LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Rams scored only one touchdown in Sunday’s 34-13 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, but it really didn’t matter. They finished the regular season as the NFL’s highest-scoring team, one year after finishing as the NFL’s lowest-scoring team.
“Man,” Rams left guard Rodger Saffold said, “that’s amazing.”
Really, though, it’s historic.
The Rams are now the only team in the Super Bowl era, which began in 1966, to go from last to first in scoring from one season to the next. The only other team throughout history to accomplish that feat was the 1965 49ers, according to research from the Elias Sports Bureau. The Rams went from averaging 14.0 points per game in 2016 under Jeff Fisher to 29.9 points per game in 2017 under Sean McVay, the youngest head coach in modern NFL history.
“It’s amazing,” Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson said. “It’s a blessing.”
The Rams finished with an 11-5 record and remained the No. 3 seed in the NFC despite resting their starters and dropping the finale. They’ll now host the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday (kickoff is set for 8:15 p.m. ET on NBC) and can advance to face the Minnesota Vikings on the road in the second round with a win.
The Rams ended a 12-year playoff drought largely because their offense finally caught up to their defense.
It started with McVay, the 31-year-old who is already considered one of the game’s sharpest offensive minds. He brought with him a slew of talented coaches, including offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, who previously worked with Matt Ryan; quarterbacks coach Greg Olson, a longtime offensive coordinator; and offensive line coach Aaron Kromer, who helped the Buffalo Bills become the NFL’s best rushing team over the past two years.
Then sixth-year general manager Les Snead added all the right pieces, including left tackle Andrew Whitworth, center John Sullivan and three standout receivers — Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. Through all that, Jared Goff made significant strides as a second-year quarterback, enough to be named a first alternate for the Pro Bowl. And Todd Gurley re-established himself as a premier running back, enough to be considered for the MVP award.
“The mentality that we have now has been pretty much a complete 180 from the year before,” said Saffold, in his eighth year with the organization. “I expected success, but going from worst to first, that’s amazing to me.”
“Sean, like any player would say, came in, and he set the expectations and the bar for how this team should be producing,” Rams left guard Jamon Brown added. “It’s not a shocker that we stand first in the NFL in scoring.”
Many would disagree. The Rams weren’t just bad on offense last year, they were deplorable. And their offensive struggles date back much further than that. They finished each of their previous 10 seasons outside of the top 20 in Defense-adjusted Value Over Average and through that went eight years without producing a 1,000-yard receiver.
Then McVay came along.
True to form, McVay — the likely coach of the year — deflected credit. He noted that a lot of the Rams’ points have come from a Wade Phillips-led defense that forced 28 turnovers and a John Fassel-led special teams unit that featured the game’s most productive kicker, Greg Zuerlein.
“I thought our players did a nice job of being able to consistently play pretty well throughout the course of the year; coaches put guys in good positions,” McVay said. “We talk about points as being one of the most important factors, but for us it’s about winning football games and doing those things the right way. Next week is a great challenge, and I know we’re excited about that.”