two scores have been so vital. On an evening when each offenses moved up and down the sphere with ease, the one recourse for each defenses was to create turnovers. And on the finish of the competition, the Rams not solely gained the turnover battle 5-2, their protection additionally accounted for 14 factors, in comparison with sNF
Viewers of Monday night time’s sport definitely weren’t complaining, and the defenders who performed in it — as least those on the successful aspect — weren’t, both.
“Man, I simply actually need to go residence and watch it,” Brockers mentioned with fun. “It’s a bit anxious to be in it, however to look at a fantastic sport like that, with two groups going at it till the ultimate second, man, that’s a sport that soccer is begging for.”
However there’s one other actuality of The New NFL, because the offenses at the moment are so entertaining, they will relegate the kind of unhealthy officiating that will have taken over the narrative of this sport solely 5 years in the past to an afterthought, not solely nationally, however within the shedding group’s locker room.
The primary half of the NFL’s newest model of a brilliant battle was marred by a disproportionate quantity of penalties that have been known as in opposition to the Chiefs, who have been flagged for 9 penalties — not together with a couple of that have been declined — earlier than the Rams have been known as for his or her first. There have been additionally some missed calls in opposition to the Rams and a few brutal ones in opposition to the Chiefs, like receiver Tyreek Hill being flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for utilizing a celebration he’s finished in video games for over two years.
“Too many penalties — a whole lot of penalties within the first quarter,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid mentioned. “I don’t learn about all these, however they known as them.”
That was as shut because the Chiefs actually got here to putting the blame elsewhere. Regardless of the shortage of self-discipline and doubtful calls that led to 13 penalties and 135 yards — in comparison with eight and 60 yards for the Rams — a number of Chiefs identified that they led a number of occasions in the long run, and the failure to make these leads lay with themselves alone.
“As a result of we should know what we’re able to,” Hill defined. “The sky is the restrict for this group and we gave them 21 factors [off turnovers]. We’ve obtained to do a greater job taking good care of the ball. And that’s on all people.”
Hill’s phrases have been parroted by a number of Chiefs, together with tight finish Travis Kelce, defensive finish Allen Bailey and proper sort out Mitchell Schwartz, all of whom said that they have been irritated with their very own lack of ability to complete, and not on the officers.
It’s actually one thing, contemplating there was no scarcity of consternation on social media over the way in which the “all-star” crew of refs, which the NFL compiled particularly for this sport, known as it.
“I discover that stuff form of humorous, those that hate on the refs,” Schwartz mentioned. “They’re out right here making an attempt to do the job to the very best of their capability, and in the event that they don’t, they’ve repercussions. It’s not like they’re out right here favoring one group over the opposite.
“If [the Rams] make two much less massive performs, the entire sport’s completely different.”
A handful of gamers from a Chiefs protection that surrendered 455 yards even talked about after the sport that in the event that they’d created a couple of extra turnovers — they did not intercept Rams quarterback Jared Goff as soon as, in comparison with Mahomes’ three picks — the result would have been completely different. It was, to make certain, a sign that even they perceive the rating in in the present day’s period of high-powered NFL offenses.
“The defenses scored at the least three or 4 occasions tonight, proper?” Chiefs edge rusher Dee Ford requested. “So we’ve simply obtained to attain a pair extra occasions on protection.”
The Rams definitely know the worth of that. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips stresses turnovers with drills in observe, and McVay’s eye for element in that space in Saturday’s observe straight led to one among Ebukam’s defensive scores.
And fittingly, within the solitude of the locker room afterward, Ebukam was beaming, the way in which solely a newly minted hero who delivered for his group in a playoff-like environment may. Like his teammate Brockers, he couldn’t care much less how simple the Chiefs’ offense had made it look in opposition to them for a lot of the night time, so long as they got here away with the win.
“A dub is a dub man, we’ll take a dub any day — I don’t care what the purpose complete is,” Ebukam mentioned emphatically. “We gained. That’s all I do know.”
Ebukam then admitted that he knew gamers won’t have felt the identical manner even 5 years in the past, not to mention 20, when defenses had extra of an opportunity. However that is The New NFL, the place defenses have little recourse in opposition to extremely environment friendly, uber-deadly unfold offenses, apart from to create turnovers and rating.
And in the event you had any doubt about that, all you must do is ask him what his two touchdowns Monday night time would have been price for a participant in yesterday’s NFL.
“Seven sacks,” Ebukam informed Yahoo Sports activities, with a smile and a shrug. “The only-game NFL sack report.”
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