Last night’s game between the Los Angeles Rams and Minnesota Vikings was an offensive spectacle. The Vikings put up 31 points and 446 yards which would usually win you a game, especially with the defense they have on paper. But, they were going up against an absolute buzzsaw that can’t be stopped. After limiting LA to seven points and 254 yards last season, the Rams shredded the Vikings for 556 yards and 38 points and proved to us they were no fluke last season.
Over the first three weeks of the season, Los Angeles was putting up points, but you can see that they were still getting into gear because none of the first-teamers played a snap in preseason. But last night, in primetime under the bright lights against a team that had the top defense in the NFL during the 2017 season, the rust was officially shaken off.
They are the best show in the NFL right now, outside of the Kansas City Chiefs. But, the Chiefs offense isn’t built like the Rams, who might have an extra dimension to them. The Rams aren’t just a finesse air raid; they can get physical with the ground game and make sure to blend to two perfectly. But like the Chiefs, they can change tempos multiple times during a drive, and in doing so, are always putting on a show.
It’s like their offense is playing Madden on easy: it’s smooth, it’s automatic, it’s a well-oiled machine reminiscent of “The Greatest Show on Turf.” And how fitting is it that the two offenses are from the same franchise? “The Greatest Show on Turf” is arguably the most potent offense in the history of the NFL that was centered on quarterback Kurt Warner, running back Marshall Faulk, and wide receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce, from 1999-2001 when the franchise was back in St. Louis.
The Rams led the league in total offense multiple times and set, at the time, records. Records that have only been broken by just a couple of teams in today’s offense-friendly league. They were putting up all-time numbers when the rules weren’t so strict for defenses. You just couldn’t stop them. They had a Hall of Fame quarterback and running, along with two excellent wide receivers you can make a case that should be in the Hall.
You never knew which of Warner’s weapons was going to shine each week because they can beat you in so many ways. And today’s Rams have the chance to be just as good, if not better, and are showing just that. The Rams led the league in scoring in 2017, averaging 29.9 points, but this season, that number is up to 35 points through four games, while upping their scoring each game.
The personnel is excellent. They have a young quarterback in Jared Goff who is playing like an MVP and have given him the best wide receiver trio in the game where each member is on pace to crack over 1,000 yards.
Each can go for 100 yards any game, or any half. All three went for over 100 yards last night. Brandin Cooks is the number one guy, the explosive downfield threat who will burn anyone defending him but is also the threat in the short and intermediate passing games. Cooper Kupp is one of the best slot receivers in the game with some of the best hands in the NFL. And Robert Woods is their main intermediate receiver who was an underrated signing since coming over from Buffalo.
Oh, and you have some guy in the backfield named Todd Gurley, who happens to be arguably the best running back in American football and the reigning Offensive Player of the Year. And he is a threat in the passing game too. On any given night, in any given half or quarter, there will be a new hero that steps up from the four. Anyone of them will beat you, but no one knows who it will be.
Last night was the perfect example. Cooper Kupp owned the first half while Brandin Cooks and Todd Gurley were constant threats throughout the game. Robert Woods was quiet for a lot of the game, but then came out of nowhere and turned it on towards the end, ultimately finishing with over 100 yards and a touchdown.
That’s the beauty of the offense. You must respect both the running and passing attack. There is no perfect defensive formation because if you go with a nickel, dime, or quarter formation to matchup with their three receivers, the Rams will just run right through you. And if you choose to stay in base defense to stop Todd Gurley from running it, he can get out of the backfield and act as an excellent fourth receiver. And that is where head coach Sean McVay comes in.
Talent only means so much if you don’t have the head coach and offensive line, which may be the most essential ingredients to a great offense. McVay is regarded as the best or one of the two best play-callers and schemers in the game. He is a mad scientist playing, not only chess but three-dimensional chess, exploiting matchups in his favor. The constant pre-snap motions, play action fakes, and unique formations help create mismatches throughout the game.
Therefore, no perfect formation can slow down the offense. Last night, McVay found a soft spot in the Vikings’ defense, picking on linebacker Anthony Barr. Three of the touchdown passes were when Barr was the primary defender on the receiver. McVay wanted to isolate him to expose his lack of footspeed compared to the Rams’ weapons. The first touchdown came against a defense looking to stop the run, so he and Jared Goff decided to use Gurley in the passing game, who was able to beat Barr for a receiving touchdown.
But none of this is possible without having an elite offensive line, and the Rams may have the best one in football. Some lines are good at pass-blocking but not run-blocking, and vice versa. The Rams’ big guys are elite at both. Andrew Whitworth, Roger Saffold, John Sullivan, Austin Blythe, and Rob Havenstein deserve a shout out and should be appreciated. They are the building blocks of the offense. Robert Woods sure agrees.
“They should get credit for almost everything we’re doing,” Woods said. “Our run game comes off of them, our pass game comes off of them, they allow Jared to have time to stand tall in the pocket. They make his job easier. A lot of guys are given credit, but they’re the foundation.”
And Jared Goff knows he would not be having the same success if the unit was not giving him a clean pocket almost every snap.
“[I was] protected really well and I think that’s something we can talk about a little bit more is how well the offensive line is playing,” Goff said. “They’re playing the best in the league right now and I don’t think it’s really close. The last three or four games, I don’t know what the numbers are, but I’ve hit the ground maybe three or four times. I mean, even just hits, pressures. Not even sacks. Just all that stuff is incredible and they’re doing such a great job.”
They add the toughness element to an offense some could view as finesse, but that is far from the truth. The Rams’ offense is a mix of everything. They can go up-tempo or meticulously put together a drive and pick you apart to kill the clock and keep their defense fresh. They can go air raid with flashy play-calling but then mix in the toughness element with the ground game via Todd Gurley and those five offensive linemen.
The Rams don’t have any weakness from one-to-eleven on offense. They have the best O-Line in the league, a young quarterback ascending to elite status, the best running back in the game, arguably the best wide receiving trio in the NFL (statistically), and a brilliant play-caller. And what better place to put on a show than in LA? You can’t call then “The Greatest Show on Turf” because they play on grass, but you can definitely say that there has been a resurgence of “Showtime” in Los Angeles, but just not in the way you expected.