The disappointment and solemnity vanished, replaced by laughter and lightheartedness that comes after a burden is lifted.
Or, in the Rams’ case, several of them.
The Rams ended a three-game losing streak by defeating the hapless Atlanta Falcons, 37-10, on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the same venue where last season the offense played poorly in a Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots.
So Rams players and coaches had reason to exhale. Another loss would have put the Rams on the verge of possible disaster in what appears to be a surging NFC West.
Instead, with quarterback Jared Goff regaining his feel and cornerback Jalen Ramsey making his Rams debut, the Rams improved to 4-3.
“We just kind of needed to get that feeling back,” Goff said.
No one more than Goff.
After passing for a career-low 78 yards in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers, he completed 22 of 37 passes for 268 yards, including touchdowns to running back Todd Gurley and tight end Gerald Everett. Goff also ran for a touchdown, putting a move on linebacker Deion Jones and spiking the ball in the end zone.
“I started to find a little bit of a rhythm,” Goff said. “It felt good. It felt like it should feel, and I’m going to try and build on this feeling.”
Gurley, returning to the lineup after sitting out against the 49ers because of a thigh bruise, rushed for 41 yards in 18 carries.
“It’s cool,” Gurley said of ending the losing streak. “Much-needed win.”
After failing to get premium performances from the offense, defense and special teams in the same game this season, the Rams came closer Sunday, albeit against an opponent that is 1-6 and on a five-game losing streak.
The offense produced touchdowns. The defense intercepted a pass, forced three fumbles, and edge rusher Dante Fowler had three of the Rams’ five sacks. Special teams also made big plays, including Johnny Hekker’s completion on a fake punt, and a forced fumble that was recovered in the end zone for a touchdown in the final seconds.
“A good team, complete win,” coach Sean McVay said.
The Rams’ victory steadied a team that was in danger of falling perilously off the pace in the NFC West. The 49ers improved to 6-0 with a 9-0 victory over the Washington Redskins on Sunday. The Seattle Seahawks are 5-2 after their home loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
The Rams had lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Seahawks and 49ers before overwhelming the Falcons.
“I love the way that you can really find out about people when you go through a little bit of adversity: how guys continue to battle, how guys continue to stay the course and trust,” McVay said. “I think that’s exactly what our team’s done.”
The victory also ensured the Rams a more pleasant stay in Atlanta. They will remain here until Thursday night, when they depart for London for a game Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals at Wembley Stadium.
“We just got to keep our heads down and keep grinding and nurture this feeling,” left tackle Andrew Whitworth said.
The addition of Ramsey could help sustain it.
Ramsey, 24, was acquired in a trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Tuesday. Throughout the week, McVay and Ramsey said they did not know how much the two-time Pro Bowl selection might play because he sat out the Jaguars’ last three games because of back soreness and other issues.
Ramsey did not start, but he came in on the third play and spent much of the game matched against — and jawing with — Falcons star receiver Julio Jones, who caught six passes for 93 yards.
“We got a big win, so that was important, that’s a plus,” said Ramsey, who also forced a fumble. “I feel like I played OK. I got to get in my groove a little bit more.”
Ramsey and Fowler were not the only Rams harassing Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.
Linebacker Cory Littleton intercepted a pass, and defensive tackle Aaron Donald forced and recovered a fumble. Both had sacks, and Donald’s knocked Ryan out of the game because of an ankle injury. In the final minute, linebacker Troy Reeder forced a fumble on a punt return, and Darious Williams recovered the ball in the end zone.
“Makes us feel great,” Fowler said of the victory. “It gives us a lot of momentum going into next week and a lot of confidence.”
“That’s what we’re used to,” he said, “and we want to keep that feeling rolling.”