LeBron and L.A. need to make room for Jared Goff and the very real Rams

Kimberley A. MartinSenior NFL writer

Yellow towels waved furiously in unison, whipping the chilly Southern California air into a windmill of feverish, frenetic energy. Under the bright lights of prime time, the chants grew louder, culminating in a steady reminder that football — good football — is alive and well here.

This city may belong to LeBron James, but the Los Angeles Lakers aren’t the only star-studded show in town anymore.

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The Rams — headlined by a young, gunslinging quarterback in Jared Goff — withstood every counterpunch delivered by Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings on “Thursday Night Football.” Goff went toe-to-toe with his more experienced counterpart, matching every impressive deep ball of Cousins’ with a jaw-dropping missile of his own. And in the end, the shootout — which yielded 887 total passing yards between the two and five touchdown passes from Goff — gave way to enough late-game stops by the Rams’ defense to seal a 38-31 victory.

The Rams remain undefeated and are currently the only 4-0 team in the NFL. And they appear poised to take over the market they once deserted long ago.

This is L.A. football. At least when Sean McVay & Co. take the field. “When [the fans] come out like that and help us out; having the crowd like that, the energy that they gave us, absolutely,” Rams receiver Brandin Cooks told Yahoo Sports.

Running back Todd Gurley (30) and quarterback Jared Goff (16) were all smiles before and after the Rams defeated the Vikings to stay unbeaten. (Getty Images)
Running back Todd Gurley (30) and quarterback Jared Goff (16) were all smiles before and after the Rams defeated the Vikings to stay unbeaten. (Getty Images)

It may have been only a Week 4 matchup, but it felt like postseason play for sure, said fellow receiver Roberts Woods, who caught a 31-yard touchdown pass to extend the Rams’ lead to 38-28 in the third quarter: “Night game. Prime time. Great, great opponent. It took everything out of us. It was consistent football all game. The crowd was amazing.”

The Vikings were the latest team to fall victim to McVay’s craftiness and Goff’s burgeoning confidence. This Rams team can beat its opponents any number of ways, thanks to its high-priced collection of talent. When running back Todd Gurley wasn’t hauling in an 8-yard touchdown pass from Goff, he was burning the Vikings for a 56-yard completion in the third quarter. Receivers Cooper Kupp, Cooks and Woods had a field day in wide-open spaces and caught at least one touchdown pass from Goff, who completed 26 of 33 passes for 465 yards. He finished the night with a 158.3 QB rating.

“Lights out,” Gurley said, describing his quarterback’s play. “He’s playing like one of the best quarterbacks in this league. Big night for him. He was just killing it. He looked like he was back at Cal today.”

“That’s nothing rare,” Marcus Peters added, stressing that Goff has showcased the same level of poise and precision before.

“Man, there’s just something special about the way he’s delivering the football and his confidence level,” said offensive tackle Andrew Whitwoth. “You just want to do everything you can not to mess it up.”

Led by Cousins, who was 36-for-50 for 422 yards and three touchdowns and a 117.3 rating, the Vikings (1-2-1) kept things close for much of the evening. But the Rams defense, led by Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh (three sacks total), proved to be too much for Minnesota.

Each mesmerizing downfield throw by Goff sent electricity coursing through the Coliseum crowd, which used every opportunity to remind “Skol”-screaming Vikings fans just where they happened to be. Two words reverberated throughout the stadium all night, as local rapper and resident hype-man YG posed a pressing question to the crowd of 72,027 decorated in the colors of the Rams’ past.

“Whose house?!” he screamed, over and over.

The Coliseum had the feel of an NFL playoff game for the Rams. (Getty Images)
The Coliseum had the feel of an NFL playoff game for the Rams. (Getty Images)

“Rams House,” the crowd chanted in unison, repeating the slogan emblazoned on its rally towels that were doled out to fans at the entrance gates.

After Goff threw a 70-yard bomb to Kupp, in-stride, the 23-year-old quarterback ran to the sideline and zeroed in on his head coach. McVay knew what was coming, but still was no match for the ensuing chest bump, which sent McVay’s headset flying off of his head.

“I was fired up for him,” Goff said with a smile. “I told him after, ‘I didn’t mean to knock you over there.’”

The good vibes extended into the stands, too. After Woods scored his touchdown, he raced over to the crowd and gave YG a high-five in mid-air. “First job, planning on catching the ball, find a way into the end zone,” Woods said, explaining his thought process in the moment. “And I see a big yellow jacket standing up in the end zone. Why not celebrate YG once again?”

This is what the NFL had envisioned for its Thursday night main events: a high-scoring affair pitting two pure passers against one another for three hours. If only all mid-week prime-time games were this exhilarating.

Asked if this team has a “Showtime Lakers” feel to it, Goff said playfully: “I don’t know. I wasn’t alive. Yeah, it feels good. The crowd was amazing tonight too. … For myself, personally, seeing that grow from my first year until now at this place. Seeing a Thursday night when there is so much traffic and everyone is here and waving those towels and it’s loud and it’s a true home-field advantage, it feels good.”

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