In 2016, Brandon Staley called defensive plays for John Carroll University in an NCAA Division III semifinal playoff game against Wisconsin Oshkosh.
The 10-3 defeat marked the last time Staley called plays in a game before making his NFL debut in the role during the Rams’ season-opening victory over the Dallas Cowboys.
Staley, who replaced Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator, was not nervous. He said he felt the same way he did against Wisconsin Oshkosh.
“The exact same way,” Staley told reporters Wednesday during a video conference, “Because, I think, that as a competitor, every time you get a chance to perform it means the world to you. That is the biggest moment of your life when you get to perform.
“I felt the same way then that I did Sunday night.”
The Rams’ 20-17 victory over the Cowboys gives them momentum heading in Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles (0-1) at Lincoln Financial Field. The Rams defense improved as the game against the Cowboys progressed.
After giving up two touchdowns in the first half, the Rams limited an offense that features quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott and receiver Amari Cooper to a third-quarter field goal. The Rams shut out the Cowboys in the fourth quarter
“Last year, that was one of the best offenses in the NFL,” linebacker Micah Kiser said Wednesday. “So for us to, you know, in our first time together in a game setting to hold a team like that to 17 points, three points in the second half, I mean, and that’s just our first go at it, it’s definitely a positive thing.”
Rams coach Sean McVay said Staley did “a great job” and that there were “no hiccups.”
Staley, 37, had been a defensive coordinator at Hutchinson Community College, James Madison and John Carroll before the Chicago Bears hired him as outside linebackers coach in 2017.
“It was his first game coordinating in the NFL, but he's been a coordinator longer than I've called plays,” said McVay, the NFL’s youngest coach at 34. “He’s called defenses longer than I've called offense.
“So, at any level, he's been a high-caliber performer at that job. ... He had great poise. I thought he had some great calls in some major situations where there's a lot of tension in some of those moments.”
Both McVay and Staley said the Rams did not tackle as well as expected against the Cowboys.
“We missed far too many for the caliber of the group I think we have,” Staley said.
The Rams will face an Eagles team attempting to rebound from a 27-17 loss to Washington. The Eagles blew a 17-0 second-quarter lead, and quarterback Carson Wentz was sacked eight times behind an injury-depleted front.
“We played great, you know, for 30 minutes,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson told reporters Wednesday during a conference call, “and then played as about as bad as you could play for the remaining 30 minutes.”
The Rams, by contrast, improved in the second half. Staley said he had been eager to see how coaches and players would communicate and solve problems in the opener.
“We made our corrections quickly, which is what you have to do in the NFL,” he said, “and I felt like we finished the game playing our best football.”
Tight end Gerald Everett (back) did not practice. Offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth did not practice because of a scheduled rest day. ... Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and receiver DeSean Jackson did not practice for non-injury related reasons, per the Eagles injury report. Defensive end Brandon Graham (concussion) and receiver Alshon Jeffery (foot) did not practice. Offensive tackle Jason Peters (knee) and defensive tackle Javon Hargrave (chest/hamstring) were limited.