Adversity Response Big in Rams’ First Winning Season Since ’03

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Updated: December 7, 2017

It began with a blowout of the Indianapolis Colts, a team that had been riddled by injuries, most notably to QB Andrew Luck, yet a game nobody expected the Rams to explode offensively the way they did.  After not scoring more than 30 points in all but one game last year, they put up 46 points the first week.  And the media dismissed it.  Some said it was a fluke, that it only happened because the Colts were full of injured players.

It certainly doesn’t look like a fluke anymore.

The Rams lost week 2, despite overcoming a 20-point deficit to the Redskins, but rebounded week 3 by holding off a 49ers comeback in an epic Thursday night contest.  Week 4, they managed to take a late lead over the Cowboys and held on to it for a surprising upset over one of the stronger NFC teams.  The Rams narrowly lost to the Seahawks in week 5, but again, rebounded, this time with a four game win streak, beating a strong Jaguars team on the road, shutting out the Cardinals in London, blowing out the Giants on the road after the bye week, and blowing out the Texans with a late explosion, this time at home.

After all that, the Rams looked like contenders week 11 against the Vikings, but ended up suffering a 24-7 defeat.  But after that game, QB Jared Goff said something that summed up the entire season so far.

“We have responded to every bit of adversity we have faced so far, and I expect no different.”

And, true to Goff’s word, the Rams responded.  If the rest of the NFL hadn’t taken notice of what the Rams were doing, the Rams managed to make them notice, as they beat a very strong Saints team at home and ended New Orleans’ 8-game win streak, before finally grabbing their first winning season since 2003 with a convincing win over the Cardinals.

That win against New Orleans was arguably the one that made everyone actually wake up and realize that this Rams team was for real.  Even if they weren’t able to win on the road against Minnesota, which is a hard thing to do for almost any other team, they came right back and took down another one of the strongest teams in the league.  Sean McVay’s one-week-at-a-time philosophy is working wonders for them, as they haven’t lost a game, looked ahead, and became worried that they were going to lose again.

Want more proof?  The Rams haven’t lost back-to-back games once this season.  They lost to the Redskins, then beat the 49ers next week.  They couldn’t beat the Seahawks, but held off the Jaguars next time around.  They got shut down by the Vikings, then went off on the Saints.  Every time they lost a game, they put it in the past and moved on.  That, in my opinion, is a philosophy that can win a Super Bowl, or at least get a team far into the playoffs.  And the Rams are clearly showing they have what it takes.

Jared Goff is playing the way we all were hoping for when he was drafted, a major improvement from his rookie year.  Todd Gurley finally looks like himself again after not putting up 100 rushing yards in one game last year.  The offensive line looks stronger, especially with Andrew Whitworth.  And the Rams’ other offensive weapons have been huge.  Robert Woods has 703 receiving yards through 9 games, which is higher than any of his previous totals from his full seasons with the Buffalo Bills.

Sammy Watkins took issue with not being targeted when he was in Buffalo, but when he was traded to the Rams, he bought in to the team-first philosophy, and even though he has only been targeted 51 times, he is making big use of the opportunities he gets, with 528 receiving yards, six touchdowns and 27 first downs.  Rookie WR Cooper Kupp has also made his presence felt with several huge catches, as well as 665 receiving yards.  As for the defensive side of things, Aaron Donald continues to do Aaron Donald things, with 8 sacks, 24 tackles, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

Alec Ogletree, Trumaine Johnson, and Lamarcus Joyner all have pick sixes, and the team has 14 total interceptions.  And let’s not forget about the special teams.  Greg Zuerlein has kicked 36 field goals in 38 attempts, and has only missed one PAT.  Johnny Hekker has 2077 punting yards, which isn’t much compared to last season, but that’s a good thing because it means he’s had to punt less times since the Rams are keeping drives going.  More specifically, he only has 44 punts while the Rams have made opponents punt 59 times.

All those stats are proof that the Rams have easily adapted to McVay’s coaching system, and it is paying off big time.  Sometimes all you need is a good head coach, and the way McVay has taken a bottom feeder team and transformed it into a threatening playoff contender in one season is amazing to watch.  I’m sure Rams fans everywhere can’t wait to see where this team goes in the future.  And they will always remember the 2017 season as the one that got this team back on its feet.

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