LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Rams‘ offense was stalled, facing constant pressure, failing on quintessential red-zone opportunities and settling merely for three field goals through the first 35 minutes of Sunday’s game. It seemed as if everybody was shocked.
Think about how strange that sounds, what it says about how far they’ve all come under first-year head coach Sean McVay.
The resulting explosion, featuring Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins, seemed more like a formality than it did a revelation. The Rams are so deep in their revival that it seems as if they’ve forgotten what it felt like to be anything but a complete, dominant, Super Bowl-caliber football team. Their Week 10 win, the product of a 33-7 rout of the injury-riddled Houston Texans, was only the latest example.
The Rams are 7-2 for the first time since 2001, leading a division crumbling under the weight of injuries to Carson Palmer, David Johnson and Richard Sherman. Their plus-134 point differential leads the NFL. And over their last three games, they’ve outscored three clearly inferior opponents — the Arizona Cardinals, New York Giants and Texans — by a combined 93 points.
Their latest win marked only the third at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum since the Rams returned to L.A. for the 2016 season. It was the Rams’ first true home game in 35 days, and the optics didn’t change. The Rams sold 60,032 tickets, roughly 5,000 shy of where they decided to cap tickets for the 2017 season and about a third of the true capacity at the Coliseum. They have yet to experience a significant upswing in interest from the nation’s second-largest media market, but more performances like these will change that soon enough.
The Rams led only by a 9-7 score at the nine-minute mark of the third quarter, while pinned at their own 6-yard line — then rattled off 21 points in less than nine minutes.
It began, as it usually does in a McVay offense, with play action. Jared Goff faked a handoff to Todd Gurley, and Woods ran a deep post. By the time Goff looked upfield, Woods was sprinting several yards behind cornerback Johnathan Joseph. He unleashed a deep ball that turned into a 94-yard touchdown, seven days after connecting with Watkins on a 67-yard touchdown.
Two possessions later, Goff hit Watkins up the middle of the field for 24 yards, then set up a 17-yard catch-and-run with Watkins that resulted in another touchdown.
Two plays later, another touchdown.
The Rams’ defense forced its third turnover on the Texans’ ensuing snap, when rookie outside linebacker Samson Ebukam notched the sack that forced a fumble that was picked up by teammate Tyrunn Walker. On the Rams’ next play, Goff threw to Woods, who sprinted up the field, broke a couple of tackles and spun in for a 12-yard touchdown.
Woods, a USC star who played many a games at the Coliseum, finished with eight catches for 171 yards and two touchdowns. Goff, who entered 10th in the NFL in Total QBR, went 25-of-37 for a career-high 355 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. In his last three games, Goff has gone 61-of-96 for 901 yards, eight touchdowns and just one interception.
He’s unrecognizable from his 2016 form.
So is his team.