NASHVILLE — The Rams' postgame locker room was full of well-earned smiles, laughter, hats, and T-shirts, as the franchise clinched its first division title since 2003 with a 27-23 victory over the Titans.
"Last time I won a championship I was seven years old, so this is definitely a good feeling," defensive tackle Aaron Donald said. "Happy to be a part of this and enjoy it with these guys."
"I'm still sitting here just trying to wrap my mind around it," middle linebacker Alec Ogletree said. "But I'm excited, happy and just thankful and blessed to be a part of this for sure."
It's a remarkable turnaround for a team that finished 4-12 in 2016 and hired a first-time head coach in Sean McVay last January. But here the Rams are less than a calendar year later as NFC West Champions. And the team has done it in large part because of McVay's strong leadership.
"He came in and gave us a great spark of energy — been able to dial in and just work on everything, the little things," running back Todd Gurley said. "Just come in everyday with the mindset of working and getting 1 percent better everyday. And we've been able to accomplish that so far. It feels good.
"You know just everything he's done for us, for one — it's been so impressive," quarterback Jared Goff said of McVay. "He hasn't changed a bit, same demeanor, runs his business the same way everyday and I think it rubs off on the players and rubs off on me for sure."
As he always does, McVay was quick to credit others when asked how he felt about clinching the division.
"You're so happy for these players and coaches. Just to be able to share that feeling with these guys that we've accomplished one of our goals from the start of the season. And doing this gives ourselves a chance to compete and get into the playoffs and now we're ensured a home playoff game as well," McVay said. " I'm just so happy for those guys and just happy to be a part of it."
Many Rams players described this day as a long time coming. While much of Los Angeles' personnel has changed in 2017, plenty of Rams have been with the organization for years without even reaching a .500 record. Now, everyone in the locker room is a division champion.
"It means everything to me," offensive lineman Rodger Saffold said. "This is eight years of fighting for that top spot and finally being able to get it means everything to me."
"I would like to say I can speak for the guys that have been here with everything that we went through — putting some great pieces together, but just coming up short. With McVay and Wade [Phillips] leading this team, I don't what they did they just brought the best out of everybody," outside linebacker Robert Quinn said. "Brought some new guys in and everybody rose up to the challenge. So, honestly it starts upstairs. They instilled confidence within the players, within the system and guys just believed in what they were preaching. It's finally well worth the wait I'll tell you that."
The nature of the Rams' season-to-season turnaround makes for a headline-garbing story. But when asked on Sunday, many players said they weren't exactly surprised by what has transpired this year.
"Honestly I like to look at every day as a surprise. I never take tomorrow or today for granted," Quinn said. "But I mean if you look at it, a lot of the good group of guys that has been here, suffered and took some losses, but we had a lot of talent. It just didn't work out on the field. But like I said, McVay and Wade, they have two great systems. When you have a lot of good and great players to play in that system it just makes it that much better."
"I guess from the outside looking in, you could be surprised," Goff said. "But being on the inside of it and being there daily — seeing all the changes that have happened and gone in the right direction in this offseason, coming in through OTA's and through training camp with everything trending upwards [you're not surprised].
"But you never know how this whole season is going to play out," Goff continued. "We felt good about our year
coming into it and now we're sitting here division champs and we feel really good about it."
And even though winning the division was a clear team goal, there was also a prevailing sense that it was just one step in the process of what L.A. wants to accomplish this season.
"I won't be taking this for granted, which means I'm going to be putting in extra work to make sure that we can go even further," Saffold said.
"It feels good, but I know we've got more to do," defensive lineman Michael Brockers said. "That's what kind of team we are. We try not to focus on just one win and stay on that because we want to focus on the next opponent and we want to get ahead of them. So it's all about who's up next and what's the next goal."
But with the division in hand, everyone will allow a little time to enjoy it. That's particularly with Christmas falling on Monday.
"There's no better feeling," offensive lineman Jamon Brown said. "That was No. 1, I think, on our Christmas list and to get that gift accomplished is unexplainable."
Check out in-game photos from the Rams' Week 16 matchup against the Tennessee Titans in Nashville.