The Los Angeles Rams did not leave the Pacific Time zone while they raced out to a 5-0 start.
Now the NFC’s lone unbeaten team will travel a little further and encounter some challenging weather Sunday afternoon in a visit to the Denver Broncos.
The projected forecast for Sunday has a temperature as low of 15 and high of 28 degrees with an 80 percent chance of snowfall.
Los Angeles enters its visit to Denver off to a 5-0 start for the first time since winning the first six games of the 2001 season in the heyday of the “Greatest Show on Turf” days in St. Louis. This time, the Rams are doing it with the league’s third-best scoring offense and the league’s sixth-best scoring defense.
The Rams won their first four games without leaving California by beating the Oakland Raiders, Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Chargers and Minnesota Vikings and then won last week in Seattle. They won the first two games by an impressive 67-13 margin.
The last three games have been closer, including last week’s 33-31 win that required some late-game playmaking. The Rams held off the Seahawks by converting a fourth-and-1 with 89 seconds left in a moment many teams might have punted.
Quarterback Jared Goff converted the fourth down with a simple run up the middle and the Rams moved on to preparing for Denver after another successful day offensively. The Rams have scored at least 30 points in their first five games for the first time since doing so for the first seven games of the 2000 season.
Los Angeles stayed unbeaten despite losing receivers Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp to concussions. Both players participated in the walk-through Wednesday, but did not practice and if they sit out, Josh Reynolds and KhaDarel Hodge would become starters.
“To (receivers) coach (Eric) Yarber’s credit and, really to those players’ credit, they did an excellent job stepping in on short notice,” head coach Sean McVay said. “Didn’t really get a whole lot of reps throughout the course of the week and when their number was dialed, they did a great job delivering. Josh, obviously, on the first sequence of the second half ended up making two big catches, has a 10-yard run on the jet sweep. Then on the ‘get back on track’ call, that was a big, big important drive for us, KhaDarel ends up running a nice route where he goes down, makes a big-time catch. Those guys competed without the ball.”
Almost overshadowed was Robert Woods moving into the slot to help Reynolds and Hodge play more comfortable positions. Kupp is the Rams’ slot receiver with Woods usually playing on the outside.
“I think also what needs to be recognized is what a great job Robert Woods does being able to transition into Cooper Kupp’s role, play that position,” McVay said. “But then also the communication, the mastery that he has to be able to help those guys, along with Jared, and it was pretty seamless, where we were able to operate as normal. Those guys did an excellent job. I think it’s really a credit to those guys being able to deliver, the teammates being able to kind of help them and coaches having them ready to go in a situation that you never want deal with, losing two of your key players. But, that’s what gives you confidence in the depth that you have.”
Whoever is catching passes from Goff will be facing one of the league’s worst defenses.
The Broncos are on a three-game losing streak after allowing the New York Jets to gain 323 yards on the ground in last week’s 34-16 loss.
They enter the game ranked 23rd in the league in points allowed (26.2), 26th in yards allowed per game (395.8) and 30th in rushing yards allowed (139.6) heading into a meeting with Rams star Todd Gurley II, who has seven rushing touchdowns and 415 rushing yards.
Besides the defensive woes, Denver’s offense is not much better, especially in the red zone. The Broncos are scoring on an AFC-worst 66.7 percent of possessions inside the 20 and are getting touchdowns at a 46.7 percent clip.
Last week, the Broncos converted 4 of 14 third downs to continue a frustrating trend so far. Overall, Denver’s third-down percentage is 35.8 percent, which ranks 26th in the league.
“Every drive in the red zone last week or even in the scoring zone have been third-and-longs, so we settle for field goals or we get pushed back with penalties and had to punt,” Denver head coach Vance Joseph said. “It’s more about converting third downs and keeping third downs more manageable.”
So far, new quarterback Case Keenum is taking ownership of the scoring issues that have derailed some of the positivity from opening the season with close wins over Seattle and Oakland.
“We’ve had a good share of explosive plays, run and pass,” Keenum said. “But for us, it’s just execution. I’m getting tired of saying that we’re close because we’ve got to get better. It starts with me. I’ve got to get the ball in the right place. I’ve got to get the ball out. I’ve got to get the ball out accurately to the right place and let those guys — we’ve got so many weapons — I’ve got to let those guys hunt and go do what they do.”
Sunday is the 14th regular-season meeting between the team. Los Angeles leads the series 8-5 and has won four of the last five while averaging 29.2 points per game in those games.