Alexander: Rams sent a message to the league Sunday – Press-Enterprise

INGLEWOOD – Rams players and coaches said all week that Sunday’s meeting with (gotta phrase it this way) Tom Brady and the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers wasn’t a measuring stick.

You didn’t believe them, did you?

Downplaying its significance during the week didn’t stop a loud, vibrant crowd (73,205 tickets distributed) with plenty of star power from showing up at the corner of Century and Prairie, greater L.A.’s newest place to see and be seen. Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Magic Johnson, LeBron James, Dr. Dre, Larry David, YG and a good portion of the cast of “Ted Lasso” were among those shown on the giant Oculus board, illustrating the lesson the Rams obviously learned from their predecessors in Inglewood, the Lakers: If you have a celebrity presence, make sure the world knows about it.

In their sixth season in Los Angeles, with their $5 billion (or so) football palace fully operable and an enthusiastic, vibrant, multicultural – and extremely loud – fan base filling the seats, maybe this is indeed the Rams’ time. If so, Sunday’s 34-24 takedown of the champs – a game even more lopsided until a Tampa Bay touchdown in the final two minutes – was a message and maybe even a warning to the rest of the NFL.

Yes, it is early, as Sean McVay and his players reminded us again after Sunday’s game. Fourteen games – the length of an entire NFL season once upon a time – remain. But if this Rams team with these weapons on both sides of the ball shows up consistently, this is going to be a very fun autumn in Los Angeles, even beyond whatever the city’s baseball franchise has in store for us.

And if the road to a championship should run through SoFi Stadium during the NFC playoffs, as well as ending there next Feb. 13 with Super Bowl LVI, the rest of the nation will be reminded just how much sports passion truly exists in this community.

It has taken a while for the Rams to build to this point. But Sunday’s nationally televised victory, Tampa Bay’s first defeat since last Nov. 29, was a measuring stick no matter what anyone says.

And while the Rams players made available to the media Sunday remained on message, Aaron Donald made this observation, when talking about the culture in the locker room and the group that has been assembled: “The last time we had a team like that, we went to the Super Bowl.”

Yes, this team has that makeup.

“For sure,” he said. “It’s only three games, and it’s still a long season, but I think we’re in a good position. We go week to week and see what happens.”

There will almost certainly be hiccups. There will be moments where they’ll face adversity, times in games where it feels like they can’t get out of their own way, afternoons that turn into a tough, hard slog.

That attitude of turning the page will help (and let’s be thankful that McVay isn’t fond of that “1-0 this week” cliche that has become trendy throughout football, because it’s already trite). But beyond that, this team has a serious arsenal of weapons.

Consider DeSean Jackson, the veteran deep threat who had touched the ball just twice in the opener against Chicago and not at all last week at Indianapolis. Jackson put his stamp on Sunday’s game on the third play of the second half when Matthew Stafford found him down the middle for a 75-yard scoring play. Jackson was 10 yards behind the two Bucs defenders tracking him when he caught the ball, and did a little side-step to tease them before taking it into the end zone.

Then he went a few steps into the tunnel, and in his excitement, McVay chased him down to celebrate. It wasn’t quite Flipper Anderson racing into the tunnel and into the locker room after catching a Jim Everett TD pass to end an overtime playoff victory in the Meadowlands in January, 1990, but who knows what new memories these guys can make to add to the Rams’ L.A. heritage?

McVay blamed his exuberance on too much caffeine, but added, “I was just in the moment, having fun, watching these guys do their thing. There (were) a lot of reasons to be excited for our team today.”

Jackson wound up with three catches for 120 yards, Cooper Kupp had 96 and four other Rams contributed to Stafford’s 343-yard passing day. And if there’s anyone out there who still misses Jared Goff, I don’t know what to tell you. Stafford is an experienced quarterback at the helm of a high-octane offense, and what had started as a can-you-top-this contest between he and Brady became one-sided to the tune of 31-7 late in the third quarter.

The idea that Rams players are hesitant to pat themselves on the back is a good sign. (That’s our job, after all.)

“We don’t measure ourselves against anyone except our guys in our room,” Kupp said. “…We’re OK with making mistakes but not OK with saying it’s good enough. That’s the beauty of it.

“When mistakes happen, everyone’s pushing for success, everyone’s doing everything they can to be positive, be a producer.”

There is this last little thing, and maybe it’s not so little, but it’s definitely a reflection that the Rams have again put roots in this community and the bygones of those two decades in Missouri truly are bygones.

There were the requisite number of Brady jerseys in the SoFi crowd Sunday, but there were far more Rams jerseys, honoring both legends and current heroes. More to the point, SoFi Stadium Sunday could stake a claim as greater L.A.’s loudest sports venue, with no further clue necessary beyond the Bucs’ three false start penalties Sunday.

“It’s so loud, we were tryin’ to make checks (at the line) and we had to keep echoing because we couldn’t hear,” Donald said. “But we love it. That’s the atmosphere you want to play in, man, to have that in our home stadium where it’s packed and it’s hard for the offense to get certain things off.”

Home sweet home, right?

@Jim_Alexander on Twitter