Rams’ surprising success driven by commitment to team
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Rams think they can pair their fast start with a strong finish.
All they have to do is keep doing what they have been doing all season.
Los Angeles had six plays of at least 35 yards in Sunday’s 51-17 win at the New York Giants. The defense had three takeaways and special teams chipped in with a blocked punt.
The commitment to selfless play was evident on wide receiver Robert Woods’ 52-yard touchdown on a third-and-33 screen pass in the second quarter. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth and guard Rodger Saffold had key blocks to spring Woods, and McVay pointed out how wide receiver Sammy Watkins boxed out cornerback Eli Apple at the end of the play.
“We’ve got a connected team right now, and we want to continue to stay connected,” coach Sean McVay said Monday. “Guys are pulling for each other. It certainly isn’t a separate offense, defense, special teams.
“We’re committed to each other and we want to continue with that theme moving forward. I think that’s going to serve us well because inevitably at some point you do face some adversity.”
That adversity might come from a closing stretch that includes five of the Rams’ final eight games against teams with winning records, including fellow NFC division leaders Minnesota, New Orleans and Philadelphia.
The Rams are 3-2 against teams currently at .500 or better, with home losses against Washington and Seattle.
Next up is a home game against the reeling Houston Texans on Sunday.
“We know that it’s a week to week business, and if you’re not ready to go next Sunday at 1 o’clock when we play the Texans you get humbled very quickly in this league, and I think our players respect and acknowledge that,” McVay said.
“It’s how you finish games. It’s how you finish seasons, and for us right now it’s about finding a way to play a really good ninth game of the season for us because that’s what it is. If we do good things there and come away with the result that we want, then we’ll worry about what’s next after that. And that’s the approach that our team has taken. Really, whether we come away with a win or a loss, the guys have responded the same.”
McVay wants to make sure ball security continues to be a top priority. The Rams have a minus-five turnover margin in their two losses, compared to a plus-eight advantage in their six wins.
There are the breakdowns in assignment and technique that happen in every game, and McVay wants to get better in his clock management. Other than that, the first-year head coach is largely pleased with where the Rams are at the moment.
Watkins’ play against the Giants was an example of a fast-developing culture stressing accountability and togetherness. After expressing frustration on social media with the way he was used after failing to catch a pass against the Seahawks last month, Watkins made his presence known with and without the ball. Watkins’ only catch went 67 yards for a touchdown, and McVay loved his feistiness in helping Woods score.
“He’s really done an excellent job of being a big contributor even though sometimes you only see the one catch for the touchdown yesterday. But he’s making a lot of things happen without the ball in his hands, and it sounds cliche but it’s true,” McVay said.
The atmosphere of unity even extends to what happens after a big play. Alec Ogletree loved when fellow linebacker Cory Littleton blocked his second punt in the last three games. Jared Goff was one of the last to get down the field to celebrate Woods’ touchdown, and McVay couldn’t help but point out how his quarterback tripped because of his enthusiasm.
“You watch the way those guys got so excited for each other, the celebration,” McVay said. “But those guys were having fun and that’s what you like to see as a coach.”
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