The Los Angeles Rams had a great first season in L.A. but it ended prematurely with the Atlanta Falcons using their playoff experience to their advantage. The Rams will benefit from this next year when they’re back in the postseason.
The Rams dream season ended abruptly on Saturday night with the reigning NFC champion Atlanta Falcons showing Sean McVay’s team what it takes to win in the playoffs. The young Rams are led by the game’s youngest head coach, a second-year quarterback in Jared Goff and a third-year running back, Todd Gurley, who may be the league’s MVP. Coupled with one of the league’s best pass rushes, led by potential NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Aaron Donald, and the Rams have the pieces necessary to return to the playoffs in 2019 and learn from their experience in 2018.
It’s going to sting for a while for the Rams and for their fans, both in St. Louis and Los Angeles, because the wounds are still fresh and there won’t be any more games until August. Once that pain subsides, it’ll give way to all the bright spots from the 2017 season and an optimism that should see the Rams as the prohibitive favorites in the NFC West and a legit Super Bowl contender.
Just imagine how much this team improved in the first year under McVay and imagine how much improvement is still to be made between Year 1 and Year 2. The most room for improvement should come from Goff who tied for the NFL lead with the most touchdown passes in the second half of the season. He really came into his own after a rocky rookie season under the previous coaching regime.
Goff looked like the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft and should benefit from his first taste of playoff experience the next time he’s in this spot. It’s not ordinary for teams to need to learn how to win in the postseason. It may take an early exit or two or three before the team is able to get over that proverbial hump. It’s growing pains, and it’s okay to let it hurt, but don’t let that hurt cloud the bright days that lie ahead.
Gurley is the best back in the NFL and is a bigger, stronger version of Marshall Faulk and led the league in yards from scrimmage and total touchdowns. He’s only going to get better and it’s really scary to think what he’ll do in Year 2 under McVay.
Donald is not just the best interior defensive lineman, I think he’s the game’s best player. He’s unstoppable. A force in the middle of the line that demands attention from the entire offensive line and backfield before every snap. He’s headed to Canton to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame five years after his playing days are over, but it’ll be important to lock him up for the long-term to make him happy and avoid the contract holdout that kept him out of the season opener this year.
This team is built for the short-term and the long-term, but as great as Goff and Gurley are, the team’s Super Bowl hopes are tied to Donald. But when you add up all those guys and add a dash of playoff experience and top it off with the burning desire to finish what they started in 2017 and 2018 could be shaping up to be the Year of the Ram.