There’s no denying the Rams have been the leading cure for L.A. fans with amnesia in recent memory. If indeed the Rams’ 3-1 start is a remedy for a city, it’s best to think of the almost immediate improvement they’ve made in only four games of their sophomore season back in Los Angeles. If they can stay on the fast track, continue to be highly efficient and perform impressively week in and week out, the Rams can almost certainly dominate the NFC West.
Most significantly, Jared Goff, the young and rising quarterback for the Rams, is peaking with all his weapons in place. A powerful yet speedy Todd Gurley, blowing past defenders unencumbered, rushed 23 times for 121 yards and caught seven of eight passes for 94 yards and a touchdown in Sunday’s eye-catching 35-30 win over the Dallas Cowboys. In a curious move, the Rams hired an unproven and relatively unknown Sean McVay to take over as coach. Even with all the doubt that crept into the minds of fans, the 31-year-old’s expertise and brilliance as a developer whipped the team into shape.
That is especially true since Goff and Gurley have vastly improved under McVay. It’s fair to say McVay is credited for developing Goff into a productive passer, installing the same offense in L.A. that he ran with Washington. It’s almost like the Rams stepped into a time machine and traveled back to the Greatest Show on Turf era. It’s almost like they’ve finally put a good product on the field to sell the organization and lure a fan base to the Coliseum until a state-of-the-art stadium opens in Inglewood once built. No kidding, the Rams piled up 35 points in their come-from-behind win on the road against a very good Cowboys team. This may sound a little hyperbolic, but no matter what the doubters say, the Rams suddenly look like a dangerous opponent for any team.
It’s true that Gurley played poorly last season, mainly because he wasn’t getting help from his teammates and, well, because he was misused by ex-coach Jeff Fisher, saddled with a “middle school offense” that nearly ruined a potential Hall of Fame career. He’s versatile, agile, nifty on his feet, has excellent vision, has the ability to secure the ball and has become the staple of the Rams’ resurgent offense.
If Gurley racking up 596 yards from scrimmage with seven touchdowns this season taught us anything, it’s that a dizzying amount of things have properly fallen into place. It’s heartening, to say the least, that during the offseason, the Rams overhauled the coaching staff and upgraded the offensive line. And Gurley, in particular, continues to showcase his freakish athleticism. He showed early and late in the game against the talent-laden Cowboys, scoring on a 53-yard touchdown in the third quarter that put them ahead, that their play the past two games wasn’t a mirage. Where Gurley is so enjoyable to watch though, where he’s more effective and dangerous, it seems, is when he lines up as a receiver more than running routes out of the backfield.
The Rams have the offensive firepower at their disposal to play an entertaining brand of football and, at this rate, clinch the NFC West. So, at best, they can be a headache for fantasy football owners. They have the best all-purpose running back, acrobatic wide receivers, a defense coming together and a kicker Greg Zuerlein nailing a franchise-record seven field goals. More appreciated than the average kicker, he converted three field goals in the first half and four in the second, including three in the fourth quarter. They beat an injury-riddled Indianapolis team, then a loss against Washington and survived against a lowly San Francisco squad, entering the Cowboys contest, their stiffest test by far this year.
The gunslinger, the steadfast leader for the Rams is averaging 10.09 yards per attempt, which is nearly double his total (5.3) in 2016. Goff is completing passes at a high rate with 42 percent of his pass attempts going for first downs, which is the second-highest rate in the NFL. He’s throwing the ball downfield more and completing passes at a much higher rate. He went 21-of-36 for 255 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers as the Rams overcame a 24-16 halftime deficit for a convincing road victory. Not much of a factor in recent weeks, Tavon Austin, used as the No. 2 running back, gained 48 yards on six carries. With the switch, he looks comfortable and seizes his new role as a backup to Gurley, despite it being difficult for an undersized player such as Austin to work in traffic.
This will dictate just how good the Rams can end up being in the upcoming weeks, with the Seattle Seahawks next on their schedule. It’s still too early yet to tell if they are superior in their division. Remember what happened a year ago, when they had a 3-1 lead and finished 4-12?
Yeah, it certainly is a different year and the 2017 Rams are equipped to avoid a mid-season crisis. Yet the biggest difference between this year and last year and the year before that is the fact they no longer are the NFL’s worst in offense, having scored at least 35 points in their victories. How about the defense that had trouble stopping the run in the previous two games and even in the first half of Sunday’s matinee? As it stands now, the Rams defense can stop the run. Eleven men allowed only six points after halftime and hindered the Cowboys from scoring in the closing minutes. With less than two minutes, its often-maligned defense came up with the big stop, holding off Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott to secure the victory.
The Rams collectively are still a work in progress, and have a long way before becoming a consistent winner, but they are well on their way. The last time this team contended for a playoff berth was in 2004. Since then, it has been mediocre but now the proof is in the pudding and it has made an early statement.
All praise to the horns.