Rams dealing with first major wave of injuries
By DAN GREENSPAN
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) The Los Angeles Rams managed to avoid significant injuries during their 7-2 start, but their luck turned in a 24-7 loss at the Minnesota Vikings.
The Rams lost their top wide receiver Robert Woods for several weeks with a shoulder injury, but injuries to cornerbacks Kayvon Webster and Nickell Robey-Coleman could be even more damaging with the New Orleans Saints on deck this Sunday.
Webster is in concussion protocol after leaving in the second quarter at Minnesota. Robey-Coleman had a thigh injury in the first half and did not return.
"That definitely is a concern, especially you look at a top offense we're getting ready to play this week," Rams head coach Sean McVay said Monday.
With reserve corner Troy Hill inactive because of a hamstring injury, the Rams were forced to turn to Blake Countess and rookie Dominique Hatfield. Hatfield was caught flat-footed on a 65-yard touchdown catch-and-run by Adam Thielen in the fourth quarter.
Hill is expected back against the Saints, who are averaging 30.2 points per game and lead the NFL in yards per play.
"The things that's so impressive is they have consistently over the last handful of years thrown the ball as well as anybody, and now they're able to run it as well so they are an extremely balanced offense," McVay said.
McVay thinks the Rams have the depth to overcome injuries in spite of the struggles against the Vikings. Former Rams starting quarterback Case Keenum was 14 of 20 for 189 yards passing and one touchdown in the second half when Webster and Robey-Coleman were out.
"You've got to be ready to do that, and when guys get injured that calls for the next man up," McVay said. "We have been fortunate in that manner that we haven't had a lot of guys miss games that have been in those starting roles, but it looks like that is going to end up occurring. We've got six games left for sure, but going into a very challenging game coming off a tough road loss it's going to present a great challenge. But that's what you love about the NFL, there's new challenges week in and week out, and I think it gives guys an opportunity to step up."
That will be the case making up for the absence of Woods, who was hurt late in the fourth quarter when he was tackled by Vikings safety Harrison Smith on a 15-yard reception, driving the weight of both players down on Woods' left shoulder. Woods left the stadium wearing a sling.
McVay said the injury will not require surgery.
"It's probably going to be a couple weeks on Robert," McVay said. "That's unfortunate, but it requires some guys to step up and fill in for the void left by Robert. He's done a lot of great things."
McVay expects a group approach will be needed to replace Woods, who leads the Rams with 47 receptions for 703 yards and four touchdowns, including 16 catches for 252 yards and two scores in his last two games.
Tavon Austin could be in line for a larger role after playing two snaps against the Vikings. McVay criticized himself as a play caller and said Austin was intended to have a more significant role.
Austin has seven catchers this season, none in the last three games, and has been used more often as a running back than as a wide receiver.
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Updated November 20, 2017