Rams know what they're up against in Detroit, loud and clear

Detroit Lions fans cheer during a game against the Green Bay Packers.

The Rams are in the playoffs for the fifth time in seven seasons under coach Sean McVay, who has led them to two Super Bowl appearances and one Super Bowl title.

But the Rams have never played their first playoff game on the road before a hostile, borderline maniacal crowd.

That will change Sunday night when the sixth-seeded Rams play the third-seeded Detroit Lions at Ford Field.

Lions fans have been waiting 30 years for an opportunity to cheer their team and to unnerve a playoff opponent on the Lions’ home turf.

“We know this is going to be especially special for that city,” McVay said Monday during a video conference with reporters.

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The Rams played three of their four previous opening playoff games under McVay at home, including two at the Coliseum. In 2017-18, McVay’s first season, the Rams lost to the Atlanta Falcons. In 2018-19, they defeated the Dallas Cowboys in a divisional-round game, their first postseason step toward Super Bowl LIII.

In 2021-22, the Rams defeated the Arizona Cardinals at SoFi Stadium en route to Super Bowl LVI.

The Rams’ only wild-card road game was played in 2020-21 in Seattle, where the Rams beat the Seahawks in front of zero fans at Lumen Field because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Rams head coach Sean McVay walks the sidelines during a game against the New Orleans Saints.
Rams head coach Sean McVay realizes communication from the sideline will be essential in a loud Detroit environment. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The Rams have won playoff games in crazy environments, including the 2018-19 NFC championship at New Orleans and the 2021-22 divisional round game at Tampa Bay.

McVay and his players expect something similar in Detroit.

“Everybody’s pumped up — big-time Sunday night game — and we anticipate them to have a great crowd, great support,” McVay said, “And sometimes, going into those atmospheres can be a great opportunity for us to come together and be tighter than we’ve ever been.”

The Rams won seven of their final eight games to finish with a 10-7 record.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford led the way after returning from a right thumb injury that forced him to sit out a Nov. 5 defeat at Green Bay.

Stafford, who was voted to the Pro Bowl, is returning to the city where he spent his first 12 NFL seasons. Although Stafford is beloved by many Lions fans, that will not stop the crowd from making it tough on the Rams.

“I'm sure Detroit's going to come out and give him the love and respect that he deserves,” offensive lineman Rob Havenstein said. “If not, even better.”

Operating with a silent count because of crowd noise has not always been the Rams’ strong suit this season. For example, they struggled with communication issues late in an overtime defeat at Baltimore.

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“It always starts with me that we didn’t do a good enough job,” McVay said, adding, “You don’t take for granted how difficult it is. ... That is going to be a huge factor and we’ve got to do a great job of handling that with poise and execution.”

Stafford said after the Rams’ season-ending victory over the San Francisco 49ers that he was excited about returning to Detroit in a playoff setting. Fielding calls, texts and requests from outsiders will not be a problem, he said.

“I don't have that much contact with anybody anyways, to be honest with you,” he said. “I’m a stay-to-myself kind of guy.”

Conversations with Stafford this week regarding his homecoming will be “standard operating procedure,” McVay said.

“You’re not going to run away from what that will mean in terms of the history that he has and the reverence that that city has for him and that he has for that city,” McVay said.


The Washington Commanders, who fired coach Ron Rivera on Monday, reportedly requested permission to interview Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris. ... Safety Jordan Fuller (ankle) will not practice Wednesday, McVay said. “We’re hopeful that he might be able to make it to the game,” he said. … The Rams’ 2024 opponents are set. The Rams will play home games against the Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers in NFC West games and will have non-division games against the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills and Las Vegas Raiders. Road opponents: Cardinals, Seahawks, 49ers, Lions, Chicago Bears, New Orleans Saints, New England Patriots and New York Jets.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.