These Rams are fun!
Four words not written once during last year’s homecoming season could be printed today on a banner as wide as Sean McVay’s smile.
These Rams are fun!
This doesn’t mean they’re great. This doesn’t mean they’re contenders. It was hard to make many definitive judgments Sunday after their 46-9 victory in their season opener at the Coliseum against a short-handed and literally Luck-less Indianapolis Colts.
But one thing is as vividly clear as Johnny Hekker swinging his arms and dancing nearly the entire length of the scorched and steamy field after another perfect punt — these Rams are fun, and entertaining, and goodness, how long has Los Angeles waited to hear that?
“This is what we wanted,’’ defensive tackle Michael Brockers said after a surreal afternoon filled with horned acrobatics and athletics and, you know, scoring. “This is what we wanted for the fans, and these is what we wanted for ourselves.’’
The scars from last season’s four-win dreariness have remained with the fans, resulting in a half-filled Coliseum that featured many folks wearing Colts blue. But the shine of new coach McVay’s system appeared quickly, and lasted throughout an afternoon where the Rams were so hot, even the 90-degree heat eventually felt bearable.
“We have a whole new character around this team,’’ Brockers said.
The Rams won their four games last year by a combined 18 points. They won this one by 37.
It took them four home games to score 46 points in the Coliseum last year. This year they did it in four quarters.
“The new spirit around here … it just feels good,’’ Joyner said. “It felt like college again.’’
It’s a spirit that started Sunday with quarterback Goff, last year’s rookie disappointment who appears reborn in his second season with the offensive mind of McVay and the weapons acquired for him by general manager Les Snead.
You wondered what Goff would do with skilled receivers and decent protection? Standing behind new tackle Andrew Whitworth, passing to newcomers Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and rookie Kupp, Goff had his best game as a pro, missing on only eight of 29 passes, and finishing with 306 yards, one touchdown, no picks, barely touched, and earning his first pro win as a starter after seven losses.
It was Watkins across the middle, Woods on a slant, and the most cheered man in the Coliseum in the end zone. That would be Kupp, the kid from Eastern Washington whose every catch is accompanied by Lakers-like cheers of “Cooooop.’’
Goff’s touchdown pass was a perfect 18-yard strike to Kupp to give the Rams a 24-3 lead late in the second quarter, after which Kupp celebrated his first career touchdown in the perfect rookie fashion. Instead of keeping the ball, he gave it to the referee, and it is probably lost forever.
“You know, that probably wasn’t a good idea to do that,’’ Kupp said later, but he said it with a big smile shared by everyone in a Rams locker room that last season was one big wince.
“We have fun as a group … we preach that,’’ Goff said. “We preach execute and have fun and enjoy it.’’
It’s as spirit that spread to famed coordinator Wade Phillips’ defense, which played with an edge rarely seen in last year’s eventually dispirited group. Even without its leader Aaron Donald, who didn’t end his holdout until last week, the defense scored three times, on pick-sixes by Trumaine Johnson (39 yards) and Joyner (29 yards) and on a safety by Morgan Fox.
No, they weren’t playing against Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who is still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. Yes, his replacement, Scott Tolzien, is a career backup who had never won a professional start.
That didn’t make it any less fun. And it didn’t make Joyner any less colorful when he talked about his leaping pick and sideline dash that essentially ended the game midway through the third quarter.
“I saw the quarterback peek over there and I just shot my gun,’’ he said.
Finally, it is a spirit that begins with McVay, 31, the youngest coach in NFL history who acted every bit his age, running around the sideline with his shirttail hanging out, from offense to defense to chugging a water bottle, always challenging and connecting.
McVay’s most impressive move occurred at halftime, when he stood still on the field for a minute to conduct a TV interview, then sprinted through and around the mass of players heading up the tunnel, looking like one of the best athletes in the bunch.
“I like to think I’m in decent shape running around with these guys,’’ McVay said with a smile. “But yeah, that 12 minutes goes quick, so you’ve got to be able to get up there, get in there and I’m not used to doing those interviews at halftime.’’
In the end, McVay’s first career coaching win was honored by the customary sports-drink shower by Whitworth and linebacker Alec Ogletree, but the kid boss wants you to know he was quick enough to get out of the way.
“I could have avoided it if I wanted to, but I felt like I kind of had to take it,’’ he said.
Of course he did, because it was cool, and it was fun, and for this first day at least, it embodied the Rams, exclamation point and all.