LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Rams' offense was stalled, facing constant pressure, failing on quintessential red zone opportunities and settling merely for three field goals through the first 35 minutes of Sunday's game. And it seemed as if everybody was shocked. Think about that for a second. Think about how strange that sounds; what it says about how far they have all come under first-year head coach Sean McVay.
The ensuing explosion, featuring Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins, seemed more like a formality than it did a revelation. The Rams are so deep in their revival that it seems as if they've forgotten what it felt like to be anything but a complete, dominant, Super Bowl-caliber football team. Their Week 10 win, the product of a 33-7 rout over the injury-riddled Houston Texans, was only the latest example.
The Rams are 7-2 for the first time since 2001, leading a division crumbling under the weight of injuries to Carson Palmer, David Johnson and Richard Sherman. Their plus-134 point differential leads the NFL. And over their past three games, they've outscored three clearly inferior opponents -- the Arizona Cardinals, New York Giants and Texans -- by a combined 93 points.
They rattled off 21 points over the course of nine third-quarter minutes in their latest triumph, and it was almost as if their locker room expected it.
"We weren't worried," Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald said after recording a sack for the fourth straight game. "We didn't panic at all."
The Rams won for the fourth consecutive time, but for only the third time at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum since returning to L.A. for the 2016 season. It was the Rams' first true home game in 35 days, and the optics didn't change. They sold 60,032 seats, roughly 5,000 shy of where they decided to cap tickets for the 2017 season and about a third of the true capacity at the Coliseum. They have yet to experience a significant upswing in interest from the nation's second-largest media market, but more performances like these should change that soon enough.
"I hope the people liked it," Rams quarterback Jared Goff said with a smile, after going 25-of-37 for 355 yards, three touchdowns and, for the sixth time in nine games, zero interceptions. "It was fun. We had a pretty good crowd there. They were loud. And I think we're still new. We're only two years into being in L.A., so, still building that fan base. But I think today it may have taken the next step. It had a little bit more of a family feel. Hopefully we can keep that going."
The Rams led by only a 9-7 score at the nine-minute mark of the third quarter, while pinned at their own 6-yard line, and then their offense finally got going.
It began, as it usually does in a McVay offense, with play-action passing. Goff faked a handoff to Todd Gurley and Woods ran a deep post. By the time Goff looked upfield, Woods was sprinting several yards behind cornerback Johnathan Joseph. He unleashed a deep ball that turned into a 94-yard touchdown, seven days after connecting with Watkins on a 67-yard touchdown.
"It's probably my longest play in NFL, college, high school -- 'Madden,'" Woods said, laughing. "It was a big play."
But it was only the beginning.
Two possessions later, Watkins made a 24-yard catch toward the middle of the field, then caught a screen pass, ran behind left tackle Andrew Whitworth and turned it into a 17-yard touchdown.
Two plays later, another touchdown.
The Rams' defense forced its third of four turnovers on the Texans' ensuing snap, when rookie outside linebacker Samson Ebukam recorded a sack that forced a fumble that was picked up by teammate Tyrunn Walker. On the Rams' next play, McVay dialed up some creativity. Goff faked a handoff to Gurley. Woods faked the jet sweep behind them, then sprinted back out to the right side, caught a pass in the flat and spun in for a 12-yard score.
"To be honest, I'm glad we went through adversity at the beginning of this game," said cornerback Trumaine Johnson, part of a defense that limited the Texans to 283 yards. "We've been beating teams down. But I'm glad we went through it and I'm glad we overcame it. You see when we start putting points on the board, it goes quick."
Woods, a USC star who spent many weekend afternoons at the Coliseum, finished with eight catches for 171 yards and two touchdowns. Goff, who entered 10th in the NFL in Total QBR, has gone 61-of-96 for 901 yards, eight touchdowns and only one interception over the last three games.
The Rams have scored 30 or more points in six of nine games this season.
They scored 30 or more points in five of 48 games from 2014 to 2016.
"The guys have done a good job," said McVay, critical of himself for his decision-making through the first half. "To be able to go through the nine games and get seven wins is a credit to our players."