After more than 30 days away, the Rams will return home to the Coliseum on Sunday to face off against the Texans. At 6-2, Los Angeles is off to its best start in more than a decade and will look to improve upon that record with another win in Week 10.
So far, L.A. has won three straight games to take sole possession of first place in the NFC West standings. And while it may be easy to look towards the team's promising future, head coach Sean McVay has instilled a "one game at a time" approach that has worked well for the team thus far.
"One of the things that we do is we take one game at a time, one day at a time," McVay said. "I think we're pleased with the progress that we've made [and] we'll see if we can continue that. But it [will be] a good challenge against the Houston Texans."
Because the Texans are the NFL's youngest franchise — established in 1999 and playing their first game in 2002 — the Rams do not have much history with the club. Overall, the Rams lead the all-time record, 2-1, with a 38-13 victory in their last matchup in 2013.
Check out photos of the Rams taking on the Houston Texans throughout the years.
But much has changed for the Rams since their last contest with the Texans. Only nine players who were on the roster in 2013 are currently with the franchise. On Sunday, the Texans will face a rejuvenated L.A. team with a variety of new faces, including quarterback Jared Goff.
The reigning NFC Offensive Player of the Week is coming off one of the best performances in his career, throwing for 311 yards and four touchdowns against the Giants.
"He continues to grow and that's demonstrated by a variety of things in that game," McVay said. "I thought he handled and managed the [Giants'] game extremely well. So, I think there's plays that start to demonstrate week-in and week-out why he's making steps in the right direction."
This week, Goff and company will be taking on a Texans defense that has lost several of its most dynamic players, including defensive end J.J. Watt and outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus — both of whom are both out with season-ending injuries. The Texans will also be without their starting defensive end Joel Heath, who is out with a knee injury.
Injuries aside, Houston has been good against the run this season, allowing just 96.0 yards per game, which ranks No. 9. But it has struggled against the passing game, where the Texans are giving up 243.1 yards per game, which ranks No. 21. In all, wide receiver Robert Woods said Houston represents one of the toughest units to match up against.
"They have a lot of big injuries on their defense with Watt being down," Woods said. "But they are still one of the top defenses on third downs. They have defensive end Jadeveon Clowney on the edge causing problems and a very experienced secondary, so a very talented defense when you watch them on film."
In order to be successful, Goff says the Rams will need "to continue to execute our game plan," focusing on spreading the football to their wide variety of offensive weapons. Right guard Jamon Brown echoed his quarterback, saying that "as long as we do what we're supposed to do and play Rams' football, then we'll be okay."
On offense, the Rams will be without their No. 2 running back Malcolm Brown who is out for the next few weeks
as he rehabs an MCL injury. Lance Dunbar is expected to step in as Todd Gurley's primary backup, and should be able to bring his adaptability to the playing field.
"I think part of the reason we brought him here is he's a pretty versatile guy out the backfield," offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur said. "He's got very good receiving skills and he's a guy that's been in the league for six years, so he's got that veteran experience as well."
Defensively, the Rams have strung together a series of consistent performances, holding opponents to an average of 301.3 yards and 11.3 points in their three-game winning streak. Cornerback Trumaine Johnson said that "building chemistry with the defensive scheme and coordinator Wade Phillips" has been key to the unit's success.
"We're coming together and you can see it these last three or four games," Johnson said.
This week, Los Angeles will face a Texans' team that will be without its starting quarterback Deshaun Watson. Watson underwent surgery for a torn ACL on Wednesday and will be out for the remainder of the season. In his place is quarterback Tom Savage, who started the Texans' first game of 2017 before Watson replaced him to start the contest's third quarter.
"Deshaun was a big part of the team in their offense and how they ran things," middle linebacker Alec Ogletree said. "[But] they still do some of the same stuff with Savage in there. We just have to continue to be us on defense and try to limit the run game, stop them from throwing the ball deep on us and just play our game."
Although the unit will no longer have to gameplan for Watson, it will still face a tough task in containing the Texans' wide receivers. DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller have combined for 1,004 yards and 15 touchdowns so far this season.
"Fuller's got great speed. He's just so fast that he runs good routes," Phillips said. "And then Hopkins is everything — he's an elite receiver. He can run, he's powerful and he can catch anything. So it's a problem with having two wide receivers like that."
But the Rams secondary seems up for the task. Johnson who recorded his 18th career interception last week was excited for the challenge, as was strong safety John Johnson III.
"Hopkins is a tremendous athlete," Johnson said. "He's fast, a first-round pick. I can't wait, it's going to bring some great matchups."
"I played against Fuller in college," Johnson III said. "He's a fast guy and we just can't let him get behind us that's the biggest thing."
For just the third time this season, the Rams could be without one of its starters on defense. Though L.A. has been very fortunate on the injury front, starting outside linebacker Robert Quinn is doubtful for Sunday's contest as he continues to deal with an illness. Luckily, the Rams have some depth at the position with Matt Longacre and Samson Ebukam able to step in if needed.
Overall, the Rams will look to remain consistent with a big win over the Texans on Sunday. Should L.A. take the contest, it would mark just their third win in 11 regular-season games at the Coliseum since the start of the 2016 season. Kickoff for Sunday's contest is scheduled for 1:05 p.m on CBS. The game will be simulcast on KCAL 9.