LOS ANGELES (AP) — The nation’s second-largest city has waited nearly 22 years for Sunday.
When the Rams take the field in a sold-out Coliseum for their first regular-season home game of the season, the NFL will truly, officially return to Los Angeles.
A football-loving town had both of its teams simultaneously taken away by two owners with wanderlust after the 1994 season. But Stan Kroenke has brought the game back to a sprawling town that seems eager to unite behind the Rams.
“We all know it’s going to be a great moment to run down that tunnel,” said Rams defensive back T.J. McDonald, who went to college in LA. “It’s going to be history.”
And after all of that cathartic excitement and a pregame concert by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Rams (0-1) need to make sure they don’t get trampled by the Seattle Seahawks.
Los Angeles’ new team didn’t get a soft touch for its homecoming game. The Seahawks (1-0) have been among the NFL’s best for a half-decade, and the Rams’ favorable recent record in the NFC West rivalry hasn’t exactly inspired overconfidence.
“It’s going to take our best shot,” said Rams coach Jeff Fisher, a Los Angeles native.
The Rams have won three of their last four against Seattle, sweeping the two-game series last season. Yet their dismal performance Monday at San Francisco in a 28-0 loss is a bit foreboding, while the Seahawks’ 12-10 win over Miami suggested their daunting defense is already in midseason form — bad news for a Los Angeles offense that looked largely inept in its opener.
Here are some other things to watch on LA’s big day:
RE-PETE: The Rams aren’t the only people making a triumphant return to the Coliseum.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll created a college football dynasty in the venerable arena, winning two national titles at USC in a nine-year run that included a 35-game home winning streak. Carroll left USC for the Seahawks in January 2010, and he still disagrees with the NCAA’s decision to hammer the Trojans a few months later with sanctions surrounding Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush.
“I was already gone by the time all of that stuff came out, and I felt bad about that,” Carroll said. “Had I known what was going on, and what was going to come around, I never would have been able to leave, and I just wouldn’t have.”
SHERMAN RETURNS: Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman is the first visiting NFL star to get the chance to play in his hometown against the Rams. He believes the NFL’s return and the Rams’ service work will be a boon for his native Compton and other communities.
“When you have role models like that, when you have people giving back, whether it’s their time or financially, it makes a huge difference,” Sherman said. “You give kids something else to aspire to. You give kids some more goals to aspire to attain.”
BACK IN BLUE: On Thursday, the Rams thrilled many Los Angeles fans when they announced they’ll wear their throwback uniforms in the game.
The Rams wore the still-familiar blue-and-gold gear from 1973-99 before switching to the St. Louis-era uniforms that are still their official look. Nearly everyone expects the Rams to return to their LA-era colors when they move into their new billion-dollar stadium in Inglewood in 2019.
The Rams even made the announcement about Sunday’s throwbacks in true Hollywood fashion — on Ryan Seacrest’s radio show.
PHOTOS: RAMS COACHES THROUGH THE YEARS
NO TIME TO SIT: Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson started the week with questions about whether he’d be able to play. By Wednesday, he was a full participant in practice.
So much for Los Angeles getting a break.
Wilson was listed on the injury report for the first time in his career this week with the sprained right ankle after Ndamukong Suh stepped on him in the opener. Expect his mobility to be somewhat limited, which could be significant considering the amount of pressure the Rams have been able to put on Wilson in previous meetings.
“I think really great performers find a way,” Carroll said. “You don’t have to be 100 percent all the time to operate at a really high level.”
HOLD THE LINE: The Seahawks have not done well standing up to the Rams’ vaunted defensive line, which could be Los Angeles’ only significant advantage against Seattle.
The Rams sacked Wilson 16 times in the previous four meetings, winning three of those. Aaron Donald, Robert Quinn, Michael Brockers — who got a contract extension this week — and the rest have made life miserable for the Seahawks.
Seattle believes its offensive line will be better than in the opener, when J’Marcus Webb had to be inserted at guard just days before facing Miami after rookie Germain Ifedi went down with an ankle injury.
“These guys are maybe a little more active, but big powerful people,” Seattle offensive line coach Tom Cable said. “This whole month is kind of this way with all those teams we’re playing. It’s a really good opportunity to learn and grow a whole bunch.”
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