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Sean McVay Continues His Masterpiece, Rams Inch Closer To Playoffs With Win Vs. Saints | TheSportsDay Sean McVay Continues His Masterpiece, Rams Inch Closer To Playoffs With Win Vs. Saints | TheSportsDay

Sean McVay continues his masterpiece, Rams inch closer to playoffs with win vs. Saints

Rams coach Sean McVay led his team to its eighth win of the season, a victory over the Saints. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)
Rams coach Sean McVay led his team to its eighth win of the season, a victory over the Saints. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

All offseason, it looked like the Los Angeles Rams were a rebuilding team that didn’t want to admit it was rebuilding.

General manager Les Snead called it a “remodel.” COO Kevin Demoff sent an open letter to season ticket holders explaining that the team had to pull back from its normal all-in approach, but was still going to compete for a playoff spot. Yeah, right.

With a roster as young as the Rams had, even the most optimistic person couldn’t have expected too much.

“Obviously, it’s not what you expect,” star defensive tackle Aaron Donald told ESPN LA in training camp, via Rams Wire. Me personally, being in Year 10, I didn’t expect this to happen but we’re here now so just trying to find a away to be a good leader, a good player for this team and try to bring the young guys along. And hopefully we have the year we want.”

On Thursday night, the Rams took a huge step toward one of the more unlikely playoff berths in the past few seasons. They improved to 8-7 with a 30-22 win over the New Orleans Saints, who are 7-8. The final score made the game look way more competitive than it was. According to Next Gen Stats, the Rams would have a 70% chance of making the playoffs with a win over the Saints, and just 14% with a loss. It was a huge game and the Rams came through again.

There are plenty of reasons the Rams are on the verge of a postseason berth. The biggest reason might be coach Sean McVay, who is building a good argument for being the NFL Coach of the Year.

Sean McVay having a great season

One of the most unbelievable stats in the NFL is that McVay is still the youngest head coach in the league.

It’s true. McVay is just 37. He’s been one of the best coaches in the NFL for so long, it seems like he’s older than that. This is this seventh season as Rams coach, and while it’s hard to beat two Super Bowl appearances, it’s possible this has been his best job.

The offense is built around Matthew Stafford, who is 35 and missed almost half of last season due to injuries, a pair of fifth-round picks in Puka Nacua and Kyren Williams, and Cooper Kupp, who has missed some time with injuries and hasn’t been his dominant self most of the season. One of Thursday night’s stars was Demarcus Robinson, who was never much of a factor in six seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. He had 82 yards and a touchdown in the first half against the Saints.

The defense is getting very good seasons from players like rookie tackle Kobie Turner and linebackers Ernest Jones and Bryon Young, but mostly it’s Donald and a bunch of no-names. The defense hasn’t been great but good enough to keep the team in most games.

A few stars with a lot of unproven young players and low-cost veterans will be over .500 on Christmas. That’s a pretty good reason for McVay to be in the Coach of the Year race.

The Rams took a quick lead Thursday night. The big play was a decision by McVay to go for it on fourth-and-goal, and Stafford found Nacua for a touchdown. The Rams led 10-0 when the Saints hit a big play, with Derek Carr finding Rashid Shaheed for a 45-yard touchdown. That turned out to be the Saints’ high point of the night.

The game turned on one sequence. Late in the second quarter the Saints decided to go for it on fourth-and-five near midfield. They didn’t get it. Instead of New Orleans punting and likely going into halftime trailing just 10-7, the Rams drove downfield and scored a touchdown with 21 seconds remaining in the half. That was a huge swing in a tight game.

The Saints arguably have the better roster than the Rams. The Rams, inarguably, have the much better coach.

Saints fall way behind

Coaching matters, and so does quarterback play. Stafford is having a great rebound this season. Carr has been a big disappointment after the Saints signed him to a $150 million deal.

Carr took a third-down sack that knocked the Saints out of field-goal range on their first drive. He took a fourth-down sack later in the first half. In the third quarter, with the Saints barely hanging in at 20-7, Carr threw a bad interception that pretty much knocked the Saints out of the game. Los Angeles scored a toucdhown off that interception to go up 27-7. The Saints are not good enough on offense to overcome a 20-point deficit.

The Saints did score a couple times in the fourth quarter to make it more interesting. A touchdown and a two-point conversion with 3:53 left cut the Rams’ lead to 30-22. The Saints, who had used all their timeouts, tried an onside kick but it was unsuccessful. The Saints never got the ball back.

The Saints have a big opportunity next week when they face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with the winner likely to win the NFC South title. The Rams still have to keep winning to make the playoffs. But they’re most of the way there, in a season nobody expected them to be anywhere close to the playoffs.

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