For most hardcore Los Angeles Rams fans, it’s difficult to articulate the emotions that were felt during the Week 4 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. More specifically, it’s hard to honestly say that the Rams’ performance was actually unexpected. If you’ve been paying attention the past three weeks, then you’d wouldn’t be shocked that the offense is clicking on all cylinders and the defense is inconsistent at best.
However, the young Rams team still found a way to surprise their fans with a statement game, proving to the NFL that the Los Angeles Rams are for real.
Unexpected: The Rams’ defense made significant adjustments at halftime
All of the defensive coaches in the NFL have access to photos of the opposing team’s formations during the game so they can adjust their defensive scheme, so it’s not a shocker that Wade Phillips’ unit make some crucial changes after they were getting worked up and down the field in the first half. What was interesting was how effective the adjustments were. In the second half, the Rams only gave up 6 points on 153 yards. If you have the chance, watch the game again and see how the Rams’ defense buckled down in the 3rd quarter, stuffing plays that were similar to sets the Cowboys used to much success earlier in the game. To put it simply: the coaching staff of the LA Rams put their players in a position to win.
Expected: Coach Sean McVay’s play calling allowed Todd Gurley to feast
Another week, another strong showing from RB Todd Gurley. Now, some are surprised that Gurley has reinvigorated his career, but I’ve now been converted to the camp that sees him as the same player he’s always been with the Rams. Coach McVay is able to use Tavon Austin, the no huddle offense, and Jared Goff’s play-action to give Todd Gurley holes when he finally gets the rock, allowing him to eat for days. And Jared Goff is getting better at hiding his intentions as a play develops, keeping the defense on their toes – this keeps 6 defenders in the box, rather than the 8 that were keeping Todd Gurley honest last year. Let’s face it: every week, for the rest of the season, we’re going to expect Todd Gurley to be the heart and soul of the offense, rushing and receiving the ball in innovative offensive schemes.
Unexpected: Jared Goff left points on the field, Greg Zuerlein did not
It’s hard to criticize Jared Goff’s performance, given that he threw for 2 touchdowns, over 250 yards, and no interceptions. However, he was charmed the past couple weeks with his sterling numbers in the red zone. Well, the Cowboy’s defense wasn’t having it once Goff and company got on the Cowboys’ side of the field. Luckily, Greg the Leg was on hand to kick a franchise record 7 field goals. Did anyone guess that the Rams were going to rack up 35 points on two touchdowns? If they did, they’re liars. All of them.
Expected: The Rams came back after being down 11 points
Now, this point is a bit tricky because many were shocked by the Rams’ second half performance. But I believe that the die-hard Rams fans expected this new team to grind out a comeback. Yeah, it only took a month, but here we are – this is a team that doesn’t give up. There’s a clear indicator of a bad team in the NFL: if they’re down by more than 10 points, they’re toast. Putting together a comeback that needs 3 scores requires a team that is proud, unflappable, and focused enough to stay in the game and not give in – that’s the LA Rams in a nutshell. Even the game that the Rams lost this year against Washington was a prime example that they still have fight in them when they’re down. This team believes in their coaching staff and each other.
Unexpected: The offensive line was not an issue
RT Robert Havenstein is a little bit of a up-and-down player, but on Sunday he was solid against DE DeMarcus Lawrence, who may be a real-life monster. Lawrence did get to Goff once, stripping the ball away, but Havenstein recovered it. For the most part, he did a great job keeping Lawrence at bay. And the rest of the O-line gave Jared Goff plenty of time to throw and Gurley had room to run. All that time spent in the preseason fretting about RG Jamon Brown seems to have been all for naught.
Expected: New week, new pass catching target
With so many targets in the receiving core (again, this would have been unexpected before the season started), Coach McVay seems to be calling some players names while allowing others to be decoys from week to week. Against the Cowboys, WR Sammy Watkins had 2 targets while TE Tyler Higbee had 6, catching 3 balls for 47 yards. I feel like this is going to be the recipe for the season: keeping the opposing defense on guard as Goff has his choice of receivers to feed the ball to.
Which brings me to my main point of all of this: what’s most surprising about the 2017 Los Angeles Rams is what we are actually expecting the offense to be.
The new normal for the LA Rams is that they are high scoring and extremely fun to watch. I guess we can stop acting surprised now.