LOS ANGELES — In the NFL’s largest stadium, even a crowd of 60,032 screaming fans can look undersized.
But anyone who fixates on the empty seats in the cavernous Coliseum is missing the hometown momentum building around the Los Angeles Rams, according to the players and coaches creating it with an increasingly special season.
One year after the Rams went 4-12 in the franchise’s return to a sophisticated sports city that got along just fine without the NFL for 21 years, Los Angeles is 7-2 and rolling, with four consecutive wins and the league’s highest-scoring offense.
The Houston Texans are the latest opponent to get flattened after the Rams awoke for a 21-point third quarter in a 33-7 victory on Sunday.
“I think the fans are getting into it, and we just need to keep it up,” said LA-area native Robert Woods, who caught eight passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns, including a brilliant 94-yard score.
Jared Goff passed for a career-high 355 yards and three touchdowns without an interception in the No. 1 pick’s latest superb performance in coach Sean McVay’s offense. Woods caught a 94-yard TD pass to break it open before Sammy Watkins and Woods made TD catches 19 seconds apart late in the third quarter, with rookie linebacker Samson Ekubam’s forced fumble sandwiched between.
Goff thanked the fans who showed up for the Rams’ first home game in five weeks — an unfortunate absence caused by a quirk of the NFL schedule. With two East Coast road trips and a “home” game in London, the Rams were thousands of miles away from LA when they began this spectacular four-game streak in which they’ve outscored their opponents 144-41.
“I hope the people liked it,” Goff said. “It was fun. They were loud. I think we’re still new. We’re only two years into LA, so it’s still building that fan base, but I think today may have taken that next step. It had a little bit more of a family feel, and hopefully we can keep that going.”
The Rams struggled mightily last season after relocation, losing 11 of their final 12 games amid evaporating fan interest. McVay has transformed them into a playoff contender in remarkably short order — yet the Rams still hadn’t been great at the Coliseum. This blowout was just the Rams’ third win in 11 games in Los Angeles.
“It’s good to be back,” McVay said. “I thought there was some good energy, and fans were excited today. Players made a lot of big-time plays across the board. We enjoyed that atmosphere for sure.”
The defense also shut out Houston in the second half on the way to the Rams’ best start since 2001, when they went 8-1 in St. Louis on the way to the Super Bowl. A franchise with 13 consecutive non-winning seasons is just two victories away from breaking that streak.
“I’ve never been 7-2 before, so I feel good,” fourth-year defensive lineman Aaron Donald said.
Tom Savage passed for 221 yards with two interceptions for Houston, which has lost three straight, four of five, and two in a row since losing rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson for the season with a knee injury.
Here are some other items of interest from the Coliseum:
Todd Gurley didn’t get in the end zone, but the Rams’ versatile running back put up 68 yards rushing and 68 yards receiving. Gurley remains the NFL’s top-scoring non-kicker with 10 touchdowns.
The Texans are missing their two highest-profile players with Watson and J.J. Watt sidelined, but DeAndre Hopkins keeps making plays . The receiver had seven catches for 111 yards, hitting triple digits for the third time this season. Savage completed only 11 passes to the rest of Houston’s roster, including a 26-yard TD pass to Bruce Ellington in the second quarter.
Donald forced a fumble on Houston’s opening possession while sacking Savage, his college teammate at Pitt. But the Rams couldn’t get in the end zone early, and they trailed for the first time since Oct. 15 when the Texans put together a 75-yard drive in the second quarter, capped by Ellington’s untouched catch-and-run TD.
NFL scoring leader Greg Zuerlein kicked four field goals for the Rams. Zuerlein surpassed his previous career high when he made his 27th field goal of the season shortly before halftime, and he added another in the second half. The sure-footed veteran has missed just one field goal all season.