THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- In the spotlight of a prime-time NFL showdown, Robert Woods caught a touchdown pass and never broke stride as he approached the end zone suites at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
The Los Angeles Rams receiver leaped to exchange a poster-worthy high-five with rapper YG, who boldly stood on a table top above the crowd clad in a bright yellow jacket, ready to celebrate with his hometown team.
“It was a big-time celebration in the Coliseum,” said Woods, who has played in the historic venue for five seasons dating back to his college days at USC.
The scene, from a Week 4 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, appeared straight from the scenario envisioned when the Rams packed their bags in St. Louis and returned to L.A., their home before a 21-season absence.
The Hollywood Rams.
Actress Halle Berry has tweeted about them. Rapper and business mogul Jay-Z made a sideline appearance. Rams coach Sean McVay extended an invitation to WWE Hall of Fame wrestler Ric Flair to attend a game. And receiver Brandin Cooks personally delivered Floyd Mayweather a game ball after scoring a touchdown.
It's not the A-listers -- Future, Denzel Washington, Leonardo DiCaprio or Jack Nicholson -- who routinely sit courtside for Los Angeles Lakers games three miles north at Staples Center. Not yet. But, maybe, the Rams are getting close. Maybe to the B-list.
And the No. 2 seed Rams will have the opportunity to shine Saturday, when they host the Dallas Cowboys (10-6) in an NFC divisional-round playoff game.
"I expect it to be fun, fun and electric," quarterback Jared Goff said. "Similar to what last year's playoff game was and even similar to what the Kansas City game was and that playoff-type atmosphere."
The Cowboys might be America’s team, and with a sold-out Coliseum and secondary-market ticket prices soaring, there will no doubt be a large contingent of fans donning silver and blue. But with a 13-3 season and a second consecutive playoff berth, the Rams have earned the eyes of L.A., while becoming their most promising young stars.
Not only do the Rams win this season, but they do it often, and in style.
Running back Todd Gurley can hurdle any defender, and he has scored a league-best 21 touchdowns. Despite a recent slump, Goff demonstrated an improved passing precision in his third season that at times froze defenders in their tracks, and allowed for jaw-dropping completions that once appeared impossible. The Rams can score at any moment, seemingly by any means, as evidenced by their average of 32.9 points per game. LeBron James, by the way, is only averaging 27.9 points per game.
And even in a town that often has cringed at the thought of a defensive duel, Aaron Donald, the favorite to repeat as the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year, has found ways to generate buzz with his league-best 20.5 sacks.
The Rams put on a clinic in a dramatic Thursday night home win over the Vikings (which included a 158.3 perfect pass rating by Goff), and then they doubled-down with a show-stopping performance in a 54-51 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football in Week 11.
“I feel like we’re the show at that point in time,” Woods said when the team got off to an undefeated start through four games. “And it’s cool to see the celebrities come out and they want to watch us play.”
Even cornerback Marcus Peters, a proud Oakland native in his first season with the Rams, reveled in the excitement produced by the L.A. scene earlier in the season and made a prediction about the future.
“It’s only going to get better,” Peters said. “L.A. is one of these cities man, if you ain’t winning it’s going to be quiet, and if you winning, they’re going to come out, so you feel me, you got to keep winning ....”
As a kid in the 1950s, actor Danny Trejo used to sneak into the Coliseum to watch the Rams. When his team returned after a two-decade departure, he got a ground-level, front-row suite. Now, he can’t hide his excitement over rooting for a winner.
“It’s alive, it is so alive,” said Trejo, an L.A. native who owns several restaurants and sometimes parks his Trejo’s Tacos food truck at the team’s practice facility to deliver post-practice grub. “I honestly believe that the Rams are going to the Super Bowl. I already bought my tickets.”
Gurley recently appeared with James in his HBO series “The Shop” and has cultivated a friendship with YG, a Compton, California, native, who has become somewhat of a regular fixture around the team. YG made an appearance at a team walk-through on a Saturday, performed at a game the same weekend, and has since cheered from an end zone suite.
YG even gifted a diamond-encrusted “4Hunnid” pendant to Gurley before he rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks. For those not in the know, “4Hunnid” is included in Gurley’s Instagram handle (TG4Hunnid), an ode to YG’s lifestyle brand long before the two even became friends.
So far, Gurley, already an NFL name before becoming a star in L.A., appears unfazed by his growing local popularity.
“We've been able to win, been on a winning team. We've been having a lot of success here in L.A.,” Gurley said. “Obviously, offensive guys get all the attention. I guess it's been growing quite a bit.”
Goff, who you won’t often find mingling on the Sunset Strip, gave his best shoutout to Academy Award-winner Halle Berry, after the actress heard the 24-year-old quarterback holler an audible named after her, which was picked up by microphones on the field and broadcast on television.
“Hold up. @JaredGoff16 @RamsNFL - What is a ‘Halle Berry’??” Berry tweeted.
Goff appeared giddy after the game upon realizing Berry heard him. McVay handled it in cool fashion and said if Berry was asking what it meant, that it most certainly was a compliment. Goff later calmed down enough to fire off a tweet: “It’s my favorite play ever.”
Ric Flair in the house for Rams vs. Chiefs. Woo! pic.twitter.com/lugTB9sczL— Lindsey Thiry (@LindseyThiry) November 20, 2018
And then there’s Ric Flair, the WWE’s Nature Boy, whose signature “Woo” has become a staple of McVay’s celebratory postgame breakdowns. Flair favors the Atlanta Falcons but couldn’t help but take the Rams up on an invitation to attend one of the biggest Monday Night Football games in NFL history when they played the Chiefs.
Flair stood on the Rams' sideline before the game, taking in the sights and posing for onlookers. Though McVay was happy Flair made it to a game, the 32-year old coach felt a tinge of disappointment.
“I was hoping for him to be able to 'Woo' for us in the locker room afterwards,” McVay said. “But hopefully we'll get a chance to see him again soon.”