Beat them once, shame on you. Beat them twice, shame on them.
Of all the dramatic improvements the Rams made in 2017, this one stood out: They never lost consecutive games in the regular season. That might not sound dramatic, but given the parity of the league and how quickly any type of losing streak can derail playoff chances, it’s an important factor.
So, here they are again. The Rams lost a thrilling game at New Orleans last week, and now they face Seattle in the Coliseum in a game that can all but wrap up the NFC West. The Rams aren’t going undefeated, but nobody will care as long as they channel their bounce-back abilities Sunday.
“Getting through that loss and then moving on, happened pretty quickly,” quarterback Jared Goff said. “So, I don’t think we’re still dwelling on that by any means. It’s a big division game for us.”
Five weeks after their narrow victory in Seattle, the Rams (8-1) remain in a great spot, and another win over the Seahawks (4-4) would create a 4 1/2-game gap in the division, and the Rams would hold a tiebreaker.
That’s not to say this one will be a walkover. The Rams needed a fourth-down quarterback sneak to clinch last month’s win at Seattle, and it’s been a difficult week, with a mass shooting and wildfires near their practice facility. The latter forced the Rams to miss their usual Friday morning practice.
If there’s been one staple under Coach Sean McVay, though, it’s preparation. McVay’s predecessor, Jeff Fisher, used to talk about the team’s “24-hour rule,” to put wins or losses behind the Rams, but after a while, it just seemed like a talking point without much follow-up.
In his postgame speeches to players (which usually are posted on the Rams’ website), McVay almost always mentions the next opponent and a need to focus going forward. It’s almost a slavish dedication to moving on, and it’s one reason the Rams went 4-0 in the regular season after losses last year.
“I think our players have done a nice job when you do face small forms of adversity, of not allowing that to affect us moving forward,” McVay said. “I think that’s a credit to both the coaching staff and the players. For us, it’s about moving forward in the right way.”
Yes, the Rams lost to Atlanta in the playoffs, a week after the regular-season-ending loss to San Francisco, but the Rams rested almost all their starters in the game against the 49ers. It was not a regular situation.
Otherwise, the post-loss Rams were impressive. A Week 2 loss to Washington was followed by a short week, Thursday night victory over San Francisco. A Week 5 loss to Seattle was followed by a road win over Jacksonville, which later made the AFC championship game. A Week 11 loss to Minnesota was followed by a win over New Orleans, and a Week 14 loss to Philadelphia was followed by a blowout win at Seattle.
The biggest danger for the Rams this week might be a Saints hangover. The Rams took an undefeated record into last week’s game at New Orleans, and the showdown between the NFC’s top two teams didn’t disappoint, as the Rams tied the game after a 21-point deficit, but couldn’t complete the comeback.
The Rams’ history under McVay indicates there won’t be a letdown, and coaches didn’t seem to sense one.
“If anything, there’s a little added work ethic this week,” offensive line coach Aaron Kromer said, “but it would be a small tick, because these guys come to work every week. You never saw them slow down in the wins, and you really don’t see a whole lot of change in attitude with the situation we’re in right now. It’s a mature group that follows the head coach’s lead.”
It might also be the week to follow the defense’s lead. The Rams were porous last week against the Saints, when they allowed 35 first-half points, and they weren’t great at Seattle last month, as the Seahawks rushed for 190 yards.
After that game, Seattle offensive lineman D.J. Fluker raised some eyebrows when he said the Rams’ defensive front “just want to be pass rushers” and hadn’t seen a team as physical as the Seahawks.
Fluker’s status for Sunday’s game is questionable because of a calf injury, and the Rams’ defense stayed quiet this week when it came to talks of revenge. That might not be a good thing for the Seahawks.
“We’re just going to go out there and play a game and let our play speak for us,” Donald said with a grin.
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