"For me, it’s Robert Woods who’s leading this group," Watkins said after Sunday's 33-7 win over the Houston Texans. "The way he practices, the way he plays the game, the way he does everything moves this wide receiver group. He’s a pro. I had to push my game up the way he was competing. That’s what all of us are doing."
The Rams are determined to spread the ball around, but Woods has led the team in receiving yards in five of the first nine games. That included the Week 10 victory, which saw him haul in eight of his 10 targets for a career-high 171 yards and two touchdowns. It marked the most receiving yards by a Rams player since Torry Holt had 200 in a game against the San Francisco 49ers in 2003.
The first was a 94-yard score, when Woods sprinted past Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph on a post route to record the longest offensive touchdown by the Rams since 1964.
For Woods, it was "probably my longest in NFL, college, high school -- 'Madden.'"
Later, Woods scored on a play even "Madden" couldn't dream up. Jared Goff faked a handoff to Todd Gurley while Woods sprinted toward the backfield as if he were going to take the football on a jet sweep. After the fake, Woods darted back to the outside, caught a pass in the flat, turned upfield and spiraled in for a 12-yard score.
Woods didn't find the end zone through the first seven games, but he has scored four touchdowns in the last two weeks, one of which was a 52-yard catch-and-run on 3rd-and-33.
Said Rams coach Sean McVay: "I don't think we can talk about Robert Woods as a possession receiver anymore after the last couple weeks."
"He's been huge," Goff added. "He's been as big as anybody on this team. Take everything he does on Sundays away, it's been truly impressive seeing him day in and day out -- the way he works, the way he brings guys along. His attitude daily and the way he communicates with me is impressive. I'm happy to have him, and I know he's happy to be here."
Goff is happy to have both of the former Buffalo Bills receivers. Watkins scored on a 17-yard screen pass on Sunday, seven days after hauling in a 67-yard bomb from Goff. Over the last two games, Goff has thrown six of his seven touchdown passes to Woods and Watkins. When targeting those two throughout the year, Goff is completing 66 percent of his passes and averaging 10.9 yards per attempt while accumulating eight touchdowns and zero interceptions.
But it's Woods who is seeing the biggest workload. He leads the Rams in targets (57) and receptions (39), and he easily leads in receiving yards (622).
Watkins is good with it.
"It's fun," said Watkins, who has 21 catches for 372 yards and four touchdowns. "My job is so easy. Everything is not on me like it was in Buffalo. I'm out there just playing, having fun, running routes, blocking."
Woods, 25, believed in the Rams' offense at a time when few others did. The L.A. product and former USC star chose to return home as a free agent, joining the Rams by signing a five-year, $34 million contract the first day he could. Woods began working with Goff immediately, catching passes from him at high schools and colleges near the Rams' facility leading up to the start of the offseason program in early April.
The results are playing out on the field.
Over his last five games, Woods has hauled in 27 of 37 targets for 436 yards. His last two games have been two of the very best of his career.
"It feels good, being able to come to a new team and contribute, be part of a winning team," Woods said, whose new team is 7-2 and leading the NFL in point differential. "But really it's just working hard with these guys and coming out and seeing it pay off on Sundays is the biggest thing, because we've worked hard for it. We've been working since the summer, and it's finally clicking."