Rams roll into bye week buzzing from epic win over Chiefs
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Just like everybody fortunate enough to be at the Coliseum on Monday night, Sean McVay was still buzzing when he left the building after the Los Angeles Rams' epic victory over Kansas City.
When he finally reached his suburban home, the coach wasn't ready to lose that feeling. Instead, McVay and some friends kicked off the Rams' bye week by watching highlights of Los Angeles' 54-51 win deep into the night.
"I was pretty wired, man," McVay said Tuesday afternoon, about 21 hours after kickoff. "I would say right now is about the first time I'm starting to wind down and to be able to take a nap hopefully here soon."
McVay and the Rams have absolutely earned their sleep.
Los Angeles (10-1) is this season's first team to reach double digits in victories after holding off the Chiefs in a game that featured so many eye-popping digits: a 14-touchdown, 105-point, 1,001-yard masterpiece of pure entertainment.
The third highest-scoring game in league history was the latest peak in the Rams' two-year transformation under McVay, whose staff has put this long-downtrodden franchise in position to clinch its first back-to-back division titles since the 1970s as soon as this weekend if Carolina beats Seattle.
The win over Kansas City also was the culmination of two difficult weeks for the organization and its city.
Players, coaches and team employees were forced from their homes by wildfires two weeks ago while many were still reeling from a mass shooting near their training complex in Thousand Oaks. The Rams then spent the previous week on the road in Colorado Springs to train for the high altitudes of Mexico City — only to have the Monday night game moved back home to LA on six days' notice.
"I think the players did an outstanding job of handling what seems like two weeks that was about two years' worth of things that they had to go through," McVay said. "All they did was just handle it like pros and do everything the right way that makes you appreciative of just being able to work with people like this."
The final snap against Kansas City felt like closure to the players who persevered through this two-week stretch. McVay and the Rams now get a holiday week to contemplate what they've accomplished and how far they've still got to go.
Because for all their success, McVay knows the Rams have ample room for improvement.
McVay and his staff will use part of their bye week to study this triumph over the Chiefs, likely turning a critical eye on ways to help a defense that relied on big plays to survive this thriller. Kansas City outgained Los Angeles 546-455 with six touchdown passes by Patrick Mahomes.
The Rams are desperately looking forward to the probable post-bye return of standout cornerback Aqib Talib. They were also happy to get contributions from surprising defensive sources in an otherwise offense-dominated night.
Samson Ebukam, the Rams' unsung second-year outside linebacker, might have been the most important player on the field against the Chiefs. Ebukam returned a fumble forced by Aaron Donald for a touchdown, made a preposterous one-armed interception and returned it for another TD, and finally pressured Mahomes just enough to impede his throwing motion on a pass subsequently intercepted by Rams teammate Marcus Peters with 1:18 left.
"It's crazy we had five takeaways, just to see they still put up 51 points," Rams receiver Robert Woods said. "We tried to eliminate the big plays, but we know they have some talented players. At the end of the day, we sealed them off."
The Rams can also use their time off to get healthy, which is always a good thing at this time of year.
Los Angeles dropped those 54 points on Kansas City even with mild contributions from NFL rushing leader Todd Gurley, whose 13-game touchdown streak ended while he made just 12 carries for 54 yards and caught three passes for 39 yards.
Confirming what many suspected during the game, McVay said Gurley was limited by an ankle injury after "getting rolled up on" earlier in the game.
McVay doesn't believe it will be a long-term problem, and he said Gurley's light action in the second half was mostly due to the Chiefs' schemes — particularly a set with 11 men in the box late in the game, leading to McVay's decision to call passing plays in a last-minute attempt to get a game-clinching first down.
"There were a lot of instances where they were playing some defensive structures where they were basically daring you to throw it," McVay said. "That's a result of the respect they have for Todd and our running game."
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