Rams’ Jordan Fuller shook off nerves, rookie mistakes to make big play

Jordan Fuller wasn’t supposed to be the Rams’ best rookie this year, or their best safety, or even their best rookie safety.

So Fuller naturally sounded a little surprised as well as thrilled Monday, the morning after he was, at least for one game, the hero of the defense.

“It feels amazing,” Fuller said of making a game-changing tackle in the Rams’ 20-17 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night in the first event at SoFi Stadium.

“Obviously, your first game as a rookie, it’s not all going to be pretty. I have some stuff to clean up. But being able to be out there with the guys and be part of it just means the world to me. I don’t take that lightly.”

Rams coach Sean McVay said he liked the way Fuller shook off early mistakes.

“He got better as the game unfolded, and then he made a big-time play when his number was called,” McVay said.

With the last of his team-high eight tackles, Fuller stopped Dallas rookie wide receiver CeeDee Lamb a yard short of a first down on fourth-and-3 from the 11 with the Rams up by three in the fourth quarter.

“CeeDee was my responsibility (on the play),” Fuller explained. “I had to take him across the field. There was a lot of traffic coming from the other side of the field. I had to get over the top of it, take away as much space as I could, so I could make the play.

“It all happens pretty fast.”

Fuller was drafted out of Ohio State last April in the sixth round, a day and three rounds later than the Rams picked safety Terrell Burgess out of Utah (and five rounds after the Cowboys chose Lamb).

He got the word last week that he’d start over Taylor Rapp at safety beside John Johnson on Sunday, but it surprised most people.

Wide receiver Cooper Kupp said Fuller’s practice performances were remarkable because rookies had no offseason team workouts this season.

“To only have training camp to be able to develop and get a grasp of the defense, he’s done an incredible job of being able to adapt from college to pro and the speed and the concepts that we run at the pro level,” Kupp said.

Now it can be told: Fuller, 23, admitted a case of nerves before the Sunday evening game. He tried to take a nap but couldn’t sleep.

“I had a coach at Ohio State who’d ask me, ‘Are you nervous?’ I’d say, ‘Yeah.’ He’d say, ‘Good, that means you care,’ ” Fuller said.

“Knowing that (his first NFL game) was actually here, and it was against the Cowboys — their brand is real big — in SoFi Stadium, it was just a surreal moment. I definitely took it all in.

“That was one for the books.”

Further review

From McVay on Monday:

• McVay got the NFL memo reinforcing the sideline mask-wearing requirement. He admitted he’s “one of the culprits,” and he’ll start wearing his. It was around his chin Sunday.

• Malcolm Brown (18 carries, 79 yards) got more touches than anticipated because of how the game went. Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson could get more in future weeks.

• Kupp will keep returning punts despite the seeming injury risk because “the more touches that he gets, the better it is for our football team.”

• Asked about under-the-radar performers against Dallas, McVay praised defensive linemen Morgan Fox and Sebastian Joseph Day and inside linebacker Micah Kiser.

• The Rams came out of the game with no injuries of note.

• It was a “gut” decision to punt on fourth-and-1 near midfield, giving Dallas the balI at its 9 with 2:28 to go: “I felt confident in our ability to convert, but I also felt  the way that our defense was playing and the confidence I have in Johnny Hekker, pin ‘em deep inside their 10.”

Ends and odds

The Rams were one-point underdogs to Philadelphia as of Monday afternoon, after being four-point underdogs before Sunday’s upsets. The Rams closed as 2 1/2-point underdogs to Dallas and won, while the Eagles were 5 1/2-point favorites at Washington and lost. … Quarterback Jared Goff said playing without a crowd Sunday was “galvanizing” for Rams players: “It’s us and them and there’s no one else in the building and it’s really mano-a-mano.” Said it felt good to be able to hear teammates cheering on the sideline. … Brown was the first Rams running back other than Todd Gurley to start a season opener for the Rams since Benny Cunningham in 2015. Cunningham had 112 yards from scrimmage in a win at Seattle, and never started another NFL game.