JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Los Angeles Rams have won games with offensive prowess, defensive stops and Greg Zuerlein’s leg.
Now, they can add special teams to the list.
Pharoh Cooper returned the opening kickoff 103 yards, one of two special teams touchdowns that helped the Rams beat the up-and-down Jacksonville Jaguars 27-17 on Sunday.
The Rams (4-2) also blocked a punt for a score — Malcolm Brown returned the loose ball 8 yards in a pile of teammates — and improved to 3-0 on the road for the first time since 2001.
“When I hit that sideline, I just took off and prayed that I didn’t get caught,” Cooper said. “We had a great day in special teams. … Special teams play is something we all take pride in and you can tell it really shows.”
The units were Jacksonville’s downfall. The Jaguars (3-3) gave up 17 points on three special teams gaffes — the long return, the block and a 16-yard punt that set up a field goal. Making it an even longer day for the home team, Jason Myers missed two 54-yards field goals that could have made a difference.
“It’s very disappointing,” Jaguars special teams captain Arrelious Been said. “We can’t sit back and wait for offense and defense to do it. We’ve got to go out there and do it.”
Jacksonville’s defense did its part, holding the high-scoring Rams to 249 yards and 12 first downs. But the unit got little help outside of rookie Leonard Fournette’s big run to open the game.
The Jaguars botched a decent chance to tie the game early in the fourth quarter when Blake Bortles fumbled on one play and then threw an interception on the next. It cost Jacksonville a shot at ending its inconsistent ways to start the season.
Los Angeles essentially sealed the victory on Greg Zuerlein’s 29-yard field goal with 2:32 remaining.
It should make for an enjoyable few more days in Jacksonville. The Rams will remain in the city for four days before continuing an 11-day road trip in London.
“I think our guys just embrace that mentality where you come into a stadium and they have this breakdown of, ‘We’re all we got. We’re all we need,'” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “These players are mentality tough. That’s becoming the identity that you hear us talk about all the time.”
The Jaguars, coming off an impressive victory at Pittsburgh, still haven’t won consecutive games in more than a year and lost for the ninth time in 10 games at EverBank Field.
“Why we’re so volatile in our play? I don’t know,” linebacker Paul Posluszny said. “They just made more impact plays than we did that forced the outcome of the game.”
Fournette set the tone again by scoring on the first play from scrimmage. After Cooper’s kickoff return, Fournette took a handoff and went 75 yards for his sixth rushing touchdown and seventh score of the season.
Fournette finished with 130 yards on 21 carries, but only 55 yards after his first run. He also injured his right ankle late in the game and did not return, but expects to be fine.
Todd Gurley ran 23 times for 116 yards for the Rams. Robert Woods caught five passes for 70 yards. And Jared Goff was 11 of 21 for 124 yards, including a 4-yard TD pass to Gerald Everett.
The difference, though, was special teams.
“A good team — the team we want to be, the team we can be, the team we will be — finds a way to win that game no matter what happens,” Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell said.
The back-to-back scores to open the game made history. The consecutive touchdowns marked the first time in the Super Bowl era that any game had two touchdowns of at least 75 yards in the first 30 seconds of play.
The Jaguars got two tries at a field goal in the third quarter during a strange sequence of penalties that ended up costing the Rams three points. Myers hooked a 41-yarder left, but Los Angeles was flagged for illegal formation. Jacksonville was penalized on the next play for a false start, moving the ball back to the original spot. Myers then drilled his second try from 41 yards.
Rams tight end Derek Carrier left in the third quarter and was evaluated for a concussion. Cornerback Trumaine Johnson left late in the third to be evaluated for a concussion, but returned a few plays later. Fellow cornerback Kayvon Webster briefly left the field a few plays later.
Rams: Will stay in Jacksonville for four days before flying to London and playing a “home game” against NFC West rival Arizona.
Jaguars: Play at AFC South rival Indianapolis next week.
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