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Rams' 4-1 start aided by strong execution on opening offensive drives

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. –– Look at any of the teams who have enjoyed success through the first five weeks of this season, and chances are they're executing better than most teams on offense or defense, or both.

For the 4-1 Rams, point to the former.

Heading into Sunday Night Football against the San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles has scored a touchdown on four of their five opening drives – most in the NFL entering Week 6.

"I think it's the execution," Rams head coach Sean McVay said during a video conference before Wednesday's practice. "The guys have come out, they've been ready to go. And really, with the one drive we didn't score an opening touchdown on, Buffalo did a nice job, but we were in a position to be able to score points."

Just how crisp has that execution been? Look no further than how manageable the majority of their second and third downs have been on those opening series:

  • Week 1: No down and distance longer than 2nd and 6, 3rd and 1. 10.7 yards per play.
  • Week 2: 2nd and 8, 3rd and 2. 8.2 yards per play.
  • Week 3: 2nd and 10, 3rd and 5. 5.3 yards per play.
  • Week 4: 2nd and 8, 3rd and 8. 5.4 yards per play.
  • Week 5: 2nd and 16, 3rd and 7. 7.6 yards per play.

Furthermore, Los Angeles' offense has yet to commit a penalty on an opening series. Until Week 5, they had faced just one third down on an opening series; even against Washington, it was only two.

"I said this postgame, but I think we run some of our best stuff in that first drive," Rams quarterback Jared Goff said during a video conference before Wendesday's practice. "We obviously have some stuff that we want to get up throughout the game and set things up certain ways. But a lot of times in that first drive is some of our best runs, our best play actions, our best keepers, our best screens. It's a mix and match of some of the stuff that we really have loved throughout the week. It's always good to start fast and something that we put an emphasis on."

That kind of execution, according to Rams tight end Gerald Everett, is the expectation for the unit.

"That is the type of team we are, that's the type of offense that we are," Rams tight end Gerald Everett said. "That's the standard that we have here for each and every individual in the unit and that's what we demand of each other."

Different NFL teams have different philosophies on how they design their opening drives.

Some script their opening series to get a feel for the defense's gameplan, others compile plays they want to run based on the offense's level of comfort and execution during practice that week. The Rams fall into the latter category, getting a sense of those plays by the end of the week.

"I think Coach McVay has got such a great feel early on in games, dialing things up that our guys feel really good about, positive about," Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell said during a video conference before Thursday's practice. "Maybe gaining information inventory, whatever it may be, but the way we do it here is a really great way and I think our players have shown just by what they've done early on in football games, that it works for us really well."

The Rams offense will need that same sharpness this Sunday against a 49ers defense that ranks fifth in the NFL in total defense despite losing several key players to injury.

Whatever they choose to run the first time they take the field in Santa Clara, Los Angeles wide receiver Robert Woods is confident it will produce results similar to previous weeks.

"I feel like we think everything's gonna work," Woods said. "We're going out there and playing fast and executing. And I feel like once we go out there and we're running our first few plays just starting off the game, we're setting the tone for for everyone attacking the rest of the game."

The Rams were back on the practice field in preparation for their first divisional matchup against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday Night Football.

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