How the Rams Went From Laughingstock to Contenders

How the Rams Went From Laughingstock to Contenders


Every year, aspiring actors head to Hollywood in hopes of remaking themselves as movie stars.

The Los Angeles Rams are doing their own version of that transformation. In less than a year, they have gone from a laughingstock to a playoff contender. In their return to Los Angeles last season, they were the lowest-scoring team in the N.F.L. Now they are the highest-scoring team, with a good shot at winning their division.

That turnaround was underscored on Sunday, when the Rams throttled the Giants, 51-17, in New Jersey. Through eight games the Rams are 6-2 and in first place in the N.F.C. West. It’s the Rams’ best start since 2001, when they went 14-2 and made it to the Super Bowl.

Before Sunday, the Rams trailed only the Houston Texans in scoring. But after dominating the Giants, the Rams are now scoring 32.9 points a game, while the Texans, who lost to the Indianapolis Colts in their first game without the injured quarterback Deshaun Watson, fell to 28.6 points a game.

“There were a lot of great individual efforts; the offensive line continues to protect well,” Coach Sean McVay said. “We’re eager to see if we can continue to play good football.”

At this time last year, the Rams were a modest 3-5, but they lost all but one of their remaining eight games to finish 4-12. Naysayers began to ask whether the N.F.L. owners had made a mistake in letting the Rams leave St. Louis and return to Southern California, where they had played until 1994.

Although questions remain about how much fans in Los Angeles will embrace the Rams — they are ranked 27th in attendance this season — it’s clear the team has found a way to recreate itself on the field.

One of the keys was changing coaches. After firing Jeff Fisher, who arrived with the team from St. Louis, the Rams ripped up the playbook and hired McVay, who was then Washington’s offensive coordinator. At 31, he is the youngest head coach in N.F.L. history.

Another key has been quarterback Jared Goff. Last year, the Rams made a splash by trading six draft picks to acquire the first choice, which they used to select Goff. New to the league, he struggled and lost all seven games that he started.

In the off-season, the Rams added players to help Goff. They signed center John Sullivan and left tackle Andrew Whitworth to bolster the offensive line, and acquired receivers Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods. The Rams made the most of their limited draft picks by taking tight end Gerald Everett from South Alabama in the second round and wide receiver Cooper Kupp from Eastern Washington in the third round.

(On Sunday, Woods had two touchdown catches. For the season, Everett has eight receptions and one touchdown, while Kupp has 26 receptions and three scores.)

A stronger offensive line and extra receivers have helped Goff. He has been sacked 10 times this season; in seven games last season, he was sacked 26 times.

With more time to throw, Goff has more touchdown passes and fewer interceptions this season. He has thrown for 13 touchdowns (including four on Sunday) and four interceptions, compared with five scores and seven interceptions last season. His adjusted yards per attempt (which accounts for the impact of interceptions) rose to 7.7 from 4.3 last season.

Goff and the Rams have also benefited from Todd Gurley, a first-round pick in 2015 who has rebounded after a lackluster 2016. He has seven rushing touchdowns in eight starts after having six in 16 starts last season. He is averaging 4.3 yards a carry after averaging 3.2 (and the proverbial cloud of dust) in 2016. He has also caught three touchdown passes this season.

For all their success, the Rams have a lot of work to do to secure a playoff spot. They face the Texans at home next week, and must face Philadelphia, New Orleans, Tennessee and Minnesota — all division leaders. They must also play their division rivals Seattle and Arizona on the road.

Still, considering where they were last season, the Rams seem comfortable with their newfound fortune.

“We have to keep doing what we’re doing and not take our foot off the gas pedal,” Goff said after Sunday’s game.

Benjamin Hoffman contributed reporting.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page B11 of the New York edition with the headline: Rams’ Hollywood Makeover: Feeble to Fearsome. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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