Rams make home fans wait, then give them a thrill in victory over Texans

A Rams equipment man could not empty his large blue duffel bag fast enough.

As joyous fans above the Coliseum tunnel yelled and held up their hands after the Rams’ 33-7 victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday, he tossed them footballs. He showered them with gloves. He delivered souvenirs from a memorable day as players made their way to the locker room.

“I wanted to light their fire,” the equipment man said.

The fans, part of an estimated crowd of 60,000, already were more excited than perhaps at any time since the Rams returned to Los Angeles.

They had watched receiver Robert Woods enjoy a career day and break open the game with a 94-yard touchdown.

They saw quarterback Jared Goff continue his ascent by passing for three third-quarter touchdowns and a career-best 355 yards.

And they watched what has become a dominating defense force four turnovers and shut down another opponent.

The Rams’ fourth victory in a row improved their NFC West-leading record to 7-2 and kept them on course for their first playoff berth since 2004.

“We’re playing with confidence right now,” Goff said, “and that’s a good place to be.”

After more than a month away from the Coliseum, first-year coach Sean McVay was happy to give the home fans something to cheer about. “It’s good to be back,” he said.

Next up: The 7-2 Minnesota Vikings at US Bank Stadium, which is also the site of the Super Bowl.

Can the Rams make a run to the playoffs and the Super Bowl?

“For sure,” defensive tackle Aaron Donald said, “but we just got to keep going week by week.”

Playing on the road has proven no problem for a Rams team that is 5-0 away from the Coliseum. That’s why Sunday’s victory was so noteworthy.

The Rams were playing at home for the first time since an Oct. 8 defeat by the Seattle Seahawks. In that loss, the Rams scored only one touchdown.

But in the three games that followed — victories over Jacksonville, Arizona and the New York Giants — the Rams vaulted to the top of the league in scoring, averaging 32.9 points game.

In the days leading to Sunday’s game, players said they were looking forward to showing the home crowd how much they had evolved. After a slow start against a stubborn Texans defense, they did that.

“Hope the people liked it,” a grinning Goff said.

It was anything but a crowd-pleaser during the first half, when the NFL’s highest-scoring team did not look the part.

The Rams gained only six yards in the first quarter and led 9-7 at halftime on three Greg Zuerlein field goals.

But the Rams erupted for 21 points in the third quarter. It began with the Rams backed up at their six-yard line. From three yards deep in the end zone, Goff lofted a pass to Woods streaking up the middle of the field. Woods, the former Gardena Serra High and USC star, caught the ball at the 50 and sprinted to the end zone.

“That was probably my longest play in the NFL, college, high school or Madden [video game],” said Woods, who caught eight passes for a career-best 171 yards in his second consecutive two-touchdown performance.

Said Goff: “All day, we kind of needed a play. I mean maybe not necessarily that big, but a play just to kind of get us going, to get us on a roll, and that was the one that did.”

Later in the quarter, receiver Sammy Watkins turned a short pass into a touchdown. Rookie linebacker Samson Ebukam sacked Texans quarterback Tom Savage and forced a fumble on the ensuing series, and Goff wasted no time capitalizing. He tossed a short screen pass to Woods, who ran the ball into the end zone for a 30-7 lead.

Despite the slow start, McVay and his players welcomed the opportunity to overcome some adversity after cruising in recent blowout victories.

“Every game is not going to be that [easy] game,” said running back Todd Gurley, who totaled 136 yards from scrimmage. “You just have to find a way to make adjustments and just keep doing what we’ve been doing. And you see what happened in the second half.”

Sunday’s victory came in the first game of the second half of the season. The Rams have remaining home games against the New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers.

They are looking forward to keeping their momentum and returning from Minnesota with another victory.

“It’s on to the next one,” Woods said.

gary.klein@latimes.com

Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein

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