Rams first playoff game in Los Angeles since 1989 showed signs of bright future

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 06: The Los Angeles Rams take the field to play in the NFC Wild Card Playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Coliseum on January 6, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 06: The Los Angeles Rams take the field to play in the NFC Wild Card Playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Coliseum on January 6, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

The Los Angeles Rams lost their home playoff game in the Wild Card Round, but the Coliseum was full and loud, and a harbinger of better things to come.

The last time the Los Angeles Rams held a home playoff game at the Los Angeles Coliseum was Jan. 7, 1979. It was the 1978 NFC championship game when the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Rams 28-0. The Cowboys had won the Super Bowl XII the year before. The Rams would lose the Super Bowl XIV the next season.

Interestingly, the last time the Rams made a playoff appearance was after the 2004 season in St. Louis when they played and lost to the Atlanta Falcons 47-17. The game was the NFC Divisional Round, coming after a Rams defeat of the Seattle Seahawks in a Wild Card matchup.

In the 1979 game, the Rams were led by Pat Haden and Vince Ferragamo at quarterback, with running backs Cullen Bryant and John Cappelleti. Tom Mack was at left guard, and Jack Youngblood, Fred Dryer, and Dave Elmendorf starred in the defense. They were up against Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett, Drew Pearson, and Edward “Too Tall” Jones.

The game last Saturday night at the Coliseum didn’t boast any such veterans stars, though many of these young Rams could be on their way. If Jared Goff continues to play like he did this season along with Todd Gurley and Aaron Donald continuing to play like their first few years, it would not be surprising to see them indicated into the Hall of Fame someday. On the other side of the ball, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are surely future Hall of Famers.

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We arrived at Lot 2 early, planning to watch the earlier game as we tailgated. Everyone else had the same plan, as the lot was full within an hour of our arrival. The crowd was boisterous and happy. We all began to notice something different from the rest of the season, which is there was almost no Falcons gear on display.

Los Angeles has had its share of ridicule this year, as crowds have hovered between 50,000 and 63,000, but the ticket sales were 74,300 and the actual attendance was close to that. L.A. also has a reputation for showing up late to sporting events, but not on this night. By kickoff, the crowd was full and the Coliseum was rocking. Our observation about opposing fans was confirmed, as other than some Falcons fans in the sections behind the visiting bench and a few scattered fans here and there, the crowd was pure blue, white, and yellow. During key moments, the blue and white rally towels made the Coliseum appear alive. The towels proclaimed “NFC West Champions” in Rams blue.

This was the first night game (other than preseason) for the current Los Angeles Rams, and the Coliseum was lit up blue and white. The excitement in the air was palpable. Rams players from the 1979 Rams team, who played in the Super Bowl at the nearby Rose Bowl, lit the Coliseum torch. Before and during the game, fireworks, pillars of fire, and 2Pac’s “California Love” had never seemed more exciting. The stars also came out with Rebel Wilson (a true Rams fan) often appeared on camera, along with Danny Trejo, who is also a common sight at Rams games (along with his Taco Truck). Another big fan in the stands was Rob Lowe, although this time he was wearing an authentic “Farnsworth” Rams jersey from the movie Heaven Can Wait. Even Snoop Dog performed at halftime with the Rams cheerleaders.

I had not heard the Coliseum so loud since the first few preseason and in-season games last year, when there were 90,000+ fans in the stands. Even at the end of the game, when it was becoming clear the Rams would lose, they still cheered. When Gurley tore off a long run, the stadium erupted in a chant of “M-V-P! M-V-P! ”

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Despite  frustration at the loss, most appreciated that this was the end of season for a young team with a lot of upside. And they were okay with that. When Ryan completed his last kneel-down as time ran out, the crowd gave the Rams a standing ovation for a successful and exciting season that no one had expected.

A season that brought the Rams back to relevance. A season that brought L.A. fans out in force to cheer and thank them for bringing an NFL champion to Los Angeles.