On their way to whipped cream, the Rams encountered vinegar.
Locked into a knifefight with Houston and leading only 9-7, they watched Shane Lechler’s punt bound out of bounds at their own 14.
Not satisfied, the Rams took advantage of a penalty and made him kick it again. Lechler, 41, shrugged and made the Rams start from their 5-yard-line.
That kind of day, right? Alec Ogletree had just intercepted Tom Savage’s pass and gone all the way and saw all that dancing go poof when the officials detected holding.
But the Rams decided to take the nature of the day in their own hands, which first meant finding the hands of Robert Woods.
On second-and-8 from the Rams’ 6, Woods and Cooper Kupp lined up on the right side, and Jared Goff noticed the ravenous Texans poised at the edge of the pocket again.
“We felt at some point we could use their aggression against them,” center John Sullivan said.
Goff ran play-action and the Texans went into a frenzy. Todd Gurley arrested a Texans’ blitz. Cupp, the inside receiver, ran an out route. Woods looked downfield. At this point Houston had to make a bad choice.
“That’s why it’s a well-designed play,” Kupp said. “It puts the safety in a bad position.On that play he came with me. That meant Robert only had to beat one guy in the open field.”
Safety Andre Hal joined cornerback Kareem Jackson on Kupp. Woods made one step to the right and then cut left and straightened out the route, Cornerback Johnathan Joseph got held up slightly as Jackson crossed his path.
“I saw that ball in the air and it was beautiful,” Sullivan said.
“We were backed up, but we’ve got to play our game no matter the situation,” Kupp said.
“Robert ran a skinny (post) inside of Joseph and ran by him and finished, and that’s where you see that 200-meter juice.”
Woods took it and went 94 yards.
“I haven’t done that in pro, college, high school, video game, Madden anywhere,” he said.
He ran through the end zone that was so familiar in Woods’ years at USC, and he tried to vault the short fence that held a section of fans.
Then he scored again and this time didn’t bother with the truncated L.A. Leap. The Rams gave Houston no more chances, rolling to a 33-7 win and a 7-2 record.
“That was my second touchdown, so I can’t do the same thing,’ Woods said. “But if I keep scoring, I’ll keep doing that.”
Woods now has four touchdowns and 622 receiving yards, over 200 more than any teammate. Last week he took a third-and-33 toss from Goff and made a touchdown of it. He had 171 yards Sunday, most for a Ram since Torrey Holt had 200 in 2003 against the 49ers, and the 94-yard play was the longest since a 95-yarder from Bill Munson to Bucky Pope, the Catawba Claw, in 1964.
Woods spent much of his Buffalo career on the other side from Sammy Watkins, as is the case here. Watkins was the longball threat and Woods was the “possession receiver,” the most backhanded of compliments, since it implies heavy feet.
“I don’t think we can talk about Robert Woods as a possession receiver anymore, after the last couple of weeks,” McVay said.
In truth this game was won on Nov. 3, when Deshaun Watson went down writhing on the Texans’ practice field.
The rookie from Clemson had just thrown for 462 yards at Seattle. His replacement is Tom Savage, and the game plan was to throw quick and run. That worked for a half and then Houston forgot about the “run” part, and the Rams’ pass rush performed Savagery the rest of the day.
“Seven-and-two feels good,” Woods said. “But it’s just a win. On to the next one.”
This is Sullivan’s ninth NFL year, first with the Rams. He said he’d never seen Goff “get rattled.” Goff had trouble finding any wideouts against Houston in the first half, as Jadaveon Clowney frolicked for three tackles behind the scrimmage line. Woods, Cupp and Watkins caught six first-half passes for 29 points.
But inevitability set in, and the Rams did what solid teams do. They ignored the scoreboard until it showed them good news.
“Football is a momentum game,” Sullivan said. “And it’s not like college football, where if you lose a game,it’s one and done. We just feel like that if we prepare and execute the way we can, we’re going to win every single time. That’s not a prediction, but that’ just the way we feel.”
It’s just a matter of handling every given sunday.