When Sean McVay was hired as the Rams head coach earlier this year, one of the first tasks on his agenda was to beef up the team's wide receiving corps, providing second-year quarterback Jared Goff with a slew of new offensive weapons.
On Thursday night, it seemed as though that effort had paid off for the Rams offense, as the team left the Bay Area with a 41-39 win over the 49ers. Wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods each recorded over 100 receiving yards, marking the first time since 2006 that the Rams had two receivers reach the 100-yard mark in a single game.
While the first two weeks of the season were tough for the former Bills' receivers — as each struggled to find a rhythm offensively — both appeared to hit their stride on the prime time stage.
"Those two players made some big time plays for us [tonight]," McVay said postgame. "I want to say they both had seven targets and came away with six catches and I think Jared is getting more and more comfortable with those two."
"Those guys have been tremendous since they got here," Goff added. "To get a chance to see them come alive today was really huge."
And come alive they did. Even with the short turnaround for Thursday's game, both showcased their dynamic playmaking abilities.
Woods finished the night with six catches for 108 yards including, a season-long 31-yard reception and an impressive 25-yard catch-and-run late in the third quarter. That play would set up the Rams for a touchdown to put them ahead 34-20.
"I felt like we were just out there playing," Woods said of his performance. "I didn't know numbers or whatever. We were just going out there and making plays, just doing our assignment and the ball was finding us. Jared put up some nice balls for us to catch and I think we were doing that."
Watkins finished with six receptions for 106 yards and two touchdowns. Although the receiver has only been with the Rams for just over a month, he has built a strong chemistry with his quarterback. On the first drive of the third quarter, Goff found Watkins on a beautiful deep ball, where the receiver managed to reel it in over his shoulder in double coverage for a 47-yard gain.
"Unbelievable," McVay said of the overhead catch. "Great body control. You know I heard the announcer say 'a Willie Mays type catch,' where you're tracking it over the inside and then over your outside shoulder kind of like a deep center fielder."
"But those are the types of plays that make Sammy a special player. That's why he is who he is," McVay continued. "I think it was exciting to see a handful of plays he made. Anytime you're targeted seven times and you come away with six catches, a couple touchdowns and 100 plus yards, that's going to be a big deal. But to be able to make that big play down the field I thought was a huge spark for our offense at the time."
Later in the contest on 3rd-and-1 from the San Francisco one-yard line, Watkins lined up close to wide receiver Cooper Kupp who ran off of his defender, leaving Watkins open for his first touchdown as a Ram. Goff said that the team had attempted to run the same play twice, and though it failed the first time, they were able to capitalize on a good read by the receiver.
"You know we got the look on it on the previous play [and] Sammy came back to the huddle and said 'It's there, it's there,' Goff said. "He told me it was there and I didn't know if we were going to call it again, but we did. So I said, 'Okay,' and I trusted it. We got the same look out there and Sammy was ready, he was there."
McVay, who had spent the last three seasons as the Redskins offensive coordinator, compared Watkins' playmaking abilities with those of wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who is widely known as one of the top-ten deep threats in the NFL.
"Really being fortunate to be around a guy like a DeSean Jackson in Washington with his ability to track the ball down the field is rare and elite," McVay said. "I thought [Sammy's catch] was similar to some of those types of catches that I had seen DeSean make. But really a huge respect for Sammy being able to make that play. It was really well defended actually, too. It had to be thrown in a perfect spot and those are the type of throws and catches that you have to be able to make against a good defense like San Fran is."
But Watkins and Woods' performances did not only impress their head coach, their fellow teammates also took notice. Running back Todd Gurley characterized them as "explosive guys that can make plays together" and said they have played a huge role in the offense's progression as a whole.
"They have been doing a great job for us in helping us out," Gurley said. "I mean Rob had an insane catch on the sideline, I don't know how he was able to catch that, and then Sammy felt what I felt on the goal line trying to get up in there on the second touchdown. So just to have those guys [with us] it definitely helps everyone out."
Woods said he hopes to continue contributing to the offense moving forward, but expressed his confidence in the versatile receiving group as a whole.
"That's our offense, we want to just keep it like that, keep it balanced. You don't know who is going to strike at any time. I think now when teams play us, they can't hold the box, they can't play outside. So just have to keep being balanced and I think it will open up our offense to keep scoring points like that."
Check out the best photos from the Rams' Week 3 victory over the 49ers.