So what happens when you move your NFL franchise to a front-running town that doesn’t particularly like NFL football? Well, let’s check in on the Los Angeles Rams.
Last Sunday the Rams yakked up a 17-0 lead at SoFi Stadium, losing 27-24 in overtime to the visiting San Francisco 49ers. The Niners brought their fans, and the “visiting” team took over Stan Kroenke’s stadium – the spectacular monument apparently constructed to honor the nouveau riche poseurs of the world.
First, Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford lodged a complaint after the game, calling his home stadium “a tough environment for us to communicate in, really, the whole second half.” The 49er fans were so loud, the Rams had to go to a silent snap count – in their own building.
In the run-up to Monday’s “home” playoff game against “visiting” Arizona, the mistake-prone QB received some backup from his wife Kelly. Speaking on her podcast – “The Morning After With Kelly Stafford” – she pleaded with Rams fans to keep their tickets and not sell them to invading Cardinals’ fans.
“I have never seen so many of the opposing team’s fans at a game,” Kelly Stafford said. “And we came from Detroit, and there are a lot of good traveling teams there, but that was wild…It was crazy. I’ve never seen anything like that, but it made it very hard for us.”
After grabbing another win from the Rams, 49ers players praised their fans for helping them out by transforming SoFi into a de facto home game.
“It definitely did (help),” San Francisco wide receiver Deebo Samuel said. “I feel like the Rams pumped noise because there weren’t that many Rams fans in here.”
And linebacker Fred Warner added this: one of the game officials told him it was impressive to see such a massive presence of 49er fans in LA for the takeover.
“We were in a TV time out,” Warner said, “and the ref’s kind of standing there and he’s like, ‘Man, who set this up for you guys to have this many fans out here?’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know. This feels like a home game.’ And they came up big at the end there. Shoot, you felt it. It felt like a home game.”
“It was crazy,” 49ers defensive lineman Arik Armstead said. “I remember two years ago when we played in the (LA) Coliseum how the Niner fans took over the stadium, and today was crazy. It was a lot of chaos out there. It was tough to even communicate on defense for us make changes, so they definitely represented today and it was great to see all that red in the crowd.”
How did the Rams feel about playing a road game at home?
“It did catch us off guard,” head coach Sean McVay said on Monday, via ESPN. “Just because of the way that it’s been this year. It’s been great, great atmosphere, great environment. Yesterday was the same thing, but there was a lot of red there. That was definitely a surprise.”
The Rams weren’t 4-12 going into the game. They were 12-4 and seeking to clinch first place in the NFC West. Despite the loss and the no-show by LA sports fans, the Rams did win the West because Arizona lost at Seattle.
The Cardinals probably won’t bring such a large delegation to Los Angeles for the playoff game; a Monday-night kickoff isn’t ideal for fans to travel. Then again, no one expected a San Francisco seizure of SoFi on Sunday.
READING TIME 5 MINUTES
HERE’S A SCOOP: If you haven’t been watching “Scoops With Danny Mac” TV show on Fox 2 every Sunday night at 10:30 p.m., you should change your viewing habits. Or, kidding aside, you should set “Scoops” on season record and then watch it at a convenient time. My friendly advice is to make sure to catch this Sunday’s show. It’s really special. Danny Mac presents an inside look of the powerful Incarnate Word Red Knights basketball team, which is No. 1 in the state and ranked among the Top 10 teams nationally. Coach Dan Rolfes and staff, gave the “Scoops” crew access to his program as they prepared for their historic 49th consecutive victory. There are shootarounds, pregame scouting reports, the walk-through, timeouts, and entry into the team locker room at halftime and again in the immediate postgame. Coach Rolfe, one of the best in the nation, was mic’d up for the duration. This provides a fascinating, up-close chance to see a winning culture and the hard work that goes into the building of a championship-caliber team. Again: don’t forget, 10:30 p.m. Sunday on Fox 2.
A BUNCHA BLUES NOTES: How well rounded are the Blues? This is impressive: the Blues are the ONLY team in the NHL that ranks among the top five in most goals per game (3.41) and are in the top eight in fewest goals allowed (2.62) per game … only two NHL teams, St. Louis and Anaheim, are ranked in the league top five in power-play success, and penalty-kill rate … and the Blues are No. 2 in the league with a .930 save percentage at all strengths … Thursday’s 2-1 win over Seattle was the STL’s 13th comeback of the season, which ties Colorado for the NHL lead … and in winning this one, the Blues erased another third-period deficit. This season the Blues and Florida are tied for the NHL lead in winning percentage (.333) when trailing after two periods … the frequency of comeback wins is even more impressive when we consider that the Blues’ average time of trailing during a game (12 minutes 59 seconds) is the second–lowest in the NHL. So the boys are certainly making the most of their comeback opportunities … the Blues have done very well when tied after two periods, compiling a 6-3-3 record in those situations … Good stat from Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic: through Sunday’s win over Dallas, Blues’ forwards ranked No. 3 in the NHL in goals (104) and No. 2 in points (269.) After the win over the Kraken we can update those totals to 106 goals and 274 points …
Center Robert Thomas has 4 goals and a team-leading 24 assists this season. Thomas is one of the league’s better playmakers, ranking tied for fourth in assists per 60 minutes (2.49) among the 108 NHL forwards that have played at least 575 minutes this season. And Thomas is No. 2 among NHL forwards with 1.77 first assists per 60 minutes. Very nice …
And then there’s Pavel Buchnevich. When he’s been on the ice for the Blues this season – all situations – the Blues have outscored opponents 49-18. Ridiculous! Or to put it another way, the Blues score 73.13% of the goals when Buchnevich is on the loose. How good is that? That’s the best percentage in the NHL among forwards that have logged at least 620 minutes in all situations – and No. 1 among 182 forwards that have played at least 500 minutes (all situations.) … It doesn’t really matter — at least not much — who Buchnevich skates with. Here are the Blues goals for and goals against counts (all situations) for Buchnevich and assorted teammates.
Jake Walman, 3-1
Others are average, like Buchnevich and Marco Scandella (5-5) and Buch with Tyler Bozak (2-2) … the Blues have gone 12-0-1 in their last 13 home games. For the season, they’re 15-3-2 at Enterprise Center and a big part of that is goal prevention. The Blues have given up an average of only 2.13 goals per 60 minutes at home, and that ranks No. 1 in the NHL … the Blues are 4th in the league with 3.66 goals per 60 minutes at home … in his nine home starts since March 20 of last season, Ville Husso has an overall save percentage of .939 which ranks 2nd among NHL goaltenders that have played at least 500 minutes at home over that time. And Husso has the league’s best high-danger save percentage at home (.896) among goalies that have played 500+ minutes on their home ice since last March 20 … since last March 20 (only regular-season games) here are the home-ice save percentages among the three Blues goaltenders that have started at least four games: Charlie Lindgren .952 in four games; Husso .939 in nine games; Jordan Binnington .918 in 22 games.
MIZZOU HOOPS: How much does Mizzou invest in men’s basketball? And what is the impact of a below-average commitment? Here’s an excerpt from an excellent, deep-dive piece from Matthew Harris of the high-quality Rock M Nation blog: “Inconsistency might be the polite descriptor of its product. Away from the floor, though, you could argue the program’s also slipped in the SEC pecking order. Consider this: the Tigers are among the bottom four in basketball spending since switching conferences. Over that same period, MU ranks 13th in overall win percentage. And despite three forays into March, the program has never earned better than a No. 8 seed, and its last victory came in 2010.”
A QUESTION ON TOMMY EDMAN: Should he discontinue switch-hitting and take all of his plate appearances as a right-handed batter? Fan Graphs took a look at Edman and other MLB hitters who could benefit from staying in their strongest side of the batter’s box. In his three MLB seasons Edman has a .516 slugging percentage, .844 OPS when batting from the right side. And his overall offense (based on park and league adjusted runs created, (wRC+) is 24 percent above the league average. Hitting from the left side, Edman has a much lower slugging percentage (.384) and OPS (.703) and is eight percent below average offensively. But
FanGraphs believes Edman should keep going as a switch–hitter: “He’s useful against left-handed pitching and not that bad against right-handed pitching. His power numbers as a right-handed batter are encouraging … but as a contact-oriented hitter, he’s probably better off sticking with the platoon advantage in all of his plate appearances.”
All due respect, Edman doesn’t seem to have a platoon advantage. In the big leagues his OPS is 156 points higher against left-handed pitchers (compared to RHP.) And in wRC+, Edman is 27 percent above average vs. LHP and nine percent below average vs. RH.
BLUES CLUES: Are the Blues the No. 1 trade destination for Arizona defenseman Jakob Chychrun? He’d be an attractive acquisition given his skill, age (23) and an affordable contract that has three full seasons remaining beyond this year at an average annual value of $4.6 million. But what’s the price in a potential trade exchange. At the Athletic, hockey writers Harman Dayal and Shayna Goldman believe the Blues have the best chance to land Chychrun. But they also theorized that a Blues’ trade package would include either Jordan Kyrou or Robert Thomas. Stop it right there. That won’t happen. “St. Louis, on the other hand, may find them essential to the team right now and in the future,” the authors noted. “But their development could give the Blues a green light to move other young forward pieces from their prospect pipeline to bolster their blue line.” Translation: perhaps forward Jake Neighbours, and/or defenseman Scott Perunovich.
MISCELLANY: At the Miklasz home, we’re hooked on the Netflix British Crime Drama, “So Close,” … not sure why so many chefs put so many photos of themselves on social media. No offense, but isn’t it a better marketing idea to post wonderful, hunger-inspiring food to get potential diners motivated to come to your restaurant? … if you’re ever feeling blue and want to smile, just watch “All Creatures Great And Small” on PBS. And no, I’m not talking about our friends on Donnybrook. The second season of All Creatures Great And Small is underway … an older song that I can’t get out of my mind today: “Sick of Myself” by Matthew Sweet. And no, it ain’t about my mood or state of mind … second song that’s hanging in my head: “Fooled Around And Fell In Love,” by the Elvin Bishop Band … third song that’s keeping me company at this moment of typing: “Somebody’s Baby” by Jackson Browne …I was watching a little Goodfellas” late at night this week, and now of course I’m craving meatballs and gravy after watching mob boss Paulie Cicero’s cooking method in prison: In the words of Henry Hill, who was played by Ray Liotta in the film: “In prison, dinner was always a big thing. We had a pasta course, then we had a meat or a fish. Paulie was doing a year for contempt and had a wonderful system for garlic. He used a razor and sliced it so thin it would liquefy in the pan with a little oil. It’s a very good system.” Damn right.
That’s all! Thanks for reading.
Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the “Bernie Show” podcast at 590thefan.com — the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.
Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz
Stats used in this column were cultivated from FanGraphs, Natural Stat Trick, and Hockey Reference.