Sean McVay likes this team. Perhaps even more than he did before their first loss of the season.
I asked the Rams head coach if 2-1 this year feels better than the 3-0 start to 2019.
"You can get so caught up in some of the results that you lose sight of the process along the way," McVay said this week. "I do believe that we're a better team than we were last year at this time."
Of course, that's contingent on the results of Weeks 4 and 5. Both were losses a year ago. If the Rams get to 4-1 this season, that would indeed validate the sentiment McVay – and many of you—are expressing.
A Bar Graph Worth 1,000 Words
I love this illustration of how good the Rams offense has been. They are turning more first downsinto first downs than any team in football.
Running Down a Dream
Los Angeles is the most run-heavy team in the NFL on early downs, which is surprising. But not as surprising as their rival Seahawks being the most pass-happy team in the NFC.
Talk about a role reversal.
Hit the Hole
Offensive line coach and run game coordinator Aaron Kromer was on the Rams Revealed podcast this week and addressed one major offseason priority for this offense.
"The biggest thing with our running game is we're trying to hit every hole in the book," Kromer told me. "Outside to the right, outside to the left, mid, and right down the middle."
"What you're trying to do is keep the defense on edge."
So far, so good, in that regard. The Rams enter Week 4 as the most efficient offense in the NFL.
The Game Has Changed
A boon for offenses around the league has been a revised application of the rules.
As ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert puts it, "The NFL has never opened a season on the kind of scoring tear we've seen in 2020."
Offensive holding calls are down 59 percent while defensive pass interference is up 22 percent, one of the few penalties on the rise after three weeks.
No surprise, when combined with a lack of crowd noise and some underwhelming tackling, scoring is at historic levels.
The Los Angeles Rams were back out on the practice field on Thursday in preparation for their Week 4 game against the New York Giants. Check out the top photos from Thursday's practice.
Everywhere except the Meadowlands, that is.
The city of New York is 0-7, combined, following the Jets loss on Thursday. They and the Giants both appear on the Rams schedule this season.
So how does Los Angeles avoid a letdown against one of the worst opponents in the NFL?
Here's an entirely unsolicited suggestion: Why not play the 49ers this week?
San Francisco's junior varsity roster – with Nick Mullens at the helm – just put 36 points on the Giants and held them to single-digits. Can the Rams outperform that 36-9 score from last Sunday?
Taking a Timeout from Timeouts
Since becoming head coach of the Rams, McVay has spent more timeouts in the first and third quarters than just about any of his peers – often doing so on offense.
The sight of the former Georgia Player of the Year sprinting down the sideline to get an official's attention is a familiar one for Rams fans.
In many instances, those early timeouts are justifiable. Who knows what crises they've averted along the way?
Nonetheless, the experience in Buffalo was a poignant reminder of why coaches are typically loath to part with their timeouts before crunch time, or even the two-minute warning.
McVay acknowledged as much on his radio show Monday.
"Those are things that I think I do have to be critical and honest with myself about utilizing those in better times… and try to avoid those (early timeouts) as we move forward," McVay said.
These are Jared Goff's career splits in September:
12-3 record, 27 TD, 11 INT, 9.2 AY/A
September has been his best month, and it's not particularly close. More wins, his highest touchdown percentage, highest rating, and fewest sacks.
Now, more than any season prior, Goff seems poised to maintain his productive start in 2020. He's currently grading fourth in Pro Football Focus' rankings, putting him in the company of Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, and Patrick Mahomes.
Here's to October.
For the Rams to get to where they want to go, they need better play on the edge of their defense.
According to Pro Football Reference, Leonard Floyd is the only outside linebacker with so much as a pressure through three contests. (Note: They're missing Jachai Polite's rush versus Dallas, but the point still stands.)
And this isn't just about pass rush. It's very much about setting an edge in the running game, as well.
"We're always competing; we're always evaluating," McVay said of the position group this week.
Maybe more Polite is the answer. Or Obo Okoronkwo.
More likely, it's Justin Hollins' time. His snaps have been increasing each game since arriving from Denver. Like Floyd, he's played in this defense. And he's the highest-graded edge on the roster in limited sample size.
Now is the time to open up opportunities and evaluate more options in a game setting. The Giants are the league's worst pass blocking unit, according to Pro Football Focus. Hopefully, the debut of Terrell Lewis is fast-approaching. A trip to San Francisco definitely is.
If the Rams haven't figured it out before NFC West play begins, it could be a long season on defense.