The Rams’ 2017 season featured a number of fan-friendly turnarounds.
New coach Sean McVay transformed the NFL’s worst offense into one of the league’s best. Quarterback Jared Goff became a star. Running back Todd Gurley rebounded from a subpar 2016 season and was voted the league’s offensive player of the year. Aaron Donald, the defensive player of the year, helped the Rams win the NFC West and advance to the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
But for all the differences, one element stayed the same: The Rams could not win consistently at the Coliseum.
In 2016, under former coach Jeff Fisher, the Rams went 1-6 at the stadium that is serving as their temporary home until 2020, when a new stadium in Inglewood opens. Last season they were 3-4 during the regular season and also lost to Atlanta in a wild-card playoff game.
That’s a 4-11 record at the Coliseum since they returned to Los Angeles from St. Louis after a two-decade absence.
So McVay and his players are eager to start reversing the trend Sunday in their home opener against the Arizona Cardinals.
“Really, you’ve just got to play better,” McVay said. “I don’t think it has anything to do with being on the road or at home.”
Rams players are quick to point out that playing on the road in hostile environments naturally bonds them together. But why can’t they win more often in the warm embrace of a home crowd?
“Maybe it’s the opponent, maybe it’s the prep, maybe it’s just the game,” Goff said. “I don’t think it has anything to do with being in the Coliseum.”
The Rams have not won at the Coliseum since Week 12 of last season, when they defeated New Orleans. They lost to eventual Super Bowl-champion Philadelphia and — while resting all starters in the regular-season finale — lost to San Francisco before losing to Atlanta.
“Maybe we get too hyped about the game,” defensive lineman Michael Brockers said of playing at home.
The Rams appear to cope with adversity better away from home. Last season they were 7-1 on the road, including a division-clinching victory at Seattle. They averaged nearly 33 points on the road, only 26 for seven regular-season games at the Coliseum.
They Rams started this season with a resounding 33-13 victory at Oakland.
“When you go to somebody else’s house, you might be a little more focused,” defensive lineman Ethan Westbrooks said. “At home, it’s natural to be comfortable and relaxed.
“I think we’re a great team when we’re uncomfortable.”
The Rams have remaining road games at Seattle, Denver, San Francisco, New Orleans, Detroit, Chicago and Arizona. They also play a “home” game against Kansas City at Mexico City.
After Sunday, they will be in the Coliseum against the Chargers, Minnesota, Green Bay, Seattle, Philadelphia and San Francisco.