They were Sean McVay’s first draft class, a hodgepodge collection of newly minted Rams who didn’t as much as raise an eyebrow.
Gerald Everett. Cooper Kupp. John Johnson. Josh Reynolds. Samson Ebukam.
Not a star in the bunch, really. Just whatever the franchise could get to restock the shelves after the Rams gave up so much in the deal for Jared Goff.
How wrong that perception was. Kupp had already carved out a prominent role with the team, although his season was cut short in Week 11 with a serious knee injury.
And Monday night, in a milestone victory for the Rams over Kansas City, the rest of that draft class came through in a huge way.
Everett caught four passes — two of them for touchdowns, including a 40-yarder that proved to be the deciding score in the 54-51 Rams win.
Reynolds, stepping up in the absence of Kupp, made six catches for 80 yards with a touchdown.
Johnson led everyone on the field in tackles with 11.
And no one had a bigger game than outside linebacker Ebukam, a native of Nigeria who attended high school in Portland, Ore., and played collegiately at the only school that offered him a scholarship, Eastern Washington. That’s where Kupp played too.
Ebukam had two touchdowns — an 11-yard fumble return, and a 25-yard interception runback — and got his hands on Patrick Mahomes late in the fourth quarter, jarring the Chiefs quarterback into a bad throw that was intercepted by Marcus Peters.
“I’ve definitely been in a game like this, but I’ve never won one,” Ebukam said. “This is my first W in a game like this, and it feels good because everything really came together.”
Truth be known, no one had ever been in an NFL game quite like this, the first “Monday Night Football” game in Los Angeles in 33 years. The list of firsts was mind-boggling, as noted by ESPN’s number crunchers:
First NFL game in which each team scored 50 points.
The game had more combined points than any Big 12 contest this season.
Coming into the game, teams who had scored at least 50 points were 216-0.
The six touchdown passes by Mahomes were the most in “Monday Night Football” history.
So Ebukam actually hadn’t been in a game quite like this. He had scored two touchdowns in a game, however.
“In high school, when I was a running back,” he said with a laugh, ringed by reporters at his locker. “That’s the last time I scored twice.”
Ebukam wasn’t invited to the scouting combine in 2017, but he had a phenomenal performance at his campus pro day. It might make more of a Hollywood story to say he was discovered because the Rams had come up to watch Kupp, but Ebukam was already a bright blip on their radar screen.
“Samson at Eastern played very similar to this,” Rams general manager Les Snead said after the game. “He played hard. Bull-in-the-China-shop strong. Effort … Usually those guys get on the radar again when they have, let’s call it rare numbers at their pro day.”
This was one of those games that will be burned into the memory banks of just about everyone who watched it, a back-and-forth, haymaker-for-haymaker fight between twin brothers, two teams with high-octane offenses and often vulnerable defenses. It was, whoever has the ball last wins.
And it was a huge moment for the NFL in Los Angeles, with Commissioner Roger Goodell in attendance, along with thousands of first responders from the recent fires and mass shooting in Thousand Oaks. The game was supposed to have been played in Mexico City, but was moved last week because of poor field conditions.
“When the NFL put a team in Los Angeles, they couldn’t have dreamed of this,” said Kevin Demoff, Rams chief operating officer. “There were 77,000 people here on five days’ notice. One of the greatest games of the year, halftime concert, rallying an entire city. It’s beyond words.”
And for a draft class that was previously anonymous — including a guy named Samson — it was a breakout moment.
“Everything really came together,” Ekubam said.
Who’s house? Sam’s house.