Sean McVay and Jared Goff

USA Today

Rams vs. Cowboys

This year, it’s totally different for LA.

January 10, 2019 - 10:28 am
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It’s Thursday, which means we’re just over 48 hours from Cowboys-Rams at the Coliseum. And I’ll go ahead and say it right now, it’s the biggest game in the history of the Los Angeles Rams 2.0. In fact, this might be the biggest game for the L.A. Rams as a whole since young Andrew Ried was crushing tiny fools in the punt, pass, and kick competition.

And I know what you’re thinking: yeah, Rome, every playoff game is big. That’s why they’re called playoff games.

Wrong. Last year’s playoff game was really nice for the Rams, but it wasn’t big. It was a great moment for Sean McVay and the team after they completely turned around their season. I’m sure most Rams fans couldn’t even wrap their heads around it: like damn, are we really in the postseason: this doesn’t feel real. 

Now for the REAL. This year, it’s totally different. Last year, it was just nice to get the invite. Just nice to get the nomination. Nice to be at the table with all the other nominees.  Not this year. This year, you have to rip the prize. This year, there’s not just happy to be here, crap. And not for the reasons that you’re thinking.

From the start of the offseason, it was clear that Les Snead and the organization were throwing everything they had into this year. Bringing in Marcus Peters was nice. So was Sam Shields. 

But then it hit overdrive with the arrival of Aqib Talib. And then Ndamukong Suh. At that point, the Rams were taking off their watch, their belt, their shoes, and anything else of value and shoving it to the center to win now.

And then you chase that with the trade for Brandin Cooks? Sure, Cooks is going to be around for a while, but the guys on defense won’t. That meant that it was all about this year and the thinking was that you have to win right now because of the contracts.

But even that’s changed. Now they have to win right now because of everything else. 

Have you noticed what almost every NFL team with a head coaching opening has been doing this offseason? They’re looking for a Sean McVay clone. And it makes sense. He completely turned around Jared Goff and this entire franchise. Back-to-back double digit win seasons. Back-to-back division titles. 2017 Coach of the Year. And a total injection of life and juice into a team and a fanbase. 

Of course, you’d want to find another Sean McVay. Spoiler alert: you can’t. 

And you can’t find another Kyle Shanahan either, but that’s not going to stop teams from trying and they will try with guys who look like them, act like them, and dial up schemes like them. 

But for everything that Sean McVay has done since arriving in LA, and as you just heard, that’s a lot, here’s one thing he hasn’t done: won a playoff game.

I’m not telling him anything that he doesn’t already know. I’m not saying something that doesn’t already motivate him and get him to the office even earlier in the day. He knows that as good as the last two seasons have been, he hasn’t won a playoff game yet. He knows that the entire league is pivoting to him, but he hasn’t done what he wanted.

And it’s not going to be easy on Saturday. If you’d asked any Rams fan in early November if they wanted to face the Cowboys in the playoffs, they’d have laughed their asses off. The Cowboys? In the playoffs? The Cowboys aren’t making the postseason.   Not in this lifetime. Not in what’s left of Jerry Jones’ life time. But I’ll humor you: sure, IF the Cowboys actually make the playoffs… sure, we have no problem entertaining them, and beating the hell out of them. That’s what they should have thought several weeks ago. But no one is thinking that anymore. Because suddenly, the Cowboys are a bully. And they’re no laughing matter. They’re no joke now. 

These Cowboys are completely different. They’ve gotten back to pounding the ball on the ground. They’ve hit Amari Cooper’s career with the paddles. And Dak Prescott is making plays when they need him to. And that’s before we get to a defense with crazy speed and crazy physicality; that’s snot bubbling fools and knocking suckers out. 

They aren’t perfect by any stretch, but they’re a hell of a lot better than they were and they are coming into Los Angeles with a ton of momentum. 

Meanwhile, these Rams don’t feel like those Rams, either. They’re banged up. I’m still not clear how healthy Todd Gurley is right now. Aaron Donald is unblockable, but the rest of the defense isn’t lighting it up. And it’s a defense you can run on. Most have. And no one else has Ezekiel Elliott: and you know they’re gonna ride that horse all day Saturday. 

But yeah, Rome, they’re still at home. Right. Not really. Know why? You know who else will be in that home? Cowboys’ fans. There are a ton of Cowboy fans everywhere, but particularly in SoCal. The Coliseum is an awfully big place and you have to think that Cowboy fans will be rolling deep, because they are feeling it. 

My best advice to the Rams: get out to an early lead and control the game. And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but keep Cowboy fans out of the game in Los Angeles. Do that, and you’ll win.

And you do have to win. Make no mistake. It’s no longer a nice story. Playoff participation is no longer good enough. Anything short of a playoff win will be a failure.  I never thought I’d say this but there actually is a team that needs a playoff win worse than the Dallas Cowboys. And it’s the guys they’re playing Saturday.  The L.A. Rams.  The Rams need it even more than Dallas does.