It was the most perfect pitch in the history of professional football in Los Angeles.
It led to the most perfect touchdown.
And the result was the most perfect ending.
Which makes this the most perfect time to inform this year’s Rams that the only acceptable outcome for their upcoming season is victory.
On the 70th anniversary of the Los Angeles Rams’ only title, this team needs to summon the spirit of Norm Van Brocklin and Tom Fears.
They need to get psyched to win a championship.
They need to recreate what happened in the final quarter of the 1951 title game against the Cleveland Browns at the Coliseum, when Van Brocklin gave Fears a 73-yard touchdown pass that is a thing of the past.
The score was tied. The ball was thrown. The sack was made in midfield, just beyond the outstretched arms of two Browns defenders. The subsequent run down the touchline was impressively free of obstacles. The touchdown gave the Rams a 24-17 victory that surely no one imagined would be the last moment of the Rams’ championship in this city.
Well, it was. And yes, 70 years is a long time.
Time is over. This year’s Rams must step up. Like those Rams when they won the title, these Rams are in their sixth season here, a lot of time to acclimatize, enough resources to be great, no more room for excuses.
They have one of the best offenses in the league led by one of their best quarterbacks guided by his best offensive mind. Everything’s fine.
They have the best defense in the NFL, led by two of the top 10 defensive players in the league, with a scheme devised by a veteran defensive coordinator. And even better. His special teams are led by legendary punter Johnny Hekker, and despite fears that he has lost a beat, he is still Johnny Hekker.
They have been splendidly built by a fearless general manager. They have been cleverly designed by a clever COO. They have been generously financed by the wealthiest of owners.
They can’t blame Jared Goff. They can’t blame Todd Gurley. They can’t even blame Marcus Peters.
From Matthew Stafford to Aaron Donald to Jalen Ramsey and Sean McVay, this Rams team has the players and training it takes to finally win another title.
They even have the stadium. They can win it all without leaving Los Angeles. Remember that the Super Bowl is a home game.
Thus, the Rams will begin their journey to February 13, 2022 at SoFi Stadium with a mandate, not to mention a historic obligation, to finally act like all the other local franchises that have made the championships their cornerstone.
From Van Brocklin to Fears to the next six months, it’s time for the title legacy to live again.
“I think if you’re a Rams fan, you have to smile,” said Kevin Demoff, the Rams’ chief operating officer. “It has been an incredible journey, with an opportunity to chart a new course for the franchise that we can all be proud of.”
Les Snead, the CEO, was even more blunt.
“This is the best team we’ve had a week before the season started,” Snead said, pausing. “But the chapter is written in the next few months.”
In recent separate interviews with the two bosses, neither wanted to acknowledge the extra pressure on the team. They both insist that the Rams’ recent success – three playoff appearances and one trip to the Super Bowl in five years – confirms that trying to win it all is commonplace.
“I think the expectation is always that we are going to be one of those teams in the end,” Demoff said, before ironically pointing out a small difference this season. “With the exception that you’re going to open a new stadium that Los Angeles has waited decades for, and you’re going to host the Super Bowl in your own building.”
If that is. Owner Stan Kroenke is surely “hyper-focused” on that. All the money and draft picks and risk that went into negotiating for Stafford and handing out big contracts to Donald and Ramsey went into preparing this year, for this moment, for the first time fans can fill the game. SoFi and the first Super Bowl in Los Angeles in 29 years. This season should not only highlight Kroenke’s work, but also become his masterpiece.
So seriously, make no mistake, there is pressure. The franchise’s five-year honeymoon is over. That new car smell has been replaced by the thick scent of pressure.
It starts with McVay. The heaviest burden this year falls on the coach, who complained so much about his quarterback that they got him a new one. So now it’s his turn.
McVay didn’t want Goff. He basically kicked Goff out of town. He wanted a quarterback of Stafford’s caliber so badly, he was willing to bring a bit of turmoil to this organization to get it.
Well, you already have it. And now that? If Stafford fails, it will be perceived as a failure of McVay, the prodigy who goes 0 of 2 with the most important position in sports.
Again, neither boss would agree that the pressure is on McVay, and of course they won’t. But you know it, and I know it, and everyone involved surely knows it too.
“The whole organization was behind Stafford’s decision; we win or lose as an organization, ”Demoff said. “Sean is undoubtedly a player who makes a difference for our team, but I do not think this year will depend on him, but on the 53 players, the 20 coaches and the entire organization to offer a special season.”
Snead acknowledged that people will be watching, but is confident it will be a pretty sight.
“You would have to be naive not to think that everyone is going to look in that direction,” he said of McVay and Stafford. “The reason we did it is that we thought it was a unique opportunity to pair up Sean, who is in his prime, with an elite flagger … who is also in his prime from a career standpoint. football wisdom. … It was definitely an opportunity we couldn’t pass up ”.
(Snead may have evolved into a Hollywood negotiator, but he’s known to keep his old-school Alabama football roots up when he refers to his quarterback as a “signal caller.”)
Just as there is pressure for McVay, there is also pressure for Stafford, who – for all his greatness over 12 impressive seasons in Detroit – has yet to win a playoff game.
“For all the different quarterbacks that have been through Los Angeles, Matthew may be the most decorated to have taken a snap in Los Angeles,” Demoff said. “The most accomplished quarterback to make it to the best stadium ever built … is going to be special.”
Then there’s the pressure on the rest of the roster and coaching staff to handle a high-profile schedule that, in addition to the usual NFC West fights, includes visits from defending champs like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Chicago Bears and Tennessee Titans, and trips to Green Bay, Minnesota, and Baltimore.
As of now, the Rams will play five games in prime time. The world of American football will be watching. Los Angeles will be waiting. SoFi will be waiting too.
They need to win big. They need to win now.
“The most important thing we can do this year is really establish home advantage at SoFi Stadium,” Demoff said. “This is the opportunity to create memories there for the first time. Our fanbase helped this team come back, helped us build a team that could contend for the championship every year, but this is the year they really take pride in the home they built … and we feel obligated. to make sure they can leave SoFi Stadium smiling, both for the building and for what they see on the field. “
Kroenke, Demoff and Snead have fulfilled that obligation. Now is the time for McVay and his team to do the same.
“We feel like we’re ready to go on the journey, you’re right,” Snead said. “We are in base camp, we have 17 stages to go … but where we are, we believe we can make that effort.”
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