“Same old sorry ass Rams”
Heading into Sunday’s critical matchup with the Seattle Seahawks, there was little evidence to suggest that the 2017 Los Angeles Rams were, in Ken Norton Jr.’s famous words, the “same old sorry ass Rams.” Given the franchise’s futility over the last decade, it’s a moniker we’ve all grown far too familiar with along with that sinking feeling that your favorite team will once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
This season, there’s a different feeling in the air. After all, we’ve got a new coaching staff headed up by Boy Genius Sean McVay, a Pro Bowl left tackle, a rejuvenated Todd Gurley, and a resurrected Jared Goff. We’d destroyed the Colts, outscored the Niners, hung in there with a tough Redskins squad and gone into Jerry’s house and emerged victorious against a preseason Super Bowl favorite. We’d moved past Scott Linehan’s embarrassing 3-17 nosedive, Steve Spagnuolo’s Four Pillars of Failure and Jeff Fisher’s 7-9 bullshit. Nevermind that the run defense was a sieve, and our once dominant pass rush was reduced to a whimper. Four weeks into the season, this was The Greatest Show on Surf. We had arrived, warts and all.
As the Rams prepared to take the next step in their ascendancy to NFC West dominance, there was one small hurdle to overcome: the incumbent Seattle Seahawks. Say what you will about Jeff Fisher (and believe me, I’ve said plenty), he had Seattle’s number and found a way to win these ugly barroom brawls. With painfully conservative offense, fake punts galore, and endless personal fouls, we somehow persevered. Prior to Sunday, what remained to be seen was if McVay’s Rams were tough enough to grind one out against Pete Carroll’s veteran squad.
Short answer: not yet.
On the Rams opening drive, it looked like we were going to light Seattle up. The line blew open holes and Gurley blazed through them. Goff, untouched, threw dimes to receivers in stride. We were marching in for a quick TD… and then in a repeat of a play against Benny Cunningham in 2015, Earl Thomas forced a Gurley fumble off the pylon for a Seahawks touchback. Momentum: destroyed.
“Earl Thomas just rammed it,” came the text from my Seattle friend at the game in LA.
“Yeah but we moved the ball at will. Aaron Donald just made Eddie Lacy look like a sack of potatoes.”
However, despite outgaining the Seahawks 375-241, and a much improved defensive effort (which now spans six solid quarters including the second half of the Dallas game), the Rams continued to shoot themselves in the foot, and Rams fans in the heart.
Goff was simply not on target in this one, going just 22-47 along with two interceptions. I won’t go say far as to reiterate that he was “Gofful” as I just might have on Twitter, but the Legion of Boom and the constant Seattle pressure confused and stymied our golden boy. If anything, Goff seemed too focused on pushing the ball down the field and ignored some easy check-downs which might have put LA in better down and distance situations. His first interception wasn’t a good throw, but is a ball Gurley probably should reel in. His second pick was reminiscent of an inexplicable throw he made in the Oakland preseason game. Though he seemingly ran into Roger Saffold on the play, letting that ball go was a real head-scratcher. The fact that he had such a tough day and still gave us a chance to win says a lot about his character. I’ll take his 288 yard, two interception day over a Case of the Keenumbs any day.
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) October 8, 2017
This was also not the best day for Rams receivers. Goff and Sammy Watkins remain out of sync, and Sammy’s more than capable of catching passes shorter than 40 yards downfield. Though Higbee had a nice day (and made a spectacular catch on the final drive), he did have a key drop, as did Gerald Everett. Whether or not Cooper Kupp should have or could have caught that TD pass on the final drive is a question we may well be debating at season’s end, but on the whole the rookie had a solid afternoon, as did Robert Woods.
From a play calling standpoint, McVay went away from his workhorse back Todd Gurley and featured his diminutive gadget “weapon” Tavon Austin. Once again, Austin proved to be all style and no substance, as he followed up an electrifying TD scamper with yet another muffed punt. Similarly, McVay’s use of him up the middle as a backup RB (a la Jeff Fisher) simply didn’t pencil. Sure, Gurley had lost his swagger and was running like it was 2016 and afraid to get hit, but his propensity for getting stronger as the game goes on was seemingly lost on our young head coach.
For the most part, our offensive line looked stout, but back to back penalties on Jamon Brown killed a drive at a critical juncture. Even the infallible Andrew Whitworth was beaten by Seahawks DE Frank Clark for a strip sack that felt like the final coffin nail for the Rams. Still, this wasn’t the keystone cop antics of Greg Robinson / Jason Smith / Alex Barron – these were growing pains from an emerging unit.
Oh and newsflash: Greg The Leg is human. If he hits that chip shot, we tie the game late.
On the bright side, the defense resembling the 2016 Rams is a GOOD thing. In his first NFL start, rookie John Johnson III impressed with a near-interception, a pass defended and a points-saving INT that was simply a brilliant, instinctive play. (Yes, he got beat one on one by Jimmy Graham for Seattle’s lone TD. He’s Jimmy Graham.) So long Mo, it was nice knowing you. For the most part, the secondary held up well, Quinn got to Russell Wilson, and Aaron Donald beasted like Aaron Donald beasts. Wilson’s elusiveness was a problem for LA, but it’s a problem for about 30 other NFL teams, too. For the last game and a half, the Rams D is looking like a Wade Phillips unit, a worthy complement to our burgeoning offensive prowess.
While the final score and end result might read to the uninitiated like the “same old sorry ass Rams”, it’s clear that this is a much better football team that just hasn’t quite found consistent footing. You’re simply not going to win with five turnovers. That said, if Jared Goff’s late-game third down pass connects with Cooper Kupp, or Gurley’s foot is ruled out of bounds prior to his fumble, Rams win. I don’t think we’re a top 5 offense in the NFL, nor do I think we’re a bottom 5 defense, and where we fall in between will be fascinating to watch as the season unfolds.
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) October 8, 2017
Sunday’s cross-country road trip to Jacksonville is critical. The Jags D is certified elite, and turned Big Ben into Big When Is He Going To Retire last weekend. But the Blake Bortles-led offense scares no one, and it stands to reason that if you stop Leonard Fournette, you can win in Florida. Climb to 4-2, and we’re back in the early postseason conversation. Slip to 3-3 and we might just be the SOSAR, after all. I can’t wait.
(Tweets in this article courtesy of the Rams official twitter)