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How The Rams Became The NFL’s Cinderella Team

Cinderella is a term that we hear often used in sports, most commonly in college basketball to describe a mid-major team, who has made a miraculous run in the NCAA Tournament. However, the term “Cinderella” can also be applied to the NFL and more specifically to the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams, who are led by first-year head coach Sean McVay and second-year quarterback Jared Goff are riding a four-game winning streak and in first place in the NFC West.While Los Angeles has shocked many NFL fans and analysts with their hot start this season, we have to look back at how they’ve made it to this point. Goff was inactive to begin his rookie season with Case Keenum starting, which primed everyone to be ready with a bust label if he struggled.The Rams were also on the HBO series “Hard Knocks” with Jeff Fisher making the ridiculous proclamation that he is not going 8-8 in the regular season. As we saw, Fisher’s statement would fall on deaf ears as the Rams finished with a 4-12 record, despite starting the season 3-1. Los Angeles, somehow won three games early on with Case Keenum under center, who was not stellar by any means necessary. Fisher was just determined to save his job, rather than develop his young rookie quarterback.Eventually, Fisher got fired after a horrific 42-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in Week 14. By this time, Goff was starting but also struggling, completing 54.6 percent of his passes for 1,089 yards, five touchdowns and seven interceptions in their final seven games last season.It also did not help Goff that running back Todd Gurley had a sophomore slump. After having a great rookie season where he ran for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns, Gurley was held to 885 rushing yards on 278 carries and six touchdowns.On the defensive side of the ball, Los Angeles was solid only giving up 233.3 yards per game in the air, good for 10th in the NFL and 103.8 rushing yards per game, good for 16th in the league.However, with Fisher getting axed signaled Los Angeles was ready to make a change for the betterment of the franchise.”I think we need to find the best head coach for the Los Angeles Rams,” said Rams COO Kevin Demoff. “Whether that’s an offensive coach, a defensive coach, a special-teams coach, the interim coach, a college coach, I think we have to be willing to look under every possible avenue to find the right fit to go lead this football team.” Demoff stuck to his word and hired 31-year-old Sean McVay to be the new guy in charge in the City of Angels. McVay spent several years with Washington as an offensive assistant, tight ends coach, and eventually offensive coordinator.He was one of the main reasons why quarterback Kirk Cousins had success over the last couple of seasons. After he was hired, McVay started to build his coaching staff, making Matt LaFleur his offensive coordinator and Wade Phillips his defensive coordinator.Bringing Phillips abroad was a huge get for the young McVay as he could let him be the head coach of the defense and decide how he wanted to utilize his personnel. Phillips would come in and change the Rams’ defense from a 4-3 to a 3-4.A few months later, the new regime in Los Angeles would make significant changes to the roster in the offseason. In this past year’s draft, the Rams addressed the offense by drafting tight end Gerald Everett and wide receiver Cooper Kupp with two of their first four picks.Then in free agency, Los Angeles added a slew of veterans such as wide receiver Robert Woods, left tackle Andrew Whitworth, cornerback Kayvon Webster, center John Sullivan, and defensive end Connor Barwin.Even though the Rams hit the proverbial jackpot in free agency, they were not done making moves. During training camp, they pulled off a major deal, trading for wide receiver Sammy Watkins and a 2018 sixth-round pick, in exchange for cornerback E.J. Gaines and a 2018 second-round pick.McVay and the front office brass were determined to give Goff the most help to make his second-year development seamless.Fast forward to the Week 10 of the NFL season and it appears as if all the moves over the offseason have paid off for the Cinderella Rams. They are atop the NFC West, Goff is showing flashes of what he did at Cal with weapons at the wide receiver position, Gurley looks like himself, and the defense is still playing out of their mind.This season, Goff is completing 61.2 percent of his passes for 2,385 yards, 16 touchdowns and four interceptions. Woods and Kupp have been his most consistent targets with Watkins pitching in with big plays.Woods has 39 receptions (59 targets) for 622 yards and four touchdowns, Kupp has 32 receptions (54 targets) for 417 yards and three touchdowns, and Watkins has 21 receptions (34 targets) for 372 yards and four touchdowns. When you are getting that type of production from your top three wide receivers, it makes your life easier as a quarterback.With all that being said, where do the Rams go from here? Can Cinderella make a deep run in the playoffs? These two questions will be answered in the last two months of the season.In the Rams’ final seven games, they will play the Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks, and Tennessee Titans. If Los Angeles can hold serve winning at least three out of those five games, they should be in a good position for a final playoff push.

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