Can the Rams overcome the London letdown?
The Los Angeles Rams are 0-2 in London. Can they break that streak this Sunday?
This Sunday, the Los Angeles Rams meet the Arizona Cardinals in Twickenham Stadium, located in an affluent suburb southwest of London. It’s an exciting division matchup between the resurgent Rams and the falling Cardinals who found new life last week with their newly-acquired running back Adrian Peterson.
The Rams lead the NFL in scoring with a 29.8 point game average and are 19th in points allowed but getting better. The Cardinals are 21st in scoring 28th in points allowed.
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But the game is in London.
London has not been kind to the Rams. Last year they lost 10-17 to the New York Giants. In 2012, they lost to the New England Patriots in a blowout (45-7).
A lot of the NFL International Series games in London have been blowouts (defining a blowout as a 20-point or more differential). There have been 19 games played there since the NFL began the International Series in 2007. Seven of those were blowouts, eight if you include a game with a 19-point differential (New York Jets v. Miami in 2015). That’s 42.1% of the games!
Twenty-five of thirty-two NFL teams have played in London. Jacksonville has played the most: five games and a 3-2 record. Miami is next at four with a 1-3 record. After Sunday, the Rams will have played the next most games (three) in London. Can they break their losing stream and come out with a 1-2 record? (This is the Cardinals first games in London as part of the International Series.)
For the 2012 game against the Patriots, coach Jeff Fisher had the team fly immediately to London following a loss to the Green Bay Packers, a home game (then in St. Louis). They practiced and did some sightseeing until the game on Oct. 28 against the Patriots. Fisher thought this was the best way to allow the players to acclimate to the time change.
Last year, Fisher followed the same routine. After losing to the Detroit Lions on Oct. 16, they immediately flew to London for a week before playing the Giants on Oct. 23. Fisher thought that was the best way to get his players used to the eight hour time difference from their home in Los Angeles.
New head coach Sean McVay had a different idea. After playing Jacksonville on Oct. 15, the team stayed in Jacksonville until Thursday before flying to London. The reasoning, according to McVay, was because:
"“We felt like it was the best way to put our players in a good situation and try to travel as little as possible, knowing that there is going to be a lot of traveling involved. I think with the things that we do have set up to try to keep our normal approach and preparation for the next couple weeks, it’s going to be a good setup for us.”"
Maybe this year’s plan is about more than just the time change. While the British speak English, the culture is different. London and its environs are full of exciting and historic sites to visit, unlike Jacksonville. (No offense—I love Florida, but it does not have 8,000 years of human history to explore.) The Los Angeles Rams are practicing at the University of North Florida, in familiar football facilities that do not exist in England. Additionally, four Rams on the current roster played in Florida (though not at North Florida).
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McVay’s new approach may result in the Rams ending the London Letdown. Or maybe they’ll win merely because they are so much better this year.
If not, they’ll still have plenty of chances. By NFL rules, any team playing in a temporary stadium must play one “home” game in the International Series. The Rams will play an international game again in 2018 and 2019. And, if the new Inglewood stadium is awarded a Superbowl (which it will), they will be required play another game in the series.
But ending the losing London streak with a win this Sunday would go a long way toward cementing the Los Angeles Rams as the up-and-coming team that many believe they are.