LOS ANGELES -- It's easy to forget, but the Los Angeles Rams started 3-1 last season before everything began to crumble. Now here they are, 2-1 after a thrilling, nail-biting road win over the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday night. But there's a significantly heightened level of enthusiasm about this team that never presented itself last year -- from the players, from the front office, from the fans, from the country.
It's all about the offense.
The Rams, now under the guidance of offensive mastermind Sean McVay, already have two 40-point games this season. They totaled two 40-point games over the previous 10 years. In that 10-year stretch, from 2007 to 2016, the Rams never once finished a season within the top 20 in offensive DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average). They finished their previous two years dead last in the NFL in yards. Last year, they totaled 63 points while going 3-1. This year, they've totaled 107 points while going 2-1.
Get the picture?
"It feels good, man, it feels good," Rams running back Todd Gurley said after Thursday's 41-39 win. "We haven’t been able to put up points like that since Marshall and them left."
"Marshall" is Marshall Faulk, who starred for the Greatest Show on Turf -- the Rams teams that went to two Super Bowls and scored a whopping 1,569 regular-season points in a three-year stretch from 1999 to 2001.
That brings up an interesting question: Is this offense, inept in every way imaginable last season, already the Rams' best since those Kurt Warner-led glory days of the Greatest Show on Turf? It's still way too early to tell. (And keep this in mind: The defenses for the Rams' three opponents -- the Colts, Redskins and 49ers -- all rank within the bottom 11 on ESPN's Football Power Index.) But some of the numbers do support that claim.
The last time the Rams had 100 points through the first three games of a season was 2000, when they scored 119 over the first three games (and 262 over the first six).
On Thursday, Jared Goff became the first Rams quarterback since Warner to complete more than 75 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and zero interceptions.
That same night, Gurley became the first Rams running back since Faulk in 2001 to have two rushing touchdowns and one receiving touchdown in a half.
Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods each had more than 100 yards receiving at Levi's Stadium. It marked the first time two Rams receivers registered 100 yards in the same game since 2006. The two who did it: Isaac Bruce and Tory Holt, the two other key members from the Greatest Show on Turf.
The Rams' front office began reconstructing their offense at the start of the year. The first and most important step was hiring McVay, a 31-year-old star in the making who understands offenses at a level few others can. McVay then brought in a couple of experienced coaches to help get the most out of Goff, hiring Matt LaFleur to be his offensive coordinator and Greg Olson to be his quarterbacks coach. It was a significant upgrade in experience from a Jeff Fisher-led staff that entered the 2016 season with a combined one season of coaching NFL quarterbacks.
Then came the players.
The Rams went from one of the game's worst left tackles (Greg Robinson) to one of the game's best left tackles (Andrew Whitworth) and added veteran center John Sullivan, who helped run McVay's offense in Washington last year. That offensive line has limited Goff's sack total to just three in his first three games, after he absorbed 26 of them in seven games last year. The Rams also signed Woods, a possession receiver, and Watkins, a vertical threat. They drafted an athletic tight end in Gerald Everett and a reliable slot receiver in Cooper Kupp, both of whom have already made an impact.
Said Goff: "There's no limits or expectations on ourselves."
Goff had a 92.3 Total QBR on Thursday, by far the best mark of his career (his previous high was 65.7 in this season's opener). He went 22-of-28 for 292 yards and three touchdowns in his return home. Gurley, meanwhile, ended a 20-game stretch without triple-digit rushing yards. He gained 113 yards on 28 carries and another 36 yards on five catches. He already has six touchdowns in a span of 12 quarters this season after scoring six touchdowns in a span of 64 quarters last season.
"The system," Gurley said when asked why this offense is clicking so well. "Coach McVay has been doing a great job, the offensive coaches, and we’ve all been able to just buy in."
The Rams' defense has given up 66 points in the past two games, and their special teams coughed up the football three times on Thursday. But these are strong areas for the Rams. Chances are both will improve. The big question heading in was the offense. McVay is already working wonders there, and one would think that the Rams -- the NFL's second-youngest team -- will only get better with more time in a new scheme.
Aaron Donald, who pretty much ended Thursday's game with his first sack, was asked if this is the best offense the Rams have had in the three seasons he has been here.
"For sure," Donald said. "McVay -- whatever he's doing, just keep doing it."