Rams offense channels Greatest Show on Turf on TNF


The Rams outlasted the 49ers in a high scoring affair on TNF. What is making Sean McVay’s team and the Rams offense so much better in 2017?

The Rams offense fired on all cylinders in a wildly entertaining 41-39 win over the 49ers on TNF. Sean McVay’s influence as a play caller was again plain to see as Jared Goff and co lit up Levi’s Stadium. McVay’s offense put up 40 points for the second time in 2017 and have now scored 107 points through three games.

Only the 2000 Rams, otherwise known as the greatest show on turf, exceeded this number in franchise history. The young head coach, his second-year quarterback, and the plethora of offensive weapons available to them, carried the team to an impressive victory on the road in a short week.

Focusing on the Rams, what conclusions can we draw from this week’s edition of TNF:

rams offense
SANTA CLARA, CA – SEPTEMBER 21: Head coach Sean McVay of the Los Angeles Rams reacts to a play against the San Francisco 49ers during their NFL game at Levi’s Stadium on September 21, 2017 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

The McVay Effect

Sean McVay’s impact on the offense is already immense. The former Redskins OC has transformed the unit, both in personnel and playing style, and has them playing dynamic complimentary football.

They have been able to run the ball effectively, taking pressure of the young shoulders of Goff. But, the first overall pick from 2016 has shown big strides of improvement since year one and has opened up the passing game too.

Adding Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods has helped enormously, but Goff has certainly improved as a passer. McVay’s system is a big reason for this.

The Rams offense is far more diverse than under Jeff Fisher and Rob Boras. The playbook has clearly been altered with Goff’s strengths and weaknesses in mind.

The former Cal signal caller has already thrown as many touchdown passes through three games as he did in the whole of 2016. This clearly indicates that he is playing better, receiving better coaching and is surrounded by better players.

McVay has consistently put his quarterback in the position to make quick, short throws that don’t need him to read the defense on the go as much. But, the deep ball was also used against the 9ers. Having a target like Watkins who can go up and get contested balls, helps enormously in this respect.

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The balance between the pass and the run has been excellent. LA is averaging an impressive 374.3 passing yards per game and 95.3 rushing yards. This demonstrates McVay’s ability to work out ways to prominently feature both facets of the Rams offense.

The offense ranks first in the league in total offense in 2017, albeit having played a game more than most teams. However, they will likely still occupy a top ten spot after the conclusion of week three.

Contrastingly, the Fisher-led 2016 Rams ranked dead last in the NFL in this statistical category. They compiled a meagre 262.7 passing yards a game and just over 78 yards on the ground.

If this offensive excellence is sustained, it will be a truly remarkable turnaround and highlight the deficiencies of Fisher and his staff offensively. The Rams offense was a bottom five offensive team in four of Fisher’s five seasons at the helm.

And, in the remaining one, they finished 23rd. Hardly awe-inspiring.

Last year’s team also finished with a dismal turnover differential of -11, enough to place them 28th in the NFL. Through week three in 2017 they sit 15th and look far more in control across the offense.

McVay’s reputation as an offensive guru is certainly being upheld thus far. The 31-year-old has his team playing dynamic, well-balanced offense for the first time in nearly a decade.

The Rams scored 40 points or more only twice in the entirety of Fisher’s tenure. They have already matched that total after just three games under McVay. The dismal Colts and average San Francisco defenses they scored on should be taken into account. But, this only places further stress on the chasm in offensive production between this ever improving team and Fisher’s.

Rams offense

The re-emergence of Todd Gurley

The first year head coach has found a way to bring the best back out of Todd Gurley too. The third-year-pro regressed badly last season after a stellar rookie season in which he compiled over 1100 yards on the ground on his way to an offensive rookie of the year award.

Gurley averaged just 3.2 yards per carry in 2016 and looked a shadow of himself. In 2017, the former Bulldog has run with power and speed.

There is a feel good vibe among the group as well.

After the game Gurley said:

"“It feels good. We haven’t been able to put up points like that since Marshall [Faulk] and them left.”"

The increased use of Todd Gurley out of the backfield in the passing game is also an excellent addition to the Rams offense.

This allows Goff the option of dumping the ball out to his back in the flat when under duress. Additionally, he is able to use his receivers as decoys before finding Gurley on short wheel or swing routes as he did for a score on Thursday night.

Gurley already has 2 touchdown receptions in 2017, the first two of his career. The former Georgia standout is averaging 46.7 receiving yards per game. A far greater number than his first two years in the league in which he averaged 20.4 and 14.5 yards respectively.

He has already matched the six total touchdowns he scored last season in just three outings in 2017. With this, Gurley is the first player with six scores in the first three games of a season since former Lions All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson back in 2011.

The reemergence of Gurley has, in turn, helped Goff excel at times. The 22-year-old is still raw and has made some glaring errors, like the horrible game ending pick he tossed against Washington.

But, he too looks a shadow of the player he was in 2016. McVay has instilled composure and confidence in the young man. He is now armed with the kind of weapons that will help him get better.

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More weapons on offense

Tavon Austin was the number one target last year. This year he is arguably the fourth option. Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp have joined the cast and Goff is gelling superbly with them all.

Tyler Higbee looks like he could develop into a strong weapon over the middle too.

The former Bills pair of Watkins and Woods combined for over 200 yards and dominated the 49ers secondary all afternoon.

Goff’s rapport with Kupp in particular has flourished. The rookie wideout looks to be a good fit in the offense with the ability to line up out wide and in the slot.

McVay’s use of the versatile weapons at his disposal will only increase. So expect this to become one of the more creative offenses in the league as the year goes on and Goff develops further.

Thursday night’s win saw all the Rams weapons coming together to show what they can do. The defense struggled, and in the past that meant they lost.

But Mcvay’s team is different. Gurley had three scores, Watkins hauled in two and Goff put in a performance worthy of any number one pick in history.

Rams offense

Jared Goff’s development

He never stood much of a chance in 2016. With an offensively limited staff, few weapons to speak of in the passing game and awful protection from his O-Line. But, with all of those problems seemingly fixed this year, the number one pick in last year’s draft looks to have turned a corner for good.

292 yards, three touchdowns and a 145.8 passer rating summed up an outstanding game the QB1, by far the best of his young career.

Goff noted:

"“It was exciting to be here today and be in Levi’s Stadium, and obviously coming out with the win is the most important thing.”"

If McVay can continue to draw the potential out of this group, the Rams offense could be a top 10 unit in the NFL. We all saw what he did with Kirk Cousins in Washington, and Goff has far more natural talent than the Redskins QB.

The bust labels are slowly starting to peel off the former Cal quarterback. McVay has a lot to do with that. A 70.4% completion rate, and a touchdown to interception ratio of 5:1 are fantastic numbers to start the year.

If these numbers continue along the same kind of trend, accounting for some growing pains, Goff could end up having a pro bowl level year.

This Rams offense has the potential to develop into the franchise’s best since the days of Warner and Faulk.

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They have the right man at the helm, and a supporting cast with immense potential. McVay and Goff are leading the way with intelligent, diverse offense that can finally get this team over the years of stagnant offensive performances and compliment their fine defense.

The Niners win was another stepping stone. And, whilst they will likely face some tough losses along the way, the long-term future is bright in LA.