GLENDALE, AZ — Johnny Hekker was pontificating on all things special teams on Sunday as a group of reporters hung on to his every word inside the Rams locker room at the University of Phoenix Stadium.
Then he casually raised his right leg and rested his foot on a nearby folding chair.
Only for the seat of the chair to bend backward, sending his leg crashing through the back of it and Hekker, for a moment, scrambling to regain his balance.
“Whoa, whoa,” someone said, looking at his leg awkwardly resting in the open space between the backrest and seat of the chair. “That’s your money maker, man. Be careful.”
Hekker smiled sheepishly and shook his head.
“That was terrible,” he said, laughing.
In an otherwise brilliant day for the Rams punter — and really, season — it was merely one small, awkward blemish.
And he was entitled to it at that.
Hekker, as much as anyone else, played a huge role in the Rams 32-16 win over the Cardinals Sunday to secure their first winning season since 2003, preserve their grip on first place in the NFC West and send them soaring into next week’s showdown against the Philadelphia Eagles at the Coliseum.
In one mighty, booming kick, he completely changed the complexion of a game whose momentum seemed to be tilting decisively toward the Cardinals. The Rams led 19-13 at the time but were backed up near their own end zone facing fourth-and-3 early in the third quarter.
It seemed a perfect scenario for the Cardinals, given the optimal field position they were anticipating and the prime chance to cut further into what was once a 16-0 Rams lead that would result.
But Hekker had other ideas.
So did the Rams entire special teams unit, which includes ace return man Pharoh Cooper. All year they’ve been making significant, albeit subtle contributions to the Rams remarkable turnaround.
They haven’t been flying entirely under the radar, but with mega-watt teammates like Jared Goff and Todd Gurley and Sammy Watkins and Aaron Donald out front most of the time, it’s easy to sometimes take for granted what Hekker and his special teams mates have meant this year.
A blocked punt here. A long kickoff return by Cooper there. A timely, booming punt by Hekker or a Greg Zuerlein field goal to make sure a trip to the Red Zone doesn’t go unrewarded.
The list goes on and on. Almost every game, it seems, a special teams unit schemed up and motivated and infused with confidence by assistant coach John Fassel comes up with a huge…