We’ve just about made it to the midway point of the NFL season and one team remains standing with an undefeated record: none other than the 8-0 Los Angeles Rams. It’s been a long road for the Rams to get to a position where they can consider themselves contenders, but there’s no doubt they’re in that conversation now. Last season under the guidance of the league’s youngest head coach, Sean McVay, the Rams broke out with an 11-5 record and the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 2004. Now with a stacked offense and a star-studded defence, playoffs have quickly shifted to the minimum expectation rather than the goal.
The Rams continued their roll this past Sunday afternoon with an impressive win over the Aaron Rodgers led Green Bay Packers. It was a slow start for the Rams as they stumbled out of the gate and found themselves in a 10-0 hole after the first quarter. In a year where they’ve been able to pick apart defences in the passing game and run over people with Todd Gurley, it was the Rams defence that struck first on the scoreboard when they swallowed up Aaron Jones in the end zone for a safety. This moment seemed to swing the momentum of the game and the Rams were able to overcome their slow start. A 21-3 run was sparked following the safety and Jared Goff managed to get comfortable, hooking up with Josh Reynolds for a pair of touchdown passes. Reynolds, apart of a receiving corps including Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, is largely an afterthought when thinking of the Rams passing game, but has been thrust into a larger role with the MCL sprain Kupp suffered back in week six. This marked the second straight week that Kupp has been inactive, and his chances to suit up for week nine don’t look great.
The story of the offense, however, is once again the dominant play of Gurley. The fourth-year MVP candidate out of Georgia is a force on the ground that no other team in the league possesses anything close to (especially with Le’veon Bell still without a contract in Pittsburgh). The true definition of a three-down back, Gurley has been a workhorse and his touchdown against the Packers on Sunday (his 15th of the season, unbelievably) represented the 11th straight game he has found the end zone dating back to late last season. The streak tied Gurley with Elroy “Crazylegs” Hirsch for the longest in franchise history. Oh, and those 15 total touchdowns through eight weeks is also a franchise record.
Despite all of these scores being in the spotlight, it was a play where Gurley didn’t get a touchdown that was actually most notable. With the Rams holding a 29-27 lead with just over one minute left on the clock on the Green Bay 21 yard line, Gurley burst through a hole and had a sure touchdown in his sights. Knowing that all the Rams needed to seal the victory was a first down, Gurley elected to kneel and let the clock run out instead of tacking on some additional points and giving the Packers another chance to gain possession with some time on the clock. For an incredibly smart play, it was one that received an enormous amount of backlash from the sports community, mainly those involved in fantasy sports and gambling. This is because had Gurley decided to waltz into the end zone, the Rams -7.5 betting line would’ve paid out as well as the ‘over’ on the pregame total of 58 points — a terrible beat if you were on the losing end. Gurley didn’t seem to care though, as he said after the game “Man, forget fantasy and forget Vegas today. We got the win, so that’s all that matters.”
The Rams are set to face the 6-1 New Orleans Saints this Sunday in what is setting up to be a potential NFC Championship game matchup and one of the better clashes we’ll see this season.
Jackson Out — The Browns finally cut ties with head coach Hue Jackson on Monday morning. It’s kind of a surprising move when you consider that he had already doubled his win total of the the past two seasons combined just eight weeks in. Then you remember they went 1-31 in that stretch, ouch.
Hunt Hurdles — Do yourself a favour and look up the clip of Kareem Hunt’s touchdown against the Broncos on Sunday. Just ridiculous athleticism on display there and he may have a case for the play of the year a couple months from now.
Hooked on a Thielen — The Vikings lost 30-20 to the Saints, but Adam Thielen recorded his eight straight game with over 100 receiving yards as he went 7/103/1. He also broke the record for most receptions in the first eight games of a season. What can’t this man do?