From the Stands: Los Angeles Rams fans turn out for their rejuvenated team
The Los Angeles Rams had the best turnout of the year for their game against the Texans. Here’s what it was like in the Coliseum.
The day was overcast and about 68°—a perfect Southern California day for watching Los Angeles Rams football at the LA Coliseum. The tailgating crowds were in full-throated celebration: rows and rows of tents, popups, grills, coolers, beer, wine, and the smell of meats cooking. There was a lot of Rams gear, of course—and far less Houston Texans jerseys than there had been Seahawks jerseys over a month ago. Vendors were walking through the crowds, selling Rams hats and shirts. Usually, these vendors have a few of the opposing team’s hats and shirts, but there were none in sight today.
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The tailgating activity promised a larger crowd and more Rams fans. Attendance at Rams’ games has been a subject in the news, and attendance dropped significantly after an overwhelming beginning last year. But attendance all over the NFL is down, and the bland 2016 Rams were 4-12 last year, with their last two games on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day
Attendance has been better this year, though pictures do not always show it. The Coliseum is unique, capable of holding over 100,000 people (10,000 seats were removed years ago, leaving concrete platforms that look like empty seats). Current capacity is above 90,000, though ticket sales are limited to 65,000 this year, which leaves a lot of empty seats even for a sell-out. 50,000 to 60,000 fans in a stadium that has room for 100,000+ looks half-empty—because it is!
Still, the Rams had not sold out a game this year, and So Cal fans are cautious. But after a month of racking up significant wins, this game had the best attendance so far—estimated 60,000 according to L.A. Times writer Vince Bonsignore, who has been attending games in the Coliseum for 30 years and has a pretty good eye.
The Rams fans were loud from the beginning. The house announcer chant “Whose House?” “Rams House!” sounded like the first couple games last year when there were 90,000 in attendance.
One could forgive fans in the first half if they had flashes of Jeff Fisher’s team. The offense had trouble moving the ball, coming up with only nine points on the foot of Greg Zuerlein. A big play would be nullified by an offensive penalty. Jared Goff misfired a number of times while under pressure. Jadeveon Clowney made a mess of coach Sean McVay’s schemes. The defense was playing better, though they did give up a touchdown and a near-field goal (Ka’imi Fairbairn missed from 34 yards).
At halftime, the stats did look like last year’s team: a dismal 32 yards rushing and 99 yards passing. Two of the field goals came on short fields. Worse still, they were two for six in the red zone.
But something interesting was happening among the fans in the stands. Instead of resignation that the second half would be more of the same, they said to each other, “McVay will fix this at halftime,” and “the defense will get turnovers.”
After the first drive of the second half, which showed promise but was scuttled by penalties, the Rams second drive began on their own four yard line. On second down and eight, Goff dropped back. Clowney blew past Rob Havenstein, as he had been all day, but this time Havenstein was able to redirect him long enough for Goff to set and deliver a rainbow. Yards ahead of the safety, Robert Woods, running a deep middle post, caught the perfectly thrown ball and sped to the end zone at 20+ mph. The Coliseum erupted as Woods did a “Los Angeles leap” into the crowd. It was the longest Rams play since 1964.
The Rams remaining drives ended punt, touchdown, touchdown, field goal, victory formation. The defense kept the pressure on, leaving the Texans with punt, punt, punt, fumble, punt, interception, with a mere 102 yards of offense. The Coliseum was rocking—even heartily booing the refs for a missed personal foul call (though perhaps Tavon Austin did flop a bit) and a ticky-tack defensive holding call on Alec Ogletree that negated an interception which he returned for a touchdown.
Not only are the Rams fun to watch again, but the Coliseum is a fun place see them. McVay has not only changed the culture in the locker room, he’s beginning to change it among Rams fans.
The league is taking notice. The home game against the New Orleans Saints on November 19 will be seen in 80% of the country, instead of the 20% as scheduled. There is talk that the Philadelphia Eagles home game on December 10 will be flexed to the NBC Sunday Night Football slot.
Related Story: Did NFL drop ball by not flexing Los Angeles Rams for Week 12?
The next few games will determine if that happens. The Rams need to show they are serious contenders against two of the top defensives and high-flying offenses the next two weeks (Minnesota Vikings and the Saints). They don’t have to win both games—perhaps not even either one—but they need to show that they can keep up with the best teams in the conference.
If the Los Angeles Rams are up to it, then their fans may get the chance to show that they are not empty seats, but a fan base that can rock a stadium along with the best of them.