My family moved away from Manhattan Beach when I was just 8 years old, but I have some great memories. I remember a few sporting events, including a Wooden-era UCLA game at Pauley Pavilion, and at my first Dodgers game, I swear the home team scored 17 runs against the Reds along with a bench-clearing brawl.
For some reason, I recall vividly watching a boxing match with my Dad and our next door neighbor on Wide World of Sports. I wish I could remember who fought that day, but when they announced the decision, I was perplexed. We were sure the challenger had fought well enough to win. When I asked our neighbor Charlie what happened, he said “You can’t just beat the champ. You have to beat the champ UP.”
When the Rams packed their bags for Seattle for an opportunity to extend their NFC West lead to two games over the Seahawks, and, for all intents and purposes, to win the division, surely they were channeling Charlie.
As my friends and I made our way to Century Link that afternoon, the air was filled with nervous energy from Rams fans. The Rams first loss to Seattle in LA was a sloppy five-turnover afternoon, and, as I wrote at the time, reminded us all of the same old Rams. We wore our Rams gear guardedly, avoiding the eyes of the larger, more intoxicated 12s, and hoped that the Rams would prevail. The young Rams team had lost a winnable game against the Eagles the week before – did Seattle have L.A.’s number? Would McVay allow the brilliant promise of an entire season slip through our fingers on a chilly afternoon in the Pacific Northwest?
In perhaps their most dominant performance of the season, the Rams served notice that they had indeed arrived as Super Bowl contenders.
After a near-perfect early stanza that would put us ahead 13-0, I was still skeptical – you give Russell Wilson the ball in the second half up less than three scores, and he’s always got a puncher’s chance. Inexplicably (at the time), Sean McVay for it on 4th and 1 and Goff threw his lone INT of the game. Was McVay getting too cute? (We would later learn Zuerlein’s back troubles prevented him from kicking the chip shot FG) But then the Rams scored again.
And again. And then, in what was likely the play of the season for the Rams, Todd Gurley scampered 57 yards untouched on 3rd and 20 to drive home what would be the final coffin nail in the Seahawks’ chances to defend their NFC West title.
That play. Right into the end zone we were sitting in. The loudest collective exhale I have ever heard. The silence of the 12s. The end, at least for the 2017 season, of a mini-dynasty which saw two Super Bowl appearances and one championship.
Honestly, when Gurley scored the backbreaker TD, my friend Kip and I put our hands over our mouths, for clearly this was an embarrassment of riches bordering on humiliation.
And suddenly, I didn’t mind making eye contact with those now yawning and defeated Seahawks fans who winced at the very sight of my Rams hat. They could be angry and frustrated but had been so utterly throttled, the fight was gone,
mirroring their team’s vanishing act on the field. Goff had barely needed to throw the ball. The Rams defensive line was getting to Wilson what seemed like every other play.
As we returned to our seats, a guy I had been sparring with back and forth for much of the first half looked at me through his Bud Light goggles and softly said: “We’re a second-half team, you know.” I looked to the scoreboard behind us. It read 34-0.
“You are. But not today.”
“Not today,” he said, and high-fived me. Simple as the gesture was, as a Rams fan living in Portland and in attendance at many a Seahawks beatdown of my team, it was a symbolic passing of the torch. I’m not trying to sit around rating my top 10 high-fives of 2017, but if I was, this one was #1.
We all know what happened against the Falcons, and it still stings Rams fans after an excellent season. Many believe the Rams should still be playing — myself included, particularly after re-living this magnificent effort while writing this piece.
Still, what an amazing turnaround from the dreary Jeff Fisher years, and one of my best sports moments in quite some time. McVay and co. will certainly give fans plenty more to cheer about in 2018, but for now, it’s fun to remember the day we turned the champs into chumps.
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