THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Fast starts are nothing new for the Los Angeles Rams, having scored four opening-drive touchdowns in five games this season.
They want to keep that momentum going in their NFC West opener at San Francisco on Sunday.
“Really, going into games we feel like everything’s going to work,” wide receiver Robert Woods said. “We going out there, playing fast and executing. And I feel like once we go out there and we’re running our first few plays and starting off the game, we’re setting the tone for how we’re going to attack ‘em the rest of the game.”
Success on early drives has been a reliable trend for coach Sean McVay, especially in the division. The Rams (4-1) have turned their initial possession into points 12 times in 18 NFC West games under McVay, including three touchdowns and three field goals last season.
The offense got into the end zone to start two games against the 49ers in 2019, but the Rams lost both en route to a 3-3 record against San Francisco, Seattle and Arizona. It was the first time since McVay became head coach that Los Angeles did not have a winning record against the NFC West, coinciding with his first team that failed to make the postseason.
The Rams won all six division games in 2018, and their 4-2 mark in 2017 included a Week 17 loss to San Francisco where McVay sat numerous starters having already secured the NFC West title and a home playoff game in the wild-card round.
“If you win most of your division games, you’re probably going to be in the playoffs,” quarterback Jared Goff said. “And every game counts the same, but these ones always count a little bit more and you’re always looking forward to them a little bit more, so we’ll be ready to go.”
The notion of starting a game using scripted plays began with legendary San Francisco coach Bill Walsh, but McVay does not treat them as being written in stone. Instead, he narrows down a set of plays to use based on how the offense has performed in practice.
“These are the plays you feel good about, we’ve executed at a pretty high level,” McVay said. “The players feel comfortable, and these are definitely those plays that you want to get off. But to say you do these openings and you go right down the list, that’s not just how you call a game.”
To Goff, those plays go beyond the “priority” status McVay assigns to them.
“We run some of our best stuff on that first drive,” Goff said. “We obviously have some stuff that we want to get up throughout the game and set things up certain ways, but a lot of times in that first drive is some of our best runs, our best play-actions, our best keepers, our best screens. It’s a mix and match of some of the stuff that we really have loved throughout the week. And it’s always good to start fast and something that we put an emphasis on.”
Goff and his teammates have mostly been up to the challenge this season, only failing to generate points when Samuel Sloman missed a 53-yard field goal to start Week 3 at Buffalo. That drive stalled when Goff was sacked on consecutive plays, a rare instance of the offense not being completely in sync on its first chance to move the ball.
While the offense has shown the necessary focus to begin games, McVay expects it to carry it to the end.
“I just think our players have come out ready to go and they’re executing at a high level and that’s a credit to them,” McVay said. “I want to see that consistently throughout games.”
NOTES: Linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo will miss four to six weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a sprained left elbow he sustained against Washington. … Safety Jordan Fuller (shoulder) was placed on injured reserve Tuesday. Fuller sustained a stinger against Washington, the same injury that caused him to miss the Rams’ Week 4 win against the New York Giants.
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