The Rams loss to Seattle spoke volumes—about a winning Rams team that shows no resemblance to the past ten years.
As the whistle sounded at the end of the game between the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams game on Oct. 8, I sat in my seat in the Coliseum, staring expressionlessly as the crowds poured out. The place had been rocking as the Rams drove down for a game-winning touchdown with eight seconds left. Fan attendance was way up for this matchup. And they blew it. Mistakes. Unable to score. Penalties. Of course, I’d witnessed this many times before—both here at the Coliseum and watching them in St. Louis.
Sure, they are young and everything is new. Bad game. But this?
- Four fumbles (three lost)
- Two interceptions
- Todd Gurley: 43 yards rushing
- Sammy Watkins no catches
- 10 points total
Even Greg Zuerlein missed a field goal.
Los Angeles had started so well. Like last year, under Fisher. After the fourth game in 2016, they were 3-1, then lost the rest of the games save one. Here they were again, after being 3-1, losing. Were they on their way to another 4-12 season? Love attendance, lackluster play, and the constant shooting-ourselves-in-the-foot?
So I sat, watching the historic and massive Coliseum empty out, as the green and blue celebrated and the yellow and blue hung their heads (I sit on the visitors’ side, and though Rams fans were well-represented in my section, there were more ‘Hawks fans than one would want at home game). There are still a lot of Pete Carroll fans from his USC coaching days, played in this same stadium.
As I waited, I began researching the stats of the game and watching replays on my iPhone. Interesting. What was this?
Slowly, it became as clear as the Southern California afternoon sky, these are not the same Rams of last year, or, indeed, of the last 10+ years.
There was no way this team was going 4-12. They have a good chance of a winning season for the first time since 2003. Might fans even whisper “playoffs?”
The defense played well and are getting better each week in Wade Phillips’ system. Russell Wilson only passed for 198 yards and was intercepted twice. The defensive constantly harassed him, and, if this was another quarterback, there would have been more than three sacks. The ‘Hawks were held to 241 total yards, only 62 yards rushing, and 16 points.
The offense moved the ball quite well. In fact, they exceeded the Seahawks total yardage by 134 yards (375 to 241). Jared Goff threw for almost 100 yards more than Wilson, and the team rushed for 100 yards (to a mere 62 by Seattle).
Third down efficiency? Also better than their opponent at 8 for 15. More first downs, more yards per play (5.3 to 3.7), more total plays. Possession was about the same, as was total drives. More sacks, fewer penalties. The Seahawks bested the Rams in completion percentage and red zone scores.
The major difference? Turnovers. Five. Two interceptions, three fumbles lost. Not only did the Rams not get into the red zone, but they gave the Seahawks a short field a number of times.
If Cooper Kupp had been able to make one of his diving catches at the end (with eight seconds left), the Rams win. If they had fumbled two fewer times, they probably win. If Zuerlein makes that one field goal and Tavon Austin does not fumble the punt (for the second time), maybe they win.
In the two games since then, the Rams have proved those observations true. They cleaned up the ball security problems. They scored in the red zone. Against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the special teams were quite special, Gurley ran for 116 yards, there was only one turnover, and, after allowing one of the league’s best rushers to explode for 75 yards on the first play, held him to 55 yards the rest of the game. The next week was even better: the defense shut out the Arizona Cardinals, shut down Adrian Peterson, and played an almost perfect game in all three phases.
McVay and his new staff have significantly changed the Rams in every way: attitude, structure, accountability, play calling, adjustments, game prep, on-field play—you name it, it has been improved. They are in every game. And they are fun to watch.
Sure, they’ll have bad games and bad moments—they are still new at this. The players will make mistakes. Goff’s inexperience may show up. Another team might execute a great game play and outwit McVay or Phillips. Since it’s not a pipe dream to consider them a playoff team, the loss to the Seahawks may come back to bite them, requiring a victory in Seattle on December 17 to win the division or even make the playoffs.
One thing is for sure: it’s worth a trip to the Coliseum to see these “new” Rams. They are fun to watch, they are the highest scoring team in the NFL, their defense is intense, and their future is bright.