Early in the week, the storyline for Sunday’s game between the Rams and the Seattle Seahawks at the Coliseum was the quick-turnaround rematch between NFC West teams that was played five weeks ago.
That was before a mass shooting about four miles from the Rams’ Thousand Oaks practice facility, and ongoing Ventura and Los Angeles county wildfires that forced the evacuation of thousands, including many Rams players, coaches and staff.
The Rams will try to temporarily compartmentalize those events and bounce back from their Week 9 defeat by the New Orleans Saints.
“Our guys have always been able to adjust and adapt in a good way,” Rams coach Sean McVay said.
After canceling practice on Friday, the Rams on Saturday went through meetings at a Los Angeles hotel and then completed a short workout at USC.
The 45-35 loss to the Saints in New Orleans ended the Rams’ chance for a perfect season. They are 8-1, lead the division and are still regarded as a Super Bowl contender.
But they have some issues to address, mainly a defense that gave up the most points in McVay’s and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ 1½ seasons with the Rams.
The Rams trailed by 21 points in the first half before coming back to tie the score, 35-35. The Saints added a field goal and then clinched the victory with a 72-yard touchdown pass.
Phillips said the Rams played “horrible” in the first half but noted the second-half improvement.
“Even with the last [touchdown] play, they scored 10 points in the second half,” he said. “If you can play like that for the other half, then you’re in good shape — and we didn’t do that.”
The defense also had problems in the Rams’ Week 5 victory over the Seahawks.
The Rams gave up 190 yards rushing, and Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson passed for three touchdowns, before the defense made key stops. Rams quarterback Jared Goff clinched the 33-31 victory by sneaking for a first down on a fourth-and-one in the final minutes.
The Rams sacked the elusive Wilson twice, including one by tackle Aaron Donald, who leads the NFL with 10 sacks.
“Aaron Donald’s one of the best football players I’ve ever played against,” Wilson told Seattle reporters this week, adding, “I don’t like when he’s going after me, but he’s a special player.
“You’ve got to slow him down. You’re not going to stop him.”
In the last two seasons, the Rams played the Seahawks early in the schedule and then again in the final few weeks.
Neither McVay nor Seahawks coach Pete Carroll had a problem with playing a second game only five weeks after the first.
The Rams are playing in the Coliseum for only the second time in their last six games. Two weeks ago, the Rams hung on to defeat the Green Bay Packers, 29-27, before a raucous crowd that included tens of thousands of Packers fans.
“It’ll be nice to, hopefully, get away from that and have a stadium full of Rams fans,” Goff said.
For a few hours, the game could serve as a welcome diversion for a Southland region that is coping with ongoing tragedy.
On Thursday, the day after 13 people died in the shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill, McVay said the Rams were planning a moment of silence before Sunday’s game.
Carroll, who coached at USC and owns a home in the South Bay, expressed his concern for the region on Friday.
“There’s a lot going on down in Southern California and a lot of hardships, a lot of difficulties,” he said, adding, “We just want to extend our awareness of that and our concern and hope everyone’s OK.