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 »This Week in History
Los Angeles Rams

  Inside Slant | Notes, Quotes | Strategy and Personnel | Player Wire

  Rams believe future is bright

While the Los Angeles Rams lost to the Atlanta Falcons in the wild-card round of the playoffs, cutting short a season they believed capable of going much further, the premature end did not diminish the overall achievement of a year in which they produced their first winning season in 14 years and first division title since 2003.

It was, on so many levels, a remarkable turnaround as their offense went from worst in the NFL to the best, Jared Goff emerged as a legitimate NFL quarterback, Sean McVay established himself as one of the best young head coaches in the game and Todd Gurley II rebounded from a rough second season to become one of the most dangerous weapons in the game.

And defensively, Aaron Donald cemented his place as the best interior lineman in the game, a player the Rams can build a decisive, dominant defense around.

For a franchise that's struggled so mightily for relevance and success over the years, it was the breakthrough they have been seeking for years.

The sudden end to the season does not dampen, diminish or alter any of that moving forward. The Rams built a foundation this year, one they believe will lead to bigger and better things in a future they believe is exceedingly bright.

The key now is learning and growing from a season no one saw coming, but will be the springboard that might alter the franchise in the short term as well as the long as they solidify their place in Los Angeles.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: The Rams exceeded all expectations in developing Jared Goff into a Pro-Bowl caliber quarterback, restoring running back Todd Gurley II into a star and turning a non-winning team over the last 14 years into division champions.

WHAT WENT WRONG: The Rams could not carry their regular-season success into the playoffs, losing to the Atlanta Falcons in the wild-card round. It proved a difficult lesson: The regular season and the playoffs are wildly different animals.

MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER: While Tavon Austin carved out a role for himself, it was nowhere near worth the $13 million the Rams paid him. They hoped to get Pro-Bowl numbers out of him upon signing him to a lucrative extension last year; instead they got a high-paid decoy.

MOST SURPRISING PLAYER: Rookie safety John Johnson took over the starting role early in the season and turned out to be a revelation while amassing 75 tackles and solidifying the back end of the defense in run and pass support.

ASSISTANT COACH ON THE RISE: Offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur went from quarterbacks coach of the Falcons a year ago to the coordinator of the best offense in the NFL. And while head coach Sean McVay called the plays, LaFleur gets high marks for his in-week game-planning and scheming.

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