Personally, I have to look at Everson Griffen’s situation the same way I would if, say, he had blown out his knee. Or ruptured his Achilles’ tendon. Or any one of the myriad ways an NFL player’s body keeps him from being out there with his teammates - and in front of the fans. So that’s what I’m going to do this week. Everson is hurt(ing), he will get the best medical treatment possible, and - hopefully - sometime down the road he will be back. In the meantime, there’s a football game to be played (and at least twelve more after that), so that has to become the focus going forward.
With that, let’s talk about the 3-0 Los Angeles Rams! Looking at any of the experts’ polls, you don’t have to look very far to find them. They’re generally either first, second or - in at least one case that I found - third. They have earned the right to be there, too (which we’ll detail in a bit), with efficient offense and a very good defense to go along with one of the best young coaches in football.
But, it wasn’t always that way. In fact the team was so abysmal in St. Louis for so long that the owner punished the fans for not supplying him with enough money to buy better players by moving the team to Los Angeles. Now the fans are filling his pockets, building him a new stadium, and are generally happy with the fact that he’s brought football back to the area. Win - win, amirite?
Did that sound snarky? I think that may have come across as snarky.
About two-and-a-half years ago, when the move was announced, I wrote a fanpost that was an open letter to St. Louis Rams fans, detailing Stan Kroenke’s move to LA, and why they couldn’t blame him. I posted it on the DN and also on Turf Show Times, the DN’s sister site. Fans argued that Stan Kroenke (no relation) was robbing them of the team they had supported so faithfully. And, they argued, had he put a competitive team on the field, they would have been there, packing the TWA Dome. I argued that it didn’t matter.
According to Forbes’ annual value ranking of NFL teams, in 2015, the Rams’ last year in St. Louis, they were ranked 28th out of 32 teams. Kroenke packed up his shiny toy, headed out to the Los Angeles area, and *voila*:
Yes, folks, the Rams are now the fourth-highest-valued team in the National Football League.
For their part, the fans in Los Angeles have certainly embraced the team, as attendance has been high at the terribly outdated L.A. Colosseum. In fact, there’s a bit of a “Battle of Los Angeles” that has taken place, as Rams fans have tried to take ownership of the city away from the Chargers, who will move into the Rams’ new facility as tenants when it opens in 2020. In fact, one fan went so far as to fly banners in the sky near the stadium during the game against the Chargers on Sunday, telling Chargers fans to get outta town.
You can find a live webcam, which shows the Stadium progress 24/7 on the team website. It’s a pretty impressive design, and when it’s completed will bring professional sports back to the town of Inglewood for the first time since the Lakers and Kings played at the Forum.
The #Rams will announce ticket pricing for season tickets at new Inglewood stadium on Thursday. Good news for a lot of fans: Season ticket prices start at $60 per game and $1,000 for SSL’s. https://t.co/qZH8B28rW0— Vincent Bonsignore (@VinnyBonsignore) September 6, 2018
The team is definitely going all-out to build a loyal fanbase right away. They even took out a full-page ad in the L.A. Times, imploring companies to let their employees out of work early to come support the team.
#Rams head coach Sean McVay wants to get the word out to L.A. bosses to let their workers out early for Thursday’s 5:30 pm kick off against the #Vikings. Hence the full page memo in the Times pic.twitter.com/lXvdKvLzEq— Vincent Bonsignore (@VinnyBonsignore) September 25, 2018
The ad was “signed” by Rams head coach Sean McVay - who fans of the team have begun to call “McBae” - and if I ever end up at a poker table with him, I hope I’m holding a royal flush. Because he’s Rain Man. Seriously.
McVay does one particular thing that Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer really should consider:
Pretty interesting nugget Sean McVay just dropped on the conference call. McVay, who has been calling offensive plays since 2015 in Washington, has a clock-management specialist on staff (Jedd Fisch) whose main focus on gameday is communicating those critical situations.— Courtney Cronin (@CourtneyRCronin) September 25, 2018
The Rams on Offense
On offense, the Rams are on a serious offensive bender. Their hectic scoring pace isn’t quite at “Greatest Show on Turf” levels, but the team is still much better than anything that Jeff Fisher put on the field. Jeff Fisher’s Rams scored 224 points total in 2016, and this year the Rams have already scored nearly half that, in just three games.
The 2018 #LARams have scored 102 points in their first three games. Let's compare that to the Jeff Fisher era:— Brandon Bate (@NoPlanB_) September 24, 2018
2012: 60 points
2013: 58 points
2014: 56 points
2015: 50 points
2016: 46 points
The 2018 Rams have scored more points through Week 3 than in 2015 and 2016 combined.
Quarterback Jared Goff has played really well thus far, and is beginning to transform into the player the Rams hoped he would when they gave up two first round picks, two second round picks and two third round picks to move up and grab him with the first overall pick in the 2016 draft. The following clip shows his absolutely filthy pass to Robert Woods, and throws like that are becoming more commonplace from Goff.
You can see Goff’s name all over the statistical leaderboard so far. He’s tied for 6th with a 70.3% completion percentage, he’s 5th with 941 yards passing, 3rd in the league at 9.3 yards per attempt, and 6th with a 111.0 Passer Rating.
Of course, when a quarterback has time to sit back in the pocket and let routes develop, good things are going to happen. The Rams’ line so far:
#Rams #PFF OL pass protection by the numbers:— Downtown Rams (@DowntownRams) September 25, 2018
LT Whitworth: 0 sk, 0 hit, 1 hur, 1 pressure
LG Saffold: 0 sk, 1 hit, 1 hur, 2 pressures
C Sullivan: 0 sk, 1 hit, 2 hur, 3 Pressures
RG Blythe: 0 sk, 1 hit, 1 hur, 2 Pressures
RT Havenstein: 0 sk, 0 hit, 3 hur, 3 Pressures pic.twitter.com/147eZGAjNe
The Rams on Defense
One of the reasons for the Rams’ success is the play of the defensive backfield. The Rams imported two new corners this year - Aqib Talib from Denver and Marcus Peters from Kansas City, and to say they have been dominant thus far would be an understatement:
Good grief, how dominant have Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib been through 2 games? Among all defenders who have been targeted at least 5 times, Peters has allowed the fewest yards (8), Talib the 3rd fewest (12). #NextGenStats #Rams pic.twitter.com/gzvOCDesPF— James Koh (@JamesDKoh) September 21, 2018
Aqib Talib is out for this week’s game after undergoing ankle surgery and Marcus Peters could be a game time decision. Which all plays in to the news that veteran Sam Shields (no relation) will get the start at cornerback. Vikings fans know the name Sam Shields well, having played for the Green Bay Packers for six full seasons before suffering his fourth career concussion during week one of the 2016 season. The Packers placed him on season-ending injured-reserve, then released him after the season, and he spent 2017 out of football, recovering.
For all the shutdown ability that the defensive backs have had, one statistic sticks out like a sore thumb: The Rams defense has sacked the quarterback just four times this year. The vaunted Rams defensive line - Michael Brockers, Ndamukong Suh, and reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald - has been mostly held in check. Brockers has a sack, and Suh’s first sack this came this week. I’m no expert, but it sure looks like Suh landed with all his body weight on Philip Rivers.
Meanwhile, in Green Bay…
Clay Matthews looking at that Suh hit like pic.twitter.com/xp8wJYxZPQ— Mike Golic Jr (@MGolicJR57) September 23, 2018
Ridiculous Quote of the Week:
This week’s entry comes from none other than former Viking Cris Carter.