From the Stands: Rams and Eagles felt like playoff atmosphere

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 10: Los Angeles Rams runs onto the field prior to the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on December 10, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 10: Los Angeles Rams runs onto the field prior to the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on December 10, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) /

In a matchup that felt like a playoff game, the Coliseum was rocking and the new Los Angeles Rams, even in a loss, showed that they are one of the best in the NFL.

It was an important game for both teams, as the Philadelphia Eagles could clinch their division and begin to cement a top-two-seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. For the Los Angeles Rams, it could almost ensure clinching their division. From the moment we arrived, the atmosphere reflected the stakes.

Our tailgating lot was full—the first time that had happened since the Rams returned to Los Angeles. Even from the street, we could hear the cheers, music, and general raucous noise that’s usually attended important NFL games. We were routed to another lot, which was also full, but a dirt border just outside the fence had been opened for the overflow.

As we unpacked our gear, we saw, as expected, that Philly fans were well-represented. They usually travel well, but there is also a large contingent of “Iggles” fans and fan groups in Southern California. Despite their reputation, they were friendly and well-behaved, along with being extremely loud. In fact, during the game, one Rams fan asked an Eagles fan if they were ever going to be quiet, with the fan reminding him they were the ones that booed Santa Claus at one point.

Getting in the gates was also more crowded than usual. Once inside, in our seats, the party atmosphere continued. Eagles fans constituted about 30-35 percent of the crowd that was around the sellout limit set at 65,000 (official attendance was 67,752). From the kickoff, it was as loud as I have ever heard the Coliseum, rivaling the first-year preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys when 91,000 fans screamed in a fourth-quarter come-from-behind win.

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Philadelphia fans are a joyfully enthusiastic bunch, rarely sitting and always cheering—without the obvious behavior and poor sportsmanship of Seattle Seahawks fans. Twice during the game, an Eagles fan asked us if they were being too obnoxious. For the record, I don’t think they would have stopped, but at least they were kind enough to ask.

The game, by football standards, was one for the ages. Five lead changes, including the Rams overcoming a two-touchdown deficit, 78 combined points, 762 combined yards, two interceptions (by the Rams), and one recovered fumble (by the Eagles). There was also a blocked punt for a touchdown, and a last-minute winning score by the Eagles, which left the Rams only one second after the ensuing kickoff. The last Eagles’ touchdown came after a fumble by Tavon Austin, as the Rams kept lateraling to keep the ball in play.

In keeping with the excitement, Cooper Kupp had a 118-yard receiving day and a touchdown, including a 65-yard catch-and-run where he refused to go down. Todd Gurley had 135 yards from the line of scrimmage, including one of his famous hurdles over a defender, drawing heavy praise from Eagles and Rams fans alike. Rams fans cheered when the big screen showed the Seahawks had lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars. As Carson Wentz left the field, towel over head, with a suspected ACL tear, Eagles fans hung their heads and Rams fans looked forward to facing their old quarterback, Nick Foles. The Rams also lost Kayvon Webster for the season with a torn Achilles’ tendon.

It has been a long time since I have attended a playoff game, but this is how I remembered the last one (ironically, in Philadelphia’s old Veterans Stadium in the 1970’s). The energy throughout never abated, and when the Rams scored we couldn’t hear the Rams score music (California Love) as it played over the stadium sound system.

The loss by the Rams is the only thing that kept it from being the best game played since their return to Los Angeles. In some ways, it could still be called the best game, as they hung in there with, perhaps, the best team in the NFL. But for some key penalties (some questionable) and a strip-sack of Jared Goff near the end, they would have won. It is true that, with the loss, the Rams have made their path to the playoffs more difficult. But very few even thought they’d have a chance at playoffs this year.

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If the Rams can be the Seahawks next week in Seattle (a tall order), they will almost assuredly win the division and make the playoffs.

If not, well, the team and its fans have nothing to be ashamed of. Winning and exciting football has returned to Los Angeles not just this year, but for the foreseeable future.