After London, Los Angeles Rams are most complete NFC West team
Rams’ coaching, offense, defense, and special teams come together for a complete win in London.
On the Fox NFL Sunday pregame show, Jimmy Johnson claimed that the Los Angeles Rams coaching staff is the best in the league. That might seem like an overstatement commonly trader by NFL commentators, and even more so considering the Rams’ body of work over the last 10-plus years. But a look at the changes made in the offseason, the play this season, and the 33-0 win over the Arizona Cardinals in London not only bolster that comment but make the Rams the most complete team in the NFC West—and maybe beyond.
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Coach Sean McVay and his staff devised an impressive game plan and called a near-perfect game. He attacked the weak defensive line of the Cardinals, employed a run-pass balance by using each type of play when most useful, and used both no-huddle and slow-to-the-line pace when it would benefit the Rams the most. The zone read call at the goal line which allowed quarterback Jared Goff to score the second touchdown of the game caught everyone off guard—including the Cardinals’ defense. The eight-play, 88-yard two-minute drive at the end of the second half was a thing of beauty. The 16-play, 80-heard trough drive used up over 10 minutes in the fourth quarter. The coaching staff is also getting the best out of the players. The offensive line opened holes for Todd Gurley, who became the first running back to gain more than 100 yards against the Arizona defense in nineteen consecutive games. They also gave Goff plenty of time to stand in the pocket and deliver 22 of 37 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown.
Meanwhile, Wade Phillips schemed to take away Adrian Peterson (21 yards on 11 carries!) while still allowing the defensive backfield to keep Larry Fitzgerald and others in check. The Rams held the Cardinals’ offense to 168 total yards, only one trip into the red zone, one field goal attempt (missed), and forced six punts—not to mention two interceptions and three sacks including a strip sack (recovered by Arizona).
John Fassel continues to lead, perhaps, the best special teams unit in the NFL. Greg Zuerlein was 4 of 4 on field goals, one from 53 yards. Johnny Hekker only kicked two punts, but they went for an average of almost 60 yards, and both were inside the 20-yard line. Pharoh Cooper had one kickoff return for 18 yards and three punt returns floor 30 yards.
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The San Francisco 49ers are still trying to find their way in all areas, with their new coach and questioned personnel in all phases. The Cardinals have lost their way with up-and-down play all season. And the Seattle Seahawks, who still may win the division, find their way littered with bad offensive line play and a defense that has lost a lot of their “boom.”
Today, the Rams exceeded their average points-per-game (29.8) with 33 points. The Rams defense pitched a shut-out for the first time since December 2014. The special teams unit continue to excel in field goals, well-placed punts, and good returns. Finally, the coaching staff not only continues to scheme well and perform in-game adjustments, but are getting the most out of the players.
They aren’t perfect. Goff threw a couple of ill-advised passes—one was intercepted and another should have been. The offensive struggles in the red zone against the better defenses. McVay seems to misuse timeouts sometimes. The defense occasionally whiffs in their zeal.
This week, Elliot Harrison placed the Rams at No. 3 in the NFL Power Rankings. While this might be too high (for now), there is no question that the most complete team in the NFC West is the Rams, who now sit atop the division with a 5-2 record.