Just when one thought the Rams were turning the corner, despite an impressive win now and again, these are the kind of games the Rams would lose under the Fisher era.
Ram fans, Jeff Fisher is gone.
Sean McVay was plucked from Washington having been their offensive coordinator and before that their QB coach. One of the major reasons the Rams chose McVay was his uncanny ability to turn Kirk Cousins into a halfway decent QB.
If he could do that with Cousins, just imagine what he could do for an allegedly more talented Jared Goff.
During his tenure with D.C. last year, Washington finished third in offense. Sean McVay knows everything about Cousins, what he eats for breakfast, what’s his favorite PSI for footballs is, whether he puts his socks on both feet, then his shoes or puts one sock on and then his shoes. That kind of knowledge is scary coming into the game. Washington needs a win badly.
Think of this game this way: the time when Jon Gruden, who knew everything as the former coach for the Oakland Raiders about QB Rich Gannon. He is Sean McVay’s mentor, intense, prepared and demands accountability. Gruden in preparing his Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the Super Bowl against the Raiders and chose to run the scout team at QB practices before the game. The result was the Raiders got trounced, the game was over in the 1st quarter and it looked like the Bucs knew the Raiders playbook. Truth is, they did!
Its the same thing in this instance, albeit a regular season game.
Based on this history, one would expect that Wade Phillips got a few unexpected visits from McVay this week in his office prior to putting in his defensive game plan together. If you want to be a fly on the wall, they weren’t talking about the weather.
But let’s be clear, the game still has to be played and if the Rams think that this game is in the bag, watch out. A loss by the Rams puts the Rams right back where they were in the preseason rankings—dead last.
A win puts them closer to being deemed “respectable” by proving they can win a game they are favored to win—something they couldn’t do with Fisher.
Here’s how they do it
Even though it has only been one game, the Rams pass offense ranks 3rd in the league compared to the Washington pass defense which ranks 26th; thus after one week there are only five other teams worse then D.C.
The Rams run game after just one week ranks 22nd while the Washington run defense ranks 7th which is very respectable.
The Rams played the Colts and Washington played the Eagles—are the Eagles THAT much better then the Colts?
With that in mind, do the Rams go with their strength (the pass) or go with their weakness (the run) to win?
The Rams win by pounding the football against Washington. If the the Rams find themselves in situations where they need to throw, then they should be able to find success. And guess what Rams fans, Gurley is going to look like he did in his 2015 rookie season.
Getting the run game going is top priority for Sean McVay coming into this game. An efficient run game will take the pressure off Goff to make plays, which is always tough on a young QB.
However, don’t be surprised that should Gurley fail to get the job done, McVay pulls the hook early, going to a rotation of RB(s) in the backfield with Malcolm Brown and Justin Davis sharing the load.
If all else fails, by all means throw the football.
Based on this, it’s probably not realistic to expect the Rams to score 46 points as they did last week, since 16 of those points were scored by the defense, but one could reasonably expect the Rams offense to get close to 30.
If they stay away from the holding penalties and illegal procedures, the Rams offense will be fine. The Rams might even take a shot or two with a deep pass just to loosen up the Washington defense. Assuming they stack the box with eight or fake the deep ball to the WR(s) down the field, countering with either a screen or checkdown to Gurley out the backfield—Josh Norman can’t cover everyone.
The O-line will have its work cut out for itself this weekend—the question is “Are they up to the task?”
Expect the Rams to do a lot of the same thing they did last week against the Colts by putting lots of pressure on the QB. The pressure will cause Cousin’s to make a bad throw and bait him into a bad read, maybe even into an INT.
The difference this week however is that Aaron Donald returns to the field. One should not expect to see a lot of him, but he’ll be in there. Since the Rams d-line played outstanding against the Colts and even though Scott Tolzen is not Kirk Cousins—Kirk Cousins is no Tom Brady either.
With Donald in the line-up the Rams will be better against the run and scary on the pass rush.
Having stated the obvious about Sean McVay’s knowledge of Kirk Cousins, he also knows the Washington offense just as well. Unless Washington has completely changed their playbook, they should be limited in their ability to score points, while the Rams are racking up yardage and points on offense.
Why bother—The Rams special teams has been one of the best in the league for a long time. Nothing has changed after week one.
Tavon Austin will correct his muffed punt against the Colts last week, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him break one in this game. He is exciting to watch in space, with an ability to take it all the way.
Instead of the defense being the back breaker as they were last week against the Colts, maybe its Tavon Austin on the special teams that gets the nod this week.
The Importance of this Game is Undeniable
During the 1980’s Washington was an elite football team. They were owned by Jack Kent Cooke who at that time also owned the Los Angeles Lakers, Kings and the Inglewood Forum, “The House That Jack Built” as Chick Hearn used to say.
Cooke was forced to sell it all to Jerry Buss due to the cross-over rule in the NFL preventing an NFL owner from owning another sports teams in another major league sport. When Cooke died, his son wanted to own the team, but couldn’t afford to pay the estate tax, so the estate wound up selling Washington to a boyhood diehard fan and billionaire, Daniel J. Snyder.
Dan Snyder quickly took this storied franchise downward turning them into a mess.
He fired coaches as quickly as one snaps his fingers, and with his blessing the team made questionable player acquisitions in the draft and free agency. He has shown a penchant for sticking his nose into the football operations even though he may have looked good wearing his Washington youth uniform as a child, he knows absolutely nothing about football.
Under Jay Gruden the franchise has had some stability. Still, this offseason they fired their GM and still can’t make up their mind as to whether to sign Kirk Cousins to a long term deal. Choosing instead to franchise tag him again, as they did the year before.
This does not bode well to establishing that Washington has confidence in Cousins ability to take them back to the Super Bowl. Nor can it be taken by Cousins that Washington think so highly of his abilities they want to give him the big bucks by signing him to a long term deal.
Nevertheless, Washington have a lot of devoted fans who remember the “good old days” and have continued to support the club. Given last week’s lack of attendance by Angelenos for the Rams home opener, there’s going to be a lot of maroon and yellow jerseys in the stands.
That’s why this game is so important for the Rams.
This is the turn around the bend game that Ram fans have been waiting for. The game which propels the Rams from being identified as 4-12 losers into the realm of being treated with respect. The Rams are by no means contenders at this point, but a beatdown of Washington will go a long way to getting L.A. fans to show up to the games in the future, because Angelenos love winners and hate losers.
It starts with winning a game they should win. Lose this game and the light at the end of tunnel that the Ram fans saw last week isn’t a light, IT’S A TRAIN.
The Rams must and will win this game!