Culver City Observer -

The Offense (Yes, Really) Keeps Rams On Top

 

October 5, 2017

By Fred Altieri

Sports Reporter

The Los Angeles Rams unquestionably became the talk of the town after upsetting the Dallas Cowboys, 35-30, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Going toe-to-toe and beating America's Team instantly ranks as the most significant win in the Rams' return to Los Angeles. The record-kicking foot of Greg Zuerlein stamped it with approval.

The Rams took another step toward NFL relevancy as they improved their record to 3-1 to remain in first place in the NFC West. The team also got off to a 3-1 start last season before losing 11 of their last 12 games. However, this year under new head coach Sean McVay there is a growing sense of confidence primarily due to an emerging and effective offense .

The Rams have transformed from being the league's worst offensive team last season into one of its best within a short four-game span. Third-year running back Todd Gurley, second-year quarterback Jared Goff and the offensive line took the brunt of the criticism for last year's dismal showing. This year the offense ranks near the top of league in multiple categories.

"He (Greg Zuerlein) won the game today. He's Mr. Automatic. He got a game ball along with Coach Wade coming back here and being able to come away with the win for our team. Can't say enough about that unit," said McVay postgame.

"I can't say enough about Jared in crunch time, what he's done. Todd Gurley continues to show why he's a special player. And the playmakers around him, Cooper Kupp had a handful of plays. And really the offensive line, what a great job they did. For the most part keeping a great front off the quarterback."

Initially, the final outcome didn't appear likely as the Cowboys jumped out to 17-6 and 24-13 leads in the first half. But each time Dallas put points on the board the Rams offense responded with a score, three of them Zuerlein field goals. Goff threw a 7-yard touchdown to Kupp following a fumbled punt recovery by Troy Hill at the Dallas 18-yard line in the second quarter. The Rams were down only 24-16 at halftime.

Zuerlein connected on a 30-yard field goal midway through the third quarter. The Rams' offense came up with their signature play of the season five minutes later. On first down at their own 10-yard line Gurley rushed for 16 yards. Goff, directing a no-huddle offense, handed off the Gurley again for seven yards. Then Malcolm Brown caught a 14-yard pass good for a first down near midfield.

Lighting struck for Rams on the very next play when Gurley threw a perfect spiral to Gurley at the Dallas 40-yard line cutting across the middle. From there it was no match as Gurley cut diagonally through the Dallas secondary and into the end zone for a 53-yard touchdown pass. The Rams had a 26-24 lead and the momentum.

"This guy's a great player. I think Les (Snead) and his staff and our coaching staff did a good job when we set out to figure out what is our offense want to look like," said McVay. "You look at the pieces we were able to get around and upfront. You look at some of the guys we have at the skill positions... Todd's a special player."

Gurley enjoyed another stellar game under McVay's system. He rushed for 121 yards on 23 carries, caught seven passes for 94 yards and scored one touchdown to run his season total to seven. He became the first Ram running back to gain 200+ yards from scrimmage since Steven Jackson gained 215 yards from scrimmage against Washington in 2006.

Rookie wide receiver Kupp also figured prominently with five receptions for 60 yards and a touchdown. His success was a direct result of the Dallas defense focusing on the Rams top two wide receivers: Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods. Watkins caught one pass for 17 yards and Woods caught two passes for 17 yards. Goff threw completions to eight different receivers.

It was no coincidence that the Ram defense came to life in the second half after having allowed Dallas to score in each of their four possessions in the first half. Suddenly the Los Angeles offense was inspiring the defense, previously unimaginable and a complete reversal of what transpired last season when the defense was called on to preserve all four victories.

Dallas scored on a 28-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Dak Prescott to James Hanna to make bring them within two points at 32-30 with over seven minutes remaining in the game. That's when Goff and Company put together a 12-play 83-yard drive to set up Zuerlein's final nail in the coffin for the Cowboys.

"Mr. Automatic" Zuerlein set a franchise record for most field goals in a game by converting seven of seven field goals. The previous record was six by Jeff Wilkins versus Denver in 2006. His 23 points scored is the second-highest total for a Ram in a single game. He has now converted 18 consecutive field goal attempts.

Dallas got the ball and a last chance to win with 1:55 to go in the game. It was only fitting that former Cowboy Head Coach and current Ram Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips' 3-4 defense turned out the lights in AT&T Stadium with 27 seconds on the clock.

"It's an excellent offense that they played against yesterday. But, he's (Phillips) got a nice, even-keeled, calm demeanor about himself that you just communicate...," said McVay. "And to the defense's credit, they answered the bell in the second half and there was a handful of plays that ended up being the difference in us winning and losing that football game. Their ability to step up was crucial."

The Rams will host the Seattle Seahawks with head coach Pete Carroll who returns to his old stomping grounds in the L.A. Coliseum this Sunday. Carroll spent nine seasons as USC's head coach from 2001-09 where he coached two NCAA National Championship teams along with seven straight PAC 12 Conference titles.

The Rams have beaten the Seahawks (2-2) in three of their last four meetings including last season's home opener at the Coliseum, 9-3. It's very early in the season but a Los Angeles win would reverberate through the NFC West Division and the entire League. The Rams are on the verge of finally being taken seriously after having squandered the past decade or so in complete futility.

 

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