The Rams are rolling now, in the wake of their 28-12 victory over Seattle on Sunday night, and they could use an assist from their future stadium mates. The Chargers play host to Minnesota on Sunday and the Rams are a game behind the Vikings in the scramble for a wild-card spot.
“It’s kind of ironic,” Rams safety Marqui Christian said with a smile. “I’m a fan of the Chargers, man, especially this week. I’m not a hater. L.A. for L.A.”
Of course, the Rams understand the only thing they can control is taking care of their business down the stretch, when they finish with games at Dallas and San Francisco, and a finale at home against Arizona.
At long last, they look like the team Sean McVay coached in his first two seasons. Misdirection plays, jet sweeps, wide-open receivers and a heavy dose of running back Todd Gurley. Beneath the Coliseum lights, and with a national audience watching, it was McVintage McVay.
Coming off a 45-6 humiliation at home against Baltimore on “Monday Night Football” two weeks ago, the Rams pounded NFC West foes Arizona and Seattle by a combined score of 62-19.
“I think this is a different team, a different mentality,” left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. “I think we’re shooting our shot the next three weeks.”
There are reasons for optimism, particularly with Dallas on deck. Even though they’re still in first place in the inept NFC East, the Cowboys have lost four of five games. They’re a ho-hum 3-3 at home and 2-7 outside of their division.
The lurking monster is San Francisco, a team that embarrassed the Rams in L.A. two months ago with a 20-7 victory that wasn’t as close as the score suggests. The Rams couldn’t budge against the 49ers and were 0 of 9 on third downs.
Now, the 49ers are the best team in the NFC, and are fresh off a thrilling 48-46 win at New Orleans. The Rams can’t afford to think about life beyond the Dallas game, but San Francisco is scary.
Regardless, Sunday night was a time for celebration for the Rams, who assembled their most complete game this season. They kept quarterback Jared Goff upright, denying the Seahawks a sack even with two rookies starting on the right side of the offensive line and a lightly experienced left guard in Austin Corbett.
Whitworth had an excellent game in what, opponents-wise, is his toughest stretch this season.
“I had one hell of a gantlet to start December, and it isn’t any fun,” he said, listing the pass rushers he has or will face. “Chandler [Jones] twice, [Jadeveon] Clowney, Nick Bosa and Robert Quinn.”
Then, with tongue firmly planted in cheek: “It’s a Christmas gift for a left tackle.”
So far, so good. Goff has been sacked once in two weeks. It helps, of course, that Gurley has gotten back on track and bears some resemblance to the player who was in the thick of the most-valuable-player conversation in each of McVay’s first two seasons.
Gurley had 113 yards from scrimmage, including a seven-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter when he took out cornerback Tre Flowers with a devastating stiff-arm. It was a highlight-reel play: My cause, you’re decleated.
Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp each caught touchdown passes, and tight end Tyler Higbee was a huge contributor with seven catches for 116 yards.
The Rams were having fun again, and that’s an unfamiliar feeling this season. Even their cheerleaders were a little out of step. At one point, they had gathered in one end zone when the Rams offense was about to snap the ball on the other side of the 50, and the referee had to shoo them out, drawing laughs from the crowd by announcing: “Need the cheerleaders off the field.”
The offensive flow was a welcome change, but the defense has been showing up week after week. A big change came in mid-October, when the Rams traded for cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
In the games since that move, the L.A. defense has been consistently stingy. It surrendered one touchdown or fewer to Atlanta, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Arizona. And Sunday night, against the NFL’s only team that was undefeated on the road, the Rams’ defense gave up only two field goals.
The lone exception, and it was an embarrassing one, was the lopsided loss to Baltimore. The Rams were torched by leading MVP candidate Lamar Jackson and the rest of the Ravens.
And rest assured, that was fresh in the minds of the Rams on Sunday night.
“Last time we were here, a team kind of ran the ball on us, so we had a little chip on our shoulders to stop the run today,” said linebacker Samson Ebukam, referring to the Ravens trampling them for 285 yards. “That’s not us. Everybody knew that that’s not us.”
If these are the true Rams, better late than never.