Rams riding the road to best start since ’03, face Giants
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The Los Angeles Rams have been one of the NFL’s biggest surprises this season — and it’s how they’re doing it that has been most impressive.
The Rams (5-2) are this year’s road warriors heading into Sunday’s game at MetLife Stadium against the self-destructing and disappointing New York Giants (1-6).
Sean McVay’s club is 4-0 away from the Los Angeles Coliseum, with the last victory coming in a 33-0 win over the Arizona Cardinals in a “home” game in London.
“I think we enjoy playing on the road,” quarterback Jared Goff said. “I don’t know why or what it is, but that ‘yourself against the world, we’re all we got, we’re all we need’ type of thing is part of our mantra and brings us together. We’ve played well on the road, so we enjoy it. It’s definitely not a disadvantage for us, we don’t think.”
The Coliseum hasn’t been good to Rams, who have won four of their last five games in getting off to their best start since 2003. They are 1-2 at home, with the only loss in that run being at home to Seattle.
The Seattle game was played on Oct. 8, and the Rams will not play there again until facing Houston on Nov 12, a 34-day span.
It has not made a difference for the Rams, who are looking to end a run of 10 straight losing seasons and earn their first playoff berth since 2004.
“That’s so far from where we’re at right now,” the 31-year-old McVay said. “We’ve still got nine games left, for sure, and right now, we’re focused on our eighth game and that’s really all there is to it for us.”
In many ways, the Rams are similar to the Giants last season under then-new coach Ben McAdoo. New York just found ways to win the close ones, including a 17-10 over the Rams in London in a game where Los Angeles held a huge margin in the statistics. The problem was Case Keenum had four passes intercepted.
McAdoo’s team is losing the close ones this season and the frustration is mounting.
New York will be without top cornerback Janoris Jenkins this weekend. He was suspended indefinitely after missing a workout Monday without calling the coaches to explain his absence. It’s the team’s second suspension in less than a month. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie also was suspended for a violation of team rules.
“We’re going to be still competitive,” said safety Landon Collins, who had a spectacular, weaving 44-yard interception return for a touchdown in last year’s game. “I’ll speak for the defensive side. We’re going to be definitely competitive because we’re all trying to eat out there. We’re all still trying to be gritty even if it’s individual in bringing what we need to bring to the field. We’re still trying to do that and just be a great team overall.”
Here’s five things to watch on Sunday as both teams come off a bye week:
GETTING HEALTHY?: The Giants thought they would be getting some players back after the bye week. It might not happen.
Center Weston Richburg (concussion) probably won’t be back. Offensive tackle Justin Pugh continues to be bothered by a back problem, and defensive end Olivier Vernon has missed the last three games with an ankle injury. Wide receiver Sterling Shepard (ankle) could return and give Eli Manning another target.
MY KINGDOM FOR WHITWORTH: The Giants went into the offseason needing help at offensive tackle. They thought 35-year-old Andrew Whitworth was too old. He signed with the Rams and has been a star at left tackle on their revamped O-Line.
“He’s been outstanding,” McVay said. “He’s influencing and affecting his teammates in a positive way, really from day one, since he got in here.”
Los Angeles is No. 6 running the ball. The Giants are No. 27.
REPLACING JACKRABBIT: With Jenkins suspended, either Ross Cockrell or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie probably will start. Eli Apple will be on the other side.
It would have been DRC had he not been suspended for the Denver game. However, his time has been limited since he came back. One thing in his favor: Rodgers-Cromartie had two interceptions in last year’s game against the Rams.
GURLEY GOING: Rams running back Todd Gurley is working on a career year.
After dropping off in his second season, Gurley has rushed for 627 yards and five touchdowns and caught 27 passes for 293 yards and three TDs. He is third in NFL with 920 yards from scrimmage; and shares the NFL lead with eight TDs from scrimmage. Gurley has three straight 100-yard rushing games on road.
GIANTS CONNECTIONS: McVay and Rams special teams coordinator John Fassel have connections to former Giants head coaches.
McVay is the grandson of John McVay, who coached the Giants from 1976-78. Fassel is the son of Jim Fassel, who coached the Giants from 1997-2003, taking them to the Super Bowl in January 2001. Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo coached the Rams — then in St. Louis — from 2009-11.