The Los Angeles Rams, winners of three straight against Seattle, Arizona, and Cleveland, were able to climb back to .500 and get in the mix to get into the playoff hunt.
Against Arizona and Cleveland, the Rams have combined to score 73 points. A big part of the offensive success has been a result of the return of running back Kyren Williams. In the last two games, Williams has 37 carries for 231 yards and a touchdown as well as nine receptions on 11 targets for 85 yards and two receiving touchdowns.
As a result, Williams is averaging 6.24 yards per carry and 7.73 yards per reception since his return.
As much as it is Williams’ success, it also falls on head coach Sean McVay, who has led the team to three consecutive victories after their Week 10 bye, where they lost three straight before the one-week break.
“That consistent approach and that mental and physical toughness, that grit that’s been established by our team has served us well, especially coming off of the bye,” McVay said Wednesday to reporters. “We got some guys back healthy.”
Despite going into the bye with a 3-6 record, the Rams had the opportunity to go one of two ways. They could have either fought back to .500 three weeks after the bye or given up and gone after a top-10 spot in next April’s draft.
McVay said the improvement after the bye week is a testament to the players turning the page and realizing that there is still time to peak.
“I think what they’ve shown, is they can really be able to gather themselves after the bye and continue to really get better,” McVay said Sunday after the teams’ 36-19 win over Cleveland. “I think the best teams get better and I’ve seen that each of the last three weeks.”
With the winning streak, it has brought the Rams into possible playoff contention, holding the No. 8 spot, just outside the top seven who make the postseason.
However, the Rams are ahead of Seattle but are behind No. 7 Green Bay and No. 6 Minnesota, of whom all four teams have 6-6 records fighting for two playoff spots with five games remaining.
How Los Angeles Rams Head Coach Sean McVay Is A Candidate For Coach Of The Year
Not only has the winning streak put the Rams in playoff contention, but it has put McVay as a contender for the AP NFL Coach of the Year honor, awarded to the league’s best coach.
Although McVay is not as sexy or flashy as a pick compared to the likes of Detroit’s Dan Campbell or last year’s recipient in New York’s Brian Daboll, he has shown how to win with the group that he has, even helping the Rams win the Super Bowl a couple of years ago.
This was a team that was 3-6 at one point, did not have their No. 1 receiver in Cooper Kupp while having a defense without Jalen Ramsey for the first time this season, but McVay has led this team on the cusp of playoff contention through 12 games.
McVay has had to rely on other players stepping up from rookie wide receiver Puka Nacua to defensive back Cobie Durant and rookie outside linebacker Byron Young, among others, to get this team playing meaningful December football.
These final five games are going to provide McVay and a team with a test each week, beginning with a road matchup in Baltimore, the top team in the AFC. Then the Rams host Washington and New Orleans in a five-day stretch, hosting the Saints for Thursday Night Football on Dec. 21.
To conclude the season, the team heads to New York to face the Daboll’s Giants before going to the Bay Area to face the 49ers to end the regular season.
Ultimately, the seven-year Los Angeles Rams head coach said having this job allows him to help the entire roster, both active and practice, not only become better players but also better people.
“I love this game. I love coaching. I love being around these players,” McVay said. “That doesn’t mean I’m always joyful either. There are things where you go through real emotions because you care and you work hard and sometimes, you’re a little bit irritable because you’re not sleeping, whether it’s because of the little man or not, but I think these are necessary steps as you continue to grow into the man you want to be.”
Having that connection with players goes a long way and it builds trust between a player and a coach, which goes a long way when players are able to look back on their coaches, especially if they receive the Coach of the Year honor.