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Los Angeles Rams Vs. Arizona Cardinals: 5 Things We Learned

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We learned a lot about where the Rams have been, where they are going, and who they are now at the bye-week.

Arizona Cardinals v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

After seven weeks, the Los Angeles Rams sit atop the NFC West with a one-game lead over the Seattle Seahawks following their impressive “home win” against the Arizona Cardinals.

In case you missed it, HB Todd Gurley voiced his displeasure with the league’s international game. Why? Because Gurley’s not an idiot and he’s one of the hundreds of players who have had to endure this endeavor all in the name of “growing the game.”

The way everything is run now, the international games are a terrible idea. The Rams had to travel three time-zones to play against the Jacksonville Jaguars the week before, and then had to travel to London from Jacksonville for this past game. That’s two separate times the team had to get used to a new time-zone, reset their body clocks, and endure 20hr-round trip flights to London alone; the exhaustion adds up.

But the NFL will keep having international games because, like a dog, it thinks taking a dump in as many spots as possible is a great way to grow expand their empire. And it just might be, despite the increased strain on the already overworked and medically endangered players.

Now, onto what we learned.

The Rams Were Never “A Quarterback Away”

They were a head coach away.

We see this every week, but now it’s sunk in the Rams are doing everything that Jeff Fisher set out to do but could never accomplish. At the bye week, the team is sitting in first place with a winning record overall and against division rivals, and all facets of their team play are ranked near the top of the league.

The Rams are no longer a team that has a good defense and a terrible offense. They are no longer a team that relishes their first-place spot only to lose it for the remainder of the season.

They can score points. They can stop opposing offenses. They can correct their mistakes. This isn’t Fisherball. This is winning football. The cherry on top? This isn’t even the peak.

According to ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez, Sean McVay said the Rams are quite far from their peak football.

“We haven't arrived by any stretch," McVay, the Rams' rookie head coach, declared from London after a 33-0 dismantling of the division-rival Arizona Cardinals. "5-2 is a good feeling, but that's all it is right now."

Give credit where credit is due: Fisher did a lot for the football team. He took a Rams’ team that won six games in three years, and brought them to the forefront of the conversation with a 7-win season. That’s not easy to do.

But what he failed to do was build on progress season-after-season. McVay is building on the team’s progress week-after-week.

Wade Phillips’ Defense Hasn’t Reached Their Peak, Either

The best football has yet to be played, and that’s saying a lot for this defense. Coming into their game with the Cardinals, the run-defense was allowing a little less than 140 rushing yards-per-game and held two teams under 100 yards twice in six games.

This week, they faced an Adrian Peterson who ran all day against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and shut him down to 21 yards on 11 carries.

The defense did this all the while shutting down another passing offense and limiting them to under 200 yards for the fourth time this season, and under 300 yards for the sixth time in seven games.

Oh, and they allowed zero points on the day, which isn’t easy to do against any team.

Goff is Looking Like a Playoff Quarterback

I’m aware a lot can happen between now and the beginning of January, but it’s difficult not to look at this offense seven weeks in and think playoffs.

It all starts with McVay and offensive coordinator Matt LaFluer, who have completed changed the way the offense operates. Los Angeles is not easy to figure out. The offense is not longer a one-trick pony that the team rides until death. They have multiple looks, weapons, and solutions for tough defenses.

QB Jared Goff is looking good and has the potential to be great. Throughout the season, he’s shown improvement not only with his arm, but with his mind. He is getting better reads on the defense, he isn’t panicking or looking anxious to just get rid of the ball, and he is limiting his mistakes.

He’s flexing his ability as a leader of this team, too.

Through his first seven starts of his career, Goff threw seven interceptions, went four games without a touchdown, and posted a 63 quarterback rating. The first seven starts this year? He’s positing a 90 quarterback rating, threw four interceptions in seven games (2 in one game), and has a touchdown pass in every game in 2017.

Todd Gurley Is Back

Whether or not I’ve written this before, it bares repeating: Gurley is a new running back entirely and what he’s ever been since his NFL career began.

Ignore the statistics for a bit. Just watching Gurley play this year compared to 2015 or even 2016 is enough to convince you that he’s a new man. He runs better, he sees the running lanes better (now that they exist), and he’s a more consistent balanced back.

Damn it. That’s a great running back.

The DL is More Than Aaron Donald

DT Aaron Donald is the best part of this defensive line, but it should comfort LA Rams fans to know the talent doesn’t stop at Donald and DT Michael Brockers, who is silently having another solid season.

Brockers is third on the team in tackles (26). DL Tyrunn Walker is tied for second on the team with the most pass-deflections (3).

Six different defensive linemen have at least one sack, and five have more than one. The sack-leader? The franchise star DE Matt Longacre, of course. He has four on the season, which is one more than Donald.

DL Morgan Fox, another household name, has 2.5 sacks on the season.

Like the passing game, the pass-rush is diverse and has multiple guys who can step up on any given week. No one is relying on the biggest talent to carry the team. Everyone has a hand in the line’s success, and it’s good news for everyone.