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The Rams Offense Looks Alive. So Do Their Playoff Hopes.

Los Angeles handed Seattle the worst loss of its season on Sunday and is on a tear after getting blown out by the Ravens two weeks ago

Seattle Seahawks v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

Two weeks ago, the Rams were at rock bottom. The Baltimore Ravens atomized Los Angeles on Monday Night Football by scoring six touchdowns on their first six possessions and holding the Rams to just six points. The loss dropped the Rams to 6-5, put them well outside the NFC playoff picture, and seemed to solidify them as the latest victim of the Super Bowl loser hangover. Head coach Sean McVay said they’d move on as fast as possible. “I trust that we have the right guys in that locker room, guys that are mentally tough, that understand that whatever we did tonight has nothing to do with what we’re going to do moving forward unless we allow it to,” McVay said after that game. “And that’s the mind-set we’ve got to have as coaches, as players.”

Two weeks later and the Rams look nothing like the team that was shellacked by those Ravens. Los Angeles beat the Seahawks 28-12 on Sunday Night Football in a win that showed both the team’s offense and playoff hopes are back, kind of. The Rams gained 455 yards of offense (6.8 yards per play) and once again showed the offensive brilliance that had eluded the team all season, even if that brilliance came in flashes. Chief among them is that running back Todd Gurley had 23 carries for 79 yards and a touchdown plus four catches for 34 yards. It’s not the gaudy numbers Gurley posted in 2017 and 2018, but this stiff arm on a 7-yard touchdown run was a throwback show of Gurley dominance.

Gurley also got involved in the passing game, where he was essential as the centerpiece of L.A.’s offense the past two seasons. This 20-yard catch-and-run midway through the third quarter is tied for his second-longest reception of the season.

Quarterback Jared Goff also played well, completing 22 of 31 passes for 293 yards (9.5 yards per attempt) with two touchdowns and two interceptions. The first pick looked brutal, but receiver Robert Woods stopped running on the route, giving the illusion that Goff threw the ball directly to Seahawks defensive back Quandre Diggs. Aside from that ugliness, Goff mostly looked solid on Sunday, especially when targeting Woods, the team’s leading receiver. Woods hauled in his first touchdown pass of the year early in the second quarter to make the game 14-3.

Along with the touchdown, Woods had seven catches for 98 yards, his fourth game in a row with 90-plus receiving yards after having just one such game in the first half of the season.

Later in the quarter, Cooper Kupp caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Goff to give the Rams a 21-3 lead before halftime.

Gurley, Woods, and Kupp are known quantities in the Rams passing game, but contributions from tight end Tyler Higbee are unexpected. Higbee, primarily a blocking tight end for the Rams for the last three seasons, had seven catches for a career-high 116 yards on Sunday. His previous career high came … last week against the Cardinals, when Higbee had seven catches for 107 yards. A fifth of Higbee’s career receiving yards have come in the past two weeks.

The team’s improvement starts on the offensive line: Jared Goff has been sacked just once in the past two games after taking six sacks from Weeks 10 through 12. The Rams defense was impressive too. They held the Seahawks to 12 points and 308 total yards, Seattle’s lowest and second-lowest outputs of the season respectively. The loss was Seattle’s first on the road this season and just their third of the year. Their previous two came to Baltimore and New Orleans, two teams who could both earn first-round byes in the playoffs. The Rams played Seattle better than both.

The win over the Seahawks was the second major victory in a row for the Rams after destroying the division-rival Cardinals 34-7 last week. It’s more stunning considering there was little reason to believe they could turn things around after that Week 12 Ravens game, which seemed to indicate a trend, not an aberration. A week before the Ravens loss, the Rams barely beat the Chicago Bears and hapless Mitch Trubisky 17-7 on Sunday Night Football. In Week 10, they came out of their bye and lost to the Mason Rudolph–led Pittsburgh Steelers. The magic of Sean McVay’s offense was absent, but it may have returned once they fixed their blocking and bought Jared Goff some time to think in the pocket.

Los Angeles is now 7-5 and just one game behind the Vikings for the final NFC wild-card spot. The Rams finish their slate against the Cowboys, 49ers, and Cardinals; the Vikings close their season against the Chargers, Packers, and Bears. If the Rams beat the flailing Cowboys next week, that will set up the biggest game of their season against the 49ers on Saturday night in Week 16. Two weeks ago, the Rams were at rock bottom, but two weeks from now they may have found a way to claw back to the playoffs.