How About This? Rams Are In First Place
September 21, 2017
It's only three games into the 2017 NFL season but the Los Angeles Rams (2-1) are in sole possession of first place in the NFC West.
After having outlasted the San Francisco 49ers, 41-39 in one of the most entertaining Thursday Night Football games in recent memory the Rams are finally a legitimate threat in their division for the first time in a very long time.
The first three games on their schedule against the Colts, Redskins and 49ers was considered weak by most standards. This Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys at Arlington, Texas will be a valid test.
It was the Cowboys' victory over the Arizona Cardinals this past Monday Night that gave the Rams their division lead.
Transforming quickly under first-year Head Coach Sean McVay the Rams are suddenly leading the league in points scored with 107. Last year the team scored a total of 226 points and only 24 touchdowns for the entire season.
With a rejuvenated Todd Gurley at running back and emerging second-year quarterback Jared Goof the team has already registered 12 touchdowns this season.
"It's special for our team. We got to 2-1, I think that's really important. Can't say enough about our players and the way that they responded and kept fighting to find a way to come away with a W," said McVay following the 49er win.
Goff, a Bay Area native from Novato, reiterated: "That was fun. It was really good to get a win regardless of where it was. I think it was a great team win. It's fun to play in front of a lot of people that I do know are here. Don't want to make it as close as we did but finishing a win like that is big and shows signs of a good team."
The Rams literally mugged San Francisco on the game's very first play from scrimmage. Ram cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman intercepted a short pass from 49er quarterback Brian Hoyer at the San Francisco 28-yard line and returned it to the 3-yard line. Gurley ran it into the end zone on the very next play to give the Rams a 7-0 lead 12 seconds into the game.
The 49ers tied it up at 7-7 on an 81-yard 14-play drive with Hoyer scrambling for the touchdown. Four minutes later Goff countered with a 75-yard eight-play drive ending with a seven-yard catch-and-run touchdown pass to Gurley. The Rams added a Greg Zuerlein 48-yard field goal to start the second quarter following a Robey-Coleman fumble recovery that stopped another 49er drive.
The Rams led at halftime 24-13 on Gurley's third touchdown of the game, a two-yard dash that culminated a nine-play 75-yard drive that took under three minutes. It was exemplary of the versatile and effective offense inserted by McVay this season. Gurley ran for 17 yards on four carries. Goff hit wide receiver Sammy Watkins twice for eight and 22-yard receptions.
Wide receiver Cooper Kupp caught a 13-yard pass followed by a 13-yard pass to wide receiver Robert Woods. A penalty placed the ball at the 49er two-yard line where Gurley cashed in for the first three-touchdown game of his career.
"He's (Gurley) a great player and ran his ass off today... It's almost comforting when I get through my progression and see him wide open, there's 15. It's very comforting knowing he can make a play after the catch, very sure-handed... He's also a very good communicator, body language as well as verbally," said Goff.
McVay: "I was really pleased with Jared tonight. I thought he made great decisions with the football. You really look at what that defense had done coming into this game against really good teams in Carolina and Seattle. Really impressive as a whole."
"I thought Jared managed the game extremely well. Distributed the ball to his playmakers. Gave guys a chance down the field. You look at Sammy and Robert coming away with over 100 yards apiece."
General Manager Les Snead and the Ram front office deserve credit for the team's rebound from last year and in reality the past decade of losing football for the franchise. Noted is that three of the key Ram players: Watkins, Woods and Robey-Coleman were all acquired from the Buffalo Bills during the off-season.
The game saw multiple momentum swings in the second half. A Zuerlein field goal was followed by 49er touchdown. Goff and company then completed a 10-play 75-yard drive with a one-yard slant-in catch by Watkins. The 49ers cut the lead to 34-26 before Goff threw to Watkins for a 13-yard score with 8:43 on the game clock.
Hoyer moved the 49ers 64 yards for a touchdown before things got tight when Ram returner Pharoh Cooper fumbled the kickoff. Eight plays later 49er running back Carlos Hyde punched it in from one yard out and bringing the score to 41-39, Rams. The two-point conversion attempt to tie the game failed.
The Niners were not finished yet as they recovered a well-placed onside kick by 13-year NFL veteran Robbie Gould. Four plays later Ram defensive tackle Aaron Donald ended the 49er comeback with a quarterback sack on fourth down.
Goff on the win: "I think it's bigger... for a team, for camaraderie, for chemistry, for everything. When you don't play and execute exactly like you want and you're able to finish it at the end, it's the sign of a team, a sign of good leadership, a sign of a veteran team. It's only game three for us but it's a very good win to have."