Alden Gonzalez, ESPN Staff Writer 16d

Sean McVay's culture change has Rams rolling at midseason

Here's a look at the first half of the season for the Los Angeles Rams and a preview of what to expect in the second half.

First-half snapshot: At 6-2, the Rams are off to the kind of start few could've ever foreseen. Their offense, last in the NFL in yards each of the previous two years, has operated as one of the league's best. And their defense is starting to resemble the dominant unit that was expected under coordinator Wade Phillips. In half a year, Sean McVay, the youngest head coach in modern NFL history, has turned Jared Goff into a capable starting quarterback, helped Todd Gurley recapture his dominant form and changed the Rams' entire culture. Grade: Near perfection.

Midseason MVP: The question was whether he could get back to being who he was as a rookie, but Gurley has been even better than that. He's running more efficiently than he did in 2015, when he finished with offensive rookie of the year honors, and factoring into the passing game like he never has. Gurley already has 10 total touchdowns, four more than all of last season, and has gained an NFC-leading 1,024 yards from scrimmage. He has benefited largely from a better passing attack, the product of significant improvements along the offensive line and at wide receiver. But Gurley himself has taken his game to another level after a disappointing 2016.

Best moment: The moment you knew Goff was a capable NFL quarterback? Probably the night of Sept. 21, while playing in front of family and friends at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Goff torched his hometown San Francisco 49ers in an eventual 41-39 thriller. He went 22-of-28 for 292 yards, 3 touchdowns and zero turnovers, posting a 145.8 passer rating that was -- until Sunday's dismantling of the Giants -- the highest of his career. He stepped up into the pocket to air a 47-yard deep ball to Sammy Watkins, delivered a 31-yard dart off one foot to Robert Woods and never got rattled as the game got close.

Worst moment: The Rams committed five turnovers, most of them avoidable, Oct. 8 at home against the division rival Seattle Seahawks. Cooper Kupp, their sure-handed rookie slot receiver, still had the potential winning touchdown in his hands. And he dropped it. On third-and-10, with 12 seconds left and the ball at the Seahawks' 20-yard line, Kupp ran a skinny post and got free near the end zone. Goff's throw was zipping toward him as soon as Kupp came out of his route, but the ball ricocheted off his fingertips on a diving attempt. The Rams lost 16-10, and now the Seahawks own the tiebreaker.

Second-half outlook: The Rams' schedule gets tougher, with five of their eight remaining opponents sporting a winning record. They're on the road against the Minnesota Vikings, Tennessee Titans and Seahawks, and at home against the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles -- all teams that could end up winning their respective divisions. But the Rams are fully healthy, a luxury few teams benefit from at the midway point. Their offense should only grow under McVay; their defense should only get better under Phillips. But as veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth said, "The standard needs to keep rising."

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