Rams CB David Long Jr., secondary step up in Jalen Ramsey's absence in win over Cardinals

Coaches are fond of saying adversity builds character. Monday night, the L.A. Rams faced enough football adversity to build a small college campus.

Hours before Monday's vital division game against the Arizona Cardinals, the Rams sent another rash of players to the reserve/COVID-19 list, including star corner Jalen Ramsey.

Ramsey missing the game came after corners Robert Rochell went on IR and Donte' Deayon also landed on the COVID-19 list.

That left L.A. woefully short at corner, preparing to face DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green, Christian Kirk and the rest of Kyler Murray's weapons. It seemed like a recipe for disaster.

Amid panic blooms opportunity.

After opening the season as a starter, David Long Jr. struggled and was demoted. The third-year corner hadn't started since Week 4 when these same Cardinals tortured him. Long gave up five catches on five targets for 89 yards, a TD for a perfect 158.3 QB rating against, and a +34.8 percent catch rate over expected against versus Arizona, per Next Gen Stats.

The awful game led to Long reverting to a reserve role.

But the football gods are a funky bunch. They love a good random side storyline, wherein a discarded, forgotten player gets an opportunity to shine where he previously failed.

Ramsey's absence gave Long that chance. The 23-year-old shined in the Rams' 30-23 win.

Long was targeted eight times Monday as the nearest defender, giving up just two receptions for 11 yards, a 39.6 QB rating, and a team-best -35.6 percent catch rate over expected, per NGS. The Michigan product also was third on the team with six tackles and had a pass breakup.

Darious Williams helped slow DeAndre Hopkins (5/54), primarily sticking with the Pro Bowl receiver. That left Long and practice-squad call-up Kareem Orr tasked with covering Green, Kirk and Rondale Moore. While Orr got picked on a bit early, the secondary performed admirably given the circumstances.

These are the types of wins, with several key players missing, that galvanize a team for a January run. Rams defenders now have faith that in a bind, whether through injury or circumstance, the depth players can step in and fill a hole without the bridge collapsing.

For Long, his early-season struggles against Arizona led to his benching. But his team needed him to step up Monday night, and the former third-round pick delivered, and L.A. moved closer to the division lead.

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