THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) With the way the Los Angeles Rams are playing, it would be easy to entertain fantasies that Sunday’s game at Minnesota might not be their only visit to this season’s Super Bowl site.
Rams head coach Sean McVay isn’t making plans for a return trip to U.S. Bank Stadium just yet.
”What a great thing that is, but if we don’t get to our eighth win then nothing else really matters,” McVay said Monday.
The Rams play their next two games against fellow NFC division leaders and four of their next five against teams that currently have winning records. How the Rams navigate this stretch will determine whether they win the NFC West, claim a wild-card berth, or miss the playoffs for the 13th straight season.
McVay doesn’t want the Rams thinking about anything but their next opponent. The first-year coach has emphasized a ”process over results-driven” approach since he arrived in Los Angeles, and he’s guided the Rams to a 7-2 record.
”You just kind of speak something into existence and you talk about it so often that you almost really do put blinders on because of what a competitive, tough league this is,” McVay said. ”That’s not to say you don’t know and pay attention to the other teams in this league, but to truly say that all that really matters for us is we’re focused on Minnesota and seeing against a great football team how can we find a way to get to 8-2.”
The Rams were able to stay focused after a sluggish start in their 33-7 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday. The offense scored 24 points and amassing 309 yards in the second half. McVay criticized his own play-calling for not allowing them to get into a rhythm early.
Los Angeles’ defense continued creating takeaways and keeping opponents out of the end zone. Dating to the second half of an Oct. 1 win at Dallas, which McVay called the turning point for the defense, the Rams have allowed 63 points and come up with 13 takeaways in 22 quarters.
McVay believes the defense found continuity after rarely having its starters playing together in the preseason. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who held out while seeking a new contract and did not report to the team until the day before the season opener, has a sack in four straight games with three forced fumbles. Linebacker Mark Barron, who did not play in the preseason a precautionary measure, had a critical red-zone interception after a failed fake punt.
”To their credit, when you really look at it since that Dallas second half, they have been outstanding,” McVay said. ”They are leading the league in takeaways. … They are up there in all the important stats, the stats that really matter.”
What matters most to McVay is focusing on the next opponent and ignoring everything else.
”Our players believe in that. I know we do as a coaching staff, and I think that’s what has allowed us to do some good things,” McVay said.
NOTES: Left guard Rodger Saffold sprained his ankle against the Texans, but McVay said the injury was not serious. . Outside linebacker Robert Quinn (illness) is expected to return to practice Wednesday.
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