ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Los Angeles Rams had won again, this time on the road against a very good Dallas Cowboys team in what qualified as their first real test of this young season. They had improved to 3-1, with an offense that can do no wrong and a defense that maybe -- just maybe -- is starting to find itself. But Trumaine Johnson, the Rams' franchise cornerback, wanted to remind his teammates of something.
"We're 3-1, but I remember that feeling when we were 3-1 last year and we won one game of the 12 after that," Johnson told them moments after Sunday's 35-30 win at AT&T Stadium. "Be humble."
It's hard not to think about how familiar this all seems, the 2016 Rams also 3-1 after a similarly tough road win (that one against the division rival Arizona Cardinals).
But this year's 3-1 feels a lot different than last year's 3-1.
"Aw, hell yeah!" Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald said, a big smile on his face -- and it's easy to see why.
By this time last year, the prevailing thought around the Rams was that they were lucky to be 3-1. Former head coach Jeff Fisher basically admitted it during a meeting with his coaching staff days later, in a moment that was played on Amazon Prime's "All Or Nothing" series, when he told them: "We stay doing what we're doing, we're not going to win another f---ing game."
The feeling around this year's Rams is that they're set up for long-term success, because their offense -- deadweight for the last decade -- is light years better.
The Rams, now overseen by the brilliant offensive mind of Sean McVay, have scored 142 points through their first four games, more than any team in the NFL and 79 more points than they scored through the first four games of 2016. Jared Goff (21-of-36 for 255 yards, two touchdowns and zero turnovers) has a 112.2 quarterback rating, nearly double his 63.6 mark as a rookie. Todd Gurley (121 rushing yards, 94 receiving yards and a touchdown) has an NFC-leading 596 yards from scrimmage with seven touchdowns, one more than he scored in 16 games last year.
Let's try to put it all in perspective:
The Rams are on pace to score 568 points, which would be the third-highest total of all time.
Goff is on pace to throw for 4,288 yards, fifth most in Rams history.
Gurley is on pace for 2,384 scrimmage yards, a total that has been topped by only three players.
"A win is a win," Tavon Austin said, "but I feel like we're going in the right direction. Everybody's contributing."
Austin, barely on the field because he's the fourth receiver on the Rams' depth chart, was able to pick up 48 yards on six carries Sunday. Cooper Kupp, the rookie slot receiver who has been a steal in the third round, hauled in five of seven targets for 60 yards and a touchdown. It was those two who stepped up in support of Goff and Gurley in Week 4, after Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods combined for 214 receiving yards in a Week 3 win over the San Francisco 49ers.
The Rams had to settle for Greg Zuerlein field goals seven times, but they gained 412 yards from scrimmage and topped 30 points for the third time in four games -- after doing so only once last year. They trailed by eight at halftime, but their defense held the Cowboys to six points in the second half and their offense held the ball for 10 minutes in the fourth quarter.
The Rams now have a plus-37 point-differential, after having a minus-13 point-differential through last year's 3-1 start.
"We keep playing like this," Donald said, "we’re going to do some special things."