On the list of secondary goals for the 2021 season, beating the San Francisco 49ers was primary.
Perhaps that's true every year. Apart from winning the Super Bowl, topping the NFC, ruling the division – you know, the big picture goals – rivalry outcomes really provide the flavor of a season.
And it's been too long since the Rams had bragging rights in this series.
8-2 going into the bye, with a few extra days to savor the satisfaction? That would put Tennessee in the rear-view mirror.
Conversely, 7-3 with back-to-back losses, and a long week to stew over the slippage? And then another two months before your next chance against the Niners?
Yeah, this is more than just one game.
We've buried the lede.
Cast off by Cleveland, Los Angeles inked Odell Beckham Jr. this week.
And this is where I am tempted to dig out some old receipts. You know, the tweets and sound bites that said the facility in Thousand Oaks would spontaneously combust from the perceived volatility of Dante Fowler, Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, Ndamukong Suh, Brandin Cooks, Jalen Ramsey…
But why go there?
Instead, let's relish the fact that the Rams continue to go for it; that key personnel (Ramsey, Von Miller, Matthew Stafford, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp) appear enthused and even played an active role in landing a new teammate; and that OBJ chose Los Angeles from a nice list of contenders.
For the next three months, at least, Beckham and these Rams are perfectly aligned to put up big numbers and chase a championship.
Ideally, he'll have an Antonio Brown-to-the-2020-Buccaneers-like impact on the 2021 Rams.
And Another Thing
Even if he doesn't make a single catch with the Rams, at least he won't make a single catch AGAINST them. Keeping OBJ away from Green Bay or any other franchise that could present a postseason obstacle is a win.
All About The Fit
Among the early reactions that caught my eye, was this Next Gen nugget about how Beckham pairs with Stafford's style.
Having just celebrated a 29th birthday, the receiver gets to play with a quarterback who can put it anywhere on the field. Meantime, the 33-year-old signal-caller now has a target who can go get it in a way very few of his peers across the league can.
Running On Empty
No part of me believed the Rams were about to deviate very far from their 11-personnel base. But Sean McVay was starting to take some heat externally for limited personnel groupings (at a time when his next-best options at tight end and receiver have combined for three career NFL receptions).
Suddenly he's treated to the most innovative opportunity of his career.
How to deploy Beckham, Kupp, Woods, Van Jefferson, Tyler Higbee, and Darrell Henderson Jr.?
To start, go ahead and double down on the league-high rate of empty sets. Play with four receivers, and take a back or tight end off, when necessary.
Former Rams summer camper Dan Orlovsky hinted at a creative solution, here. Surely McVay had no shortage of them to offer OBJ in his sales pitch.
Their first game together can't come soon enough.
As for the Niners and the way that series has been trending lately, here's where the change at quarterback for L.A. needs to pay off.
The last two years, Jared Goff committed at least one giveaway in all four losses to San Francisco. In those games, only once did he pass for more than 200 yards and his highest passer rating was 85.7. As a result, the Rams trailed for large portions of those games and haven't held a lead of more than 11 points against the 49ers since 2018.
Quarterback play wasn't the only reason for the current losing streak against San Francisco. But it was the most pervasive and consequential factor.
Let's see how the tables might turn with Stafford at the controls, especially if the Rams can play from in front and force Kyle Shanahan to call the game a bit differently than he has the past four meetings.
Cabo, No He Didn't
And it's worth remembering Shanahan’s reaction to the January trade.
"I know how good of a guy you got," a clearly envious 49ers head coach told McVay and Peter Schrager this summer, not long after he'd selected his quarterback of the future.
As for the other quarterback in this matchup, the Rams have yet to defeat Jimmy Garoppolo, who holds a 4-0 mark against them. And if they don't act soon, they may not get another shot before rookie Trey Lance takes over.
For now, Garoppolo has been feeding third-year receiver Deebo Samuel, who ranks second to Cooper Kupp in receiving yards per game this season. In fact, according to ESPN, Monday will be the first matchup in NFL history involving two players averaging at least 110 receiving yards per game in Week 7 or later (we're currently in Week 10).
We still don't know if Von Miller will make his Rams debut on Monday Night. But after San Francisco lost talented right tackle Mike McGlinchey to a season-ending quadricep injury, the prospect of lining up over his replacement has to be enticing – whether it's Miller, Leonard Floyd, or both.
Finally, one of the great attributes of the McVay Era Rams is their resilience, seldom allowing an opponent to "beat them twice."
Per NFL Research, following a loss, McVay's Rams are 16-5 with a +175 point differential.
After a humbling (but informative) defeat at the hands of the Titans last Sunday, I can't wait to see their response in a rivalry game heading into the open date.