The four words no one thought they’d hear in connection with the Rams anytime soon arrived special delivery at the stroke of Midnight to usher in New Year’s.
Playoff week is here.
It’s been a fait accompli for a couple of weeks now, the only question was who the Rams would play and where. They told the Seattle Seahawks who’s boss of the NFC West two weeks ago then sealed the division title last week with a win against the Titans. All that remained was figuring out whether they went into the playoffs as the third or fourth seed, the determination of which rested on where all the chips finally settled at the close of Sunday.
Nevertheless, crossing all those T’s and dotting all those I’s Sunday and then waking up New Year’s Day knowing the Rams will commence preparations for the Atlanta Falcons (5:15 p.m. Saturday, NBC) is, well, still a bit surreal.
It’s been 13 years since the Rams last played in the postseason. They haven’t played a playoff game in Southern California since 1986 and they haven’t hosted a postseason game at the Coliseum since 1978.
There isn’t a Rams fan anywhere who sincerely believed any of that would change to start this season, no matter how good they felt about new coach Sean McVay or the effect he wouldd have on Jared Goff and Todd Gurley and what can only be described as the morbid offense the Rams fielded in 2016.
And yet, here they are.
Heck, here we are.
The Rams are about to host a playoff game at the Coliseum in six days.
And if you want to put all that in perspective just know the last time that actually happened, Pat Haden was their quarterback, Ray Malavasi was the coach – after replacing George Allen, who the Rams fired two preseason games into the 1978 season after hiring him just a few months earlier – and the opponent was none other than Roger Staubach, Tom Landry and the Dallas Cowboys.
A year later the Rams left Los Angeles for Orange County seeking a better stadium situation by trading the Coliseum – showing its age even then – for Anaheim Stadium. In doing so they gave up a piece of Los Angeles they’re still trying to reclaim. The move to St. Louis only deepened the wound, but the bleeding really began when the Rams abandoned Los Angeles in 1978.
And while they triumphantly returned last year after spending the previous 21 seasons in St. Louis and L.A. celebrated by packing the Coliseum 92,000 strong early in the season, the combination of a terrible 4-12 finish, a severely outdated…