Sean McVay got exactly what he was looking for Monday night against the Chicago Bears.
After missing the playoffs last season, McVay hired defensive coordinator Brandon Staley to bring to the Rams what he learned as the outside linebackers coach for the Bears.
On Staley’s recommendation, the Rams signed outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, a former Bears first-round pick. They also picked up outside linebacker Justin Hollins, another Staley recommendation after coaching him last season with the Denver Broncos.
Staley’s defense delivered, Floyd and Hollins made big plays, and safety Taylor Rapp and Jalen Ramsey intercepted passes as the Rams defeated the Bears 24-10 at SoFi Stadium.
“Hats off to Brandon, our defensive players, our defensive coaches,” McVay said.
The strong defensive effort, along with an outstanding performance by punter Johnny Hekker and improved production by the offense helped the Rams bounce back from a loss to the San Francisco 49ers and improve their record to 5-2.
Quarterback Jared Goff connected with receiver Josh Reynolds and tight end Gerald Everett for touchdowns, and running back Malcolm Brown ran for another on a night when several lesser-known Rams players helped drop the Bears to 5-2.
But the Rams’ defense was the story of the night.
“Defense just kind of suffocated them all game and didn’t let them get anything rolling,” Reynolds said.
Monday’s victory marked the sixth time in seven games the Rams' defense gave up three points or fewer in the second half.
McVay gave Staley and Floyd game balls after the win over their former team.
It was an emotional night for Floyd, the ninth pick by the Bears in the 2016 draft. The Bears did not exercise their fifth-year option on Floyd because of declining production and a $13.2-million price tag to keep him. They released him in March.
The Rams signed him to a one-year, $10-million prove-it deal. He has produced four sacks, including two Monday night.
“It was kind of emotional,” Floyd said of his week of preparation, “but I tried not to get too far into the emotional side. I wanted to keep like it was a normal week and just go out and practice hard and come out on Monday and play at a high level.”
Hollins, a second-year pro, was waived by the Broncos at the end of training camp. His playing time has increased significantly as the season has progressed, and he ended Monday with his second sack of the season.
Aaron Donald and Greg Gaines combined on another sack for a defense that limited the Bears to a first-half field goal. Rookie linebacker Terrell Lewis and rookie safety Terrell Burgess, who left the game because of an ankle injury, were others who made plays.
“We’re playing aggressive, we’re playing physical and we’re making all the right plays right now,” Hollins said. “We’re getting all the right calls, everybody’s on one page. Just one tight unit right now.”
Hekker consistently pinned the Bears. He put five punts inside the 20-yard line, including one that Nsimba Webster downed at the one-yard line.
“He was on fire,” said tight end Johnny Mundt, who stepped in for injured Tyler Higbee and caught three passes for 47 yards.
Said Hekker: “Just another day at the office.”
The Rams led 10-3 at halftime on Goff’s touchdown pass to Reynolds and Samuel Sloman’s field goal.
Early in the third quarter, Hekker’s 58-yard punt to the one-yard line set up the defense — and offense — for success.
After the Bears punted, Goff’s passes to Reynolds, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp moved the ball to the 11, and Brown took over from there. The veteran took a handoff and used second and third effort to move the pile 10 yards to the one-yard line. He scored on the next play for a 17-3 lead.
The Bears threatened, but cornerback Troy Hill tipped a Nick Foles pass in the back of the end zone, and Rapp grabbed the ball for an interception and a touchback.
Goff converted the turnover into points with a touchdown pass to Everett.
“It’s momentum,” said Goff, who completed 23 of 33 passes. “We talk about it all the time: It’s points off of turnovers, whether it’s a fourth-down stop or actually a turnover.”
The Bears added a touchdown when safety Eddie Jackson returned a fumble by Woods for a touchdown with 7:30 left.
But Ramsey’s interception all but sealed the victory.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.