The Rams returned to Los Angeles from London on Monday afternoon, the end of an 11-day road trip that could not have turned out better on the field.
With victories over the Jacksonville Jaguars and Arizona Cardinals in hand, the 10-plus-hour flight home was no doubt far more endurable than it might have been following a loss or two.
The Rams are 5-2 and 2-1 in the NFC West. They are a half-game ahead of the Seattle Seahawks (4-2) for first place in the division.
No Rams player has been with the franchise longer than offensive lineman Rodger Saffold. He was selected in the second round of the 2010 draft and played through seven losing seasons, including a 4-12 finish in 2016.
Now the Rams appear positioned for a possible playoff drive under first-year coach Sean McVay. After the Rams’ 33-0 victory over the Cardinals on Sunday at Twickenham Stadium, Saffold was asked how he was enjoying success.
He emphasized every syllable of his answer: “Finally.”
“That’s all I’ve got to say. So happy, so excited. This is the first time I’ve felt success in a long time.”
The Rams have an open date this week. They are scheduled to convene at the team’s Thousand Oaks training facility for a day or two, and then they will be off until returning next week to prepare for their Week 9 game at the New York Giants
McVay expects the Rams to build off the victory over the Cardinals.
“Our challenge is, can we continue to sustain some good things moving forward?” McVay said after the shutouts, adding, “The truest measurement of performance is that consistency.”
Said Saffold: “Humility is big for us these upcoming weeks. Really just want everybody to rest this bye week and get everybody right so we can finish strong those last nine weeks.”
The Rams especially need running back Todd Gurley to finish the way he has started.
Gurley rushed for 106 yards against the Cardinals, the fourth time in five games he eclipsed 100 yards. Saffold and the offensive line have cleared the way.
During player introductions before games, Saffold and fellow guard Jamon Brown, tackles Andrew Whitworth and Rob Havenstein and center John Sullivan come out in a group rather than individually, and they have remained cohesive in recent games.
Saffold attributed Gurley’s success to the running back’s confidence, McVay’s play-calling and the line’s ability to open holes.
“Now that we’re doing it consistently, I think we’re showing that we’re an efficient running team,” Saffold said.
The Rams also are demonstrating that they are an efficient run-stopping team.
Since the second half of a Week 4 victory at Dallas, they have controlled the run against the Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks, Jaguars and Cardinals.
Jacksonville’s Leonard Fournette scored on a 75-yard run on the first play, but the Rams contained him the rest of the game. A week after Adrian Peterson rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns, the Rams limited the future Hall of Famer to 21 yards in 11 carries and posted their first shutout since 2014.
Linebacker Alec Ogletree said the defense was “coming into our own” under coordinator Wade Phillips.
“We knew we had the players and the ability to do a lot of stuff, but you have to just keep chugging along, keep plugging at it until you get it right. We still got some things to work on and get better at.”