The Washington Post

Stafford slings it around in his first start for L.A.

- BY MARK MASKE mark.maske@washpost.com

The Los Angeles Rams got their season of heightened expectatio­ns off to a winning start. Quarterbac­k Matthew Stafford provided three touchdown passes in his debut with his new team, and the Rams beat the Chicago Bears, 34-14, in Inglewood, Calif., in the first Sunday night game of the NFL season.

All three of Stafford’s touchdown throws went to wide receivers: 67 yards to Van Jefferson, 56 yards to Cooper Kupp and two yards to Robert Woods. Another would-be touchdown pass to Kupp was overturned by an instant replay review that showed Kupp was down by contact inside the 1-yard line. That set up a one-yard touchdown plunge by running back Darrell Henderson.

This was exactly why the Rams traded a pair of first-round draft picks and a third-round choice — along with quarterbac­k Jared Goff — to the Detroit Lions in the offseason for Stafford, a former Pro Bowl selection who has a 5,000-yard passing season on his NFL resume. They are two seasons removed from their Super Bowl defeat to the New England Patriots, and they are intent upon returning to the championsh­ipcontendi­ng mix.

Stafford completed 20 of 26 passes for 321 yards in his Rams unveiling. He had no intercepti­ons, and his passer rating of 156.1 was not far from a perfect 158.3. He made things work for Coach Sean Mcvay’s offense on a night when the running game was mostly unproducti­ve. Kupp had seven catches for 108 yards.

The Bears hung tough for as long as they could. Their new quarterbac­k, Andy Dalton, committed a pair of first-half turnovers, throwing an end zone intercepti­on and losing a fumble. But prized rookie Justin Fields rotated into the lineup here and there and made an impact, completing both his passes and running for a three-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

The Bears were within 20-14 after Fields’s touchdown. But they couldn’t keep place, and Coach Matt Nagy undoubtedl­y will face renewed questionin­g about when he might switch from Dalton to Fields as his starter.

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