Think of all the events that have taken place over the last 27 seasons. A lot has happened in that time. Something that hasn’t happened, though, is double-digit wins by a Los Angeles Rams team. The St. Louis Rams last did it in 2003. They went on to lose the divisional round of the playoffs against the Panthers in double overtime, while only reaching the playoffs once more during their time in St. Louis. Here the Los Angeles Rams are in year two, act two. Now, the Rams have 10 wins, hold a two-game lead in the NFC West, and have two games left in the regular season. A win like the one in Seattle has put teams around the league on notice. This Rams team can hang with the best of them. Especially with the notable performances in last week’s game. Here are your week 15 “A” team members.
Aaron Donald – No surprises with this one. When you’re spending the entire afternoon in the backfield and finishing it off with three quarterback sacks, it’s a great day. With his performance, Donald notched his second double-digit sack season and set a new season high with 12. He was unable to turn any of those pressures into sacks in week five, but he showed the effectiveness when he does. Rams are 8-0 when Donald registers a quarterback sack, while they are 1-4 when he doesn’t.
Troy Hill – This is more of a compliment to the whole secondary group with a shoutout to Hill. Seahawks wide receivers combined for only seven receptions while the offense was held to 142 passing yards overall. That total is about 100 yards less than their per game average. Lamarcus Joyner also added an opening drive turnover after popping the ball loose from Tanner McEvoy. The second NFC West game he has created an opening drive turnover, both wins.
There were big shoes to fill for cornerback Troy Hill after losing Kayvon Webster for the year. He rose to the occasion and had one of the top cornerback performances of the week. He spent most of his time covering always explosive Paul Richardson and Tyler Lockette. Only one catch was made in the coverage, for a whopping four yards. This is the play needed for the Rams to have success late in the year.
Todd Gurley – Head coach Sean McVay has shown humility all season, but he started his press conference saying he’s an “idiot” for not giving Gurley the ball more in the previous week’s loss to the Eagles. That is the side effect of a game that saw Gurley average over 7.0 yards per carry for the second straight week. This time on 21 carries instead of 13. This is the best we’ve seen of him and in an offense like this, look out. He crossed the goal line three times in the run game, the fifth time in two games, while adding a fourth in the passing game. Week 15 was the fifth time Gurley has seen 20 or more rushing attempts. In those games, Rams are 5-0 and have averaged 35.6 points per game. We haven’t really seen too much of this from McVay, but there’s more to this offense coming.
Robert Woods – His day seemed quiet, but after missing the last three games Woods came in and did what he does best. That thing, in particular, is getting first downs. In a game that didn’t rely too much on the passing attack, Woods stepped up and caught four first downs on six of his catches. He was able to get in back in sync with his quarterback in crucial moments to rebuild their rapport for the home stretch. Woods is having his most efficient season in the NFL with his career high 748 yards, despite having 25 fewer targets than his career high of 98. Running or throwing, it has become a pick your poison type approach to defending this Rams offense.
Pharoh Cooper – Four of the punt returns by Cooper on Sunday resulted in the Rams’ offense starting in Seahawks territory. One of those returns was one folded index card away from a touchdown and led to an easy one-yard touchdown run for Gurley. Performances like that are the difference in close games, they are the X-factor. Cooper has been a serious weapon since taking over all return duties from Tavon Austin. Sunday’s game saw him add 128 punt return yards and 52 kick return yards. His 1,235 combined return yards lead the entire league and rank 14th overall among the league’s combined yards leaders.
The Offensive Line – When you see the huge holes that Gurley was running through, you must look at the offensive line. He broke off double-digit yard runs with ease multiple times. Something that continues to show up weekly is the screen game of this team. It has become very common to see a massive Rodger Saffold charging down the field taking on multiple defenders only for his teammate to score or, at the very least, gain larger chunks of yards. They are firing on all cylinders and in sync with one another. An offensive line has been missing for the Rams for a long time and this year’s unit deserves a lot of credit for hitting double-digit wins.
This is a team that is now in the driver seat and controls what happens to them. One win will give them their first division title since 2003, first in Los Angeles since 1985. Even with something so exciting within reach, they must maintain their focus and attention to detail. They haven’t gotten this far by mistake but all it takes is one mistake to end your season when you’re one and done. Oddly enough, the youngest coach in the NFL has kept his players humble and hungry. Not an easy task with such a young, inexperienced team with almost no playoff experience on the team. Most fans can’t even fathom what is going on, but there’s something special about this team. Double-digit wins are just the start with far more to come.
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