Rams’ miracle journey proves they’re Super Bowl contenders

The Rams played their worst game in nearly two months …

… but they’re a good team.

Matthew Stafford made two awful throws that were intercepted …

… but they’re a good team.

They wouldn’t have escaped with a 26-25 victory on Sunday if the five-win New York Giants hadn’t self-destructed …

… but they’re a good team.

The Rams are more than a good story. They’re also a good team. And in the wake of the division rival Seattle Seahawks’ 30-23 defeat to the Pittsburgh Steelers, they’re now a playoff team.

Just one year removed from their own five-win debacle, the Rams are headed back to the postseason.

They have one of the best coaches in the league in Sean McVay, they have a veteran quarterback who has won a Super Bowl in Stafford, they still have the best defensive player in the game in Aaron Donald and they have a legitimate ground game for the first time in who knows how long.

They’re not perfect, but they’ve won six of their last seven games, and they’re the team others should approach with extreme caution in the coming weeks.

The Rams are for real.

What started as a season in which they were rebuilding and transformed into a season in which they established a foundation for the future has suddenly turned into a season very much about the present.

Consider how McVay has adjusted his evaluation system for these Rams. Saying before the season that wins and losses wouldn’t be the only measure of success, he defended his team’s uneven performance Sunday by pointing to the final result.

“Our guys found a way,” McVay said.

Rams running back Kyren Williams (23) celebrates one of his three touchdowns against the Giants with teammates.

(Adam Hunger / Associated Press)

The Rams are no longer a project. They’re 9-7. They’re Super Bowl contenders.

That’s not to say they don’t have concerns.

Their special teams were a mess against the Giants, as kicker Lucas Havrisik missed two extra-point attempts and Gunner Olszewski returned a punt for a 94-yard touchdown against them.

Their inability to move the ball in the second half kept the Giants in the game.

They failed to protect Stafford, who was sacked four times, and Stafford compounded the problems by misfiring on a couple of throws over the middle of the field that were intercepted by safety Dane Belton.

“I’m excited about being able to say, ‘Hey, it’s gonna be a lot more fun cleaning these things up after a win,’” McVay said.

At the same time, the game marked a continuation of the season’s most positive developments.

Donald was, well, Donald, and registered two sacks. Equally, if not more encouraging, was the play of rookies Kobie Turner and Byron Young. Turner was credited with 21/2 sacks and Young with one. Turner has nine sacks on the season and Young six.

Second-year back Kyren Williams provided the Rams with a running game they’ve lacked since Todd Gurley’s knee disintegrated. Williams scored three touchdowns, the last of them a 28-yard slalom through the Giants’ defense that accounted for the winning points.

The game featured several moments in which the Rams could have lost control, but Turner said the team’s recent upswing convinced them they’d figure out how to triumph.

“I think we’ve earned a lot of that confidence,” Turner said.

The Rams were on their way. They sensed that even before the Seahawks’ loss made that official, as their locker and interview rooms were places where jokes were cracked and laughs were shared.

Williams laughed as he recalled Puka Nacua’s 80-yard reception that set up his two-yard touchdown run, saying he shouted at Nacua repeatedly, “Run, Puka, run!”

Rams wide receiver Demarcus Robinson, right, tries to stiff-arm New York Giants cornerback Cor'Dale Flott.

Rams wide receiver Demarcus Robinson, right, tries to stiff-arm New York Giants cornerback Cor’Dale Flott while running with the ball in the second half Sunday.

(Seth Wenig / Associated Press)

Informed that Nacua was shown on television soon after vomiting in a trash can on the Rams’ sideline, Williams feigned outrage, exclaiming as he giggled, “Why would they show that on TV? That’s terrible.”

Stafford smiled when talking about how Giants cornerback Adoree’ Jackson told him after the game he was convinced he was going to return Stafford’s pass to Nacua for a touchdown.

“So it was almost a touchdown for somebody,” Stafford said.

While McVay recalled the details of the narrow victory, team spokesman Artis Twyman stood nearby looking as if the game had aged him 20 years.

“What about f— me?” McVay said with a hearty laugh.

Why not laugh?

This miracle journey, one only they believed they’d make, is continuing. The Rams are returning to the playoffs.

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