They weren’t just ready for the moment, they grabbed it by its neck, twirled it above their heads, then threw it triumphantly into a dark Thursday night sky turned starry.
In their biggest regular-season game since returning to Los Angeles two years ago, the Rams were larger than life.
“I’m speechless, to be honest with you,” said Ndamukong Suh.
In their most dramatic prime-time game since coming home, the Rams were positively breathtaking.
“It can’t get much better than how we’re playing now,’’ said Todd Gurley. “I mean, it can … but it can’t.”
Before they took the Coliseum field against last year’s NFC runner-up Minnesota Vikings in the toughest test of this young season, the question was whether the Rams were ready for this.
Now, after a 38-31 victory, the question has become: Is the NFL ready for them?
Is the NFL ready for a football team disguised as a video game being controlled by some kid in pajamas screaming from the couch? Is it ready for a 4-0 bunch that is not only a collection of athletes, but also Hollywood’s hottest entertainers, the sort that make one scream and stare, their games played on what has become the town’s biggest red carpet?
“I can imagine people sitting around at home on Thursday night, seeing these guys going up and down the field,” said owner Stan Kroenke. “Oh yeah, I was definitely entertained.”
Is the NFL ready for a blossoming Jared Goff, a kid who unleashed his brilliant potential across the national landscape with 465 yards passing and five touchdown passes that are seemingly still flying through the downtown air?
The Vikings scored on the game’s first possession, then Goff took over with a locker combination of scoring passes good for eight, 70, 19 and 47 and 31 yards.
“You see that guy Goff today, man?” said tackle Aaron Donald. “He made some throws that were crazy.”
Yeah, we did, and yes, he did. Goff threaded, he lofted, he zipped, and, in giving the Rams the lead for good late in the second quarter, he scrambled to his right and flung a perfect pass over two Vikings defenders to hit Cooper Kupp on the hands in the corner of the end zone for a 19-yard score.
“I thought he was just going to throw it away, but where he put that, it couldn’t have been thrown any better than it was,” said Kupp.
Goff missed on only seven of 33 passes for a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3, the first one in the NFL in three seasons.
But probably his most overpowering moment occurred after his 70-yard scoring strike to Kupp, when Goff executed a flying chest bump of coach Sean McVay that nearly knocked McVay out to Figueroa.
“Told him after, ‘I didn’t mean to knock you over there,’” said Goff. “I was just fired up a little bit.”
Is the NFL ready for a trio of receivers who caught touchdown passes over shoulders, between defenders and while sprinting madly away from the entire Vikings team?
Kupp was three hours of “Cooop,” Brandin Cooks was always in the Vikings kitchen and Robert Woods was impenetrable, three receivers with more than 100 yards each.
“When you see J.G. put in dimes like he did to Cooper, then you see — my god! — Brandin Cooks just going screaming down the field and moving the chain, you can’t help but be excited,” said Suh.
Is the NFL ready for a running back like Todd Gurley, who was held to 83 yards on the ground but is still gifted enough to catch an eight-yard touchdown pass and then roll out one of the game’s most entertaining rumbles on a 56-yard screen?
Perhaps the coolest hit of the game for Gurley came after his opening touchdown, when he nearly did a Coliseum Climb, running to the edge of the stands and jumping around before slapping hands with the Melonheads.
“It’s hard to be undefeated in this league,” said Gurley.
Is the NFL ready for a defense that spent the night bending, but then turned unbreakable during the Vikings’ final two drives of the fourth quarter?
First, Suh sacked Kirk Cousins to force the Vikings to settle for a field goal. Then, on the Vikings’ ensuing drive, trailing by a touchdown, Aaron Donald nailed Cousins for a sack to push them back, then John Franklin-Myers knocked the ball out of Cousins’ hands for a fumble that was recovered by Suh to clinch it.
“Offense puts points on the board, and people in the seats, but if we want to win championships, we have to make sure people don’t score,” said Suh.
Finally, is the NFL ready for a Coliseum building that is finally lit, filled with a throwback Rams crowd befitting their throwback Rams uniforms?
This was a Lakers crowd during Showtime, a Dodgers crowd during last year’s World Series and an NFL crowd like this town hasn’t seen in years.
“It’s the Thursday night spotlight!” shouted public address announcer Sam Lagana. “Get ready to shine!”
And the thousands of Rams fans did, waving yellow towels, screaming, “Rams House” and even dancing to the “Ram It” video from 1986 while former star Nolan Cromwell was being introduced.
The players surely felt it. When Donald finally recorded his first sack of the season at the start of the fourth quarter, he bathed in it, running to command the stage by himself, waving to the appreciative crowd and thumping his chest.
“The sky’s the limit,” said Donald.
In recent games of this magnitude, the sky was falling.
The Rams had a chance at making this kind of statement last December against the Philadelphia Eagles, and then last January in the playoffs against the Atlanta Falcons. Both times, they blew it.
This time, they didn’t blow it, they blew it up, and as owner Kroenke was walking from locker to locker to congratulate his players, he beamed.
“You have to win games like that, right?” he said.
To be a legitimate Super Bowl contender — the Rams have to be considered the NFC favorites at the one-quarter pole, right? — you indeed have to win these games.
Perhaps it helped to have uniforms so symbolic of the franchise’s Los Angeles tradition that these were the jerseys worn in the 1978 movie starring Warren Beatty.