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NFL: Rams begin Matthew Stafford era with primetime matchup vs. Bears

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The Los Angeles Rams will kick off the Matthew Stafford era when they host the Chicago Bears in a nationally televised game Sunday night.

The 33-year-old quarterback spent his first 12 seasons with the Detroit Lions, throwing for 45,109 yards and 282 touchdowns. Los Angeles acquired him March 18 in exchange for a trade package that included quarterback Jared Goff.

Now, the Rams hope a rejuvenated Stafford can lead them to the Super Bowl, which is scheduled to be played on their home turf at SoFi Stadium in February.

Stafford has impressed head coach Sean McVay since joining the club.

“He has got such a great lens that he sees the game through, and I’ve been able to learn a lot from him, as I know (have) some of our other coaches and his teammates,” McVay said. “He has got such a great inventory of things to be able to draw on, and that’s a really beneficial thing for our offense and especially for me.”

The Bears are familiar with Stafford from his days in the NFC North. Stafford led the Lions to 11 wins in 20 games against Chicago. He threw for 5,440 yards, 32 touchdowns and 23 picks in those contests.

This will be the first opportunity for new Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai to try to slow Stafford. Desai takes over a talented defense that includes top pass rusher Khalil Mack, who has racked up 70 1/2 sacks in 110 career games.

The season opener also provides a fresh start for Bears safety Eddie Jackson, who had no interceptions in 2020. Jackson wants to return to the excellence that helped him make the Pro Bowl in 2018 and 2019.

“Everyone here holds me to a high standard, and I hold myself to a high standard,” Jackson said. “So, I feel like I’ve got to go out there and (I have) a lot to prove this year.”

On offense, Andy Dalton will make his team debut at quarterback for the Bears. Dalton signed a one-year deal with Chicago during the offseason and retained the No. 1 job even though the team traded up in the draft to select Ohio State signal-caller Justin Fields in the first round.

Dalton is a three-time Pro Bowl selection who has thrown for 218 touchdowns in 144 games (142 starts). He has praised Fields for his development but consistently shared his desire to start ahead of the rookie.

“We’re here at Week 1, and this is exactly what I wanted,” Dalton said. “I wanted this opportunity, and now we’re looking forward to making the most of it.”

Dalton and the Bears’ offensive line will need to be ready for a stout Rams defense led by Aaron Donald. The 30-year-old has 85 1/2 sacks in 110 career games, and he is coming off his seventh Pro Bowl nod.

“(Donald’s) a good player,” Bears offensive line coach Juan Castillo said. “But we have good players, too. So we’re excited. It’s exciting for the competition. It’s exciting to go against an elite player like that.”

–Field Level Media

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