The Rams arrived back in Los Angeles safely from London on Monday afternoon, owners of a 5-2 record after going 2-0 on their 11-day road trip. Here are five takeaways from the second matchup, as L.A. shut out Arizona 33-0 at Twickenham Stadium on Sunday.
1) 'Goose Egg'
Those were the first words out of defensive tackle Aaron Donald's mouth when he was asked what the shutout meant to him postgame.
"Anytime you let the offense get zero points — definitely with the offense they have with the players on their offense, and you do something like that — it's confidence," Donald continued. "A lot to build off."
The Rams blanked the Cardinals for the first time since 1979, allowing only 193 yards, 10 first downs, and 3-of-12 converted third-down opportunities. Between Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton, Los Angeles sacked Arizona quarterbacks three times. The Cardinals had only one true opportunity to score on the game's opening drive — and Phil Dawson missed the 32-yard field goal.
"For us to do that all the way in another country against a division opponent — it definitely brings a lot of energy and a lot of confidence," middle linebacker Alec Ogletree said.
The defense was well aware it had a chance to keep a zero on the board, and discussed it on the sideline during the game.
"We were pretty much just telling each other, 'Don't get too comfortable — we still have a lot of football to play. Let's keep it where we're at,'" Donald said. "'They didn't score any points and if the offense keeps doing what they're doing we're going to win this game' — and we did."
2) Clear defensive progress
The Rams are allowing an average of 11 points over their last three games — 16 to Seattle, 17 to Jacksonville, and now zero to Arizona. It appeared the defense turned a corner against Dallas, surrendering just six points in the second half after the Cowboys scored 24 in the first. With Sunday's performance, that trend seems to be becoming more permanent.
"We're just getting better," Donald said on Sunday. "That's all it's about, getting better every week — not getting comfortable, and keep working on your technique, keep working on the game plan, staying in the film room, keep preparing, and we'll be alright."
Much of the progress can likely be attributed to the players and coaches getting a better understanding of one another in the new defensive scheme.
"[G]uys had to get a feel for it. And we're still working on it," inside linebacker Mark Barron said. "We came out and played a better game — we played good from the start, we actually started good this game. But we just have to keep on getting better and better each week."
After seven weeks, the Rams' defense ranks No. 15 in yards per game, No. 24 against the run, No. 11 against the pass, and No. 10 in points surrendered per game.
The numbers against the run were dramatically improved with Los Angeles allowing only 21 yards on 11 carries to Arizona running back Adrian Peterson on Sunday.
"I don't think it really matters who it is — I think we go out and play football the way we're supposed to play it, and be disciplined, and execute, and we'll come out with great results like we did tonight," Barron said.
3) Offense cleaned up third downs
One of the reasons Los Angeles' offense didn't have its usual production against the Jaguars In Week 6 was the unit's issues on third down. The Rams were only 4-of-13 in third-down efficiency in that game — a number head coach Sean McVay said "isn't nearly good enough when you've got 13 cracks at it" last Monday.
It appears the Rams made that a point of emphasis headed into Week 7, and that came through well with L.A. converting 13 of its 19 third downs against Arizona.
"The coaches, they bring things to us that allows us to focus on specific things," right guard Jamon Brown said. "In Jacksonville we struggled on third downs, so going into the following week the focus was to be better on third downs. So that's a credit to everybody on the offense, kind of just honing in and focusing in on third downs, knowing that, 'hey, it was a key point and it's a key point to success.' If we do those, the points the coaches highlight, then we will be successful."
4) Gurley continues to run well**
Running back Todd Gurley has eclipsed 100 yards rushing in four of Los Angeles' last five games — all of which have been victories. On Sunday, Gurley recorded 106 yards on 22 carries with a touchdown.
"Coaches and players, receivers, tight ends, and the line — those guys did a good job of getting me three, four, five yards per carry so those guys have been working their tail off all year," Gurley said on Sunday.
The Georgia product was asked about running with a sense of confidence, but in many ways turned the question around to continue to praise his teammates.
"It's not really confidence — just going out there and doing what I'm supposed to do," Gurley said. "The line has been doing a great job. I mean, obviously there is still a lot we can get better at. We need to focus on the things we didn't do instead of the things we did. But, like I said, those guys have been doing a great job of just opening up holes all year. Credit goes to those guys."
Through Week 7, Gurley is No. 2 with 920 yards from scrimmage, averaging 5.3 yards per play on his 172 touches. He's on pace for 1,434 yards rushing and 670 yards receiving.
5) A long, successful road trip
Any NFL team road trip that spans 11 days and two continents requires a lot of planning and effort from a lot of people. McVay gave a few shoutouts in his Tuesday press conference to those who aided in that preparation.
"To come away 2-0 is a great credit to, really, our organization as a whole – [Director of operations] Bruce Warwick and the travel staff and [Head of equipment] Jimmy Lake with the equipment. You look at [head strength and conditioning coach] Ted Rath, [head trainer] Reggie Scott — there is a lot of people that were involved to be able to make that as seamless as it was," McVay said. "Ultimately we wanted to come away with a 2-0 on those two games and we did that and we're in a good place right now."
What's more, staying in Jacksonville for four days before traveling to London could have presented myriad distractions for Los Angeles as a team. But that didn't happen, which shows from the Rams playing arguably their best game of the season on their 10th day away from home.
"We've got mature players," McVay said Sunday. "We've got high-character guys in that locker room and they knew that we were coming on a business trip. They did a great job of just staying one day at a time, focusing on our process that weekly, daily, and hourly rhythm and that was a credit to our players."
"Just a credit to our head coach … for having everything laid out, and guys coming in knowing that we still have to get the work done the way we need to get done and get ready to play," Ogletree said. "You just love the energy that's around, and guys enjoy playing. When you have that, it's easy to come in and work and we like being around each other."