Whoops! Kevin O’Connell May Have Been Special Sauce for Rams.

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Aug 14, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

For a night, the Los Angeles Rams resembled a team adapting to life without their offensive coordinator. Wouldn’t you know it? That’s precisely what the 2022 Rams are enduring.

The Buffalo Bills disemboweled the Rams on Thursday night to start the 2022 regular season, 31-10. And the Bills served up four turnovers inside the 21-point rout, so the score could’ve theoretically been even more lopsided.

The embarrassment versus Buffalo was the Rams first glimpse at life without Kevin O’Connell, the team’s 2021 offensive coordinator. O’Connell joined the Vikings as head coach days after Los Angeles won the Super Bowl in February.

And because the Rams were so outlandishly shellacked by the Bills, one of two things occurred — or perhaps a mixture:

  1. The Rams encountered a true-blue hangover from the 2021 season.
  2. Kevin O’Connell was rather vital to the franchise’s offensive success.
Aug 19, 2021; Thousand Oaks, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Of course, Minnesota Vikings fans will assert O’Connell was the special sauce, and hence big things are coming to the Vikings offense on Sunday. That’s what superfans do to find hype for an impending season.

Moreover, around the Super Bowl and thereafter, head coach Sean McVay coyly hinted at retirement after becoming the youngest coach to win a Super Bowl. Superstar defensive tackle Aaron Donald also hinted at hanging up the cleats. So, maybe the Rams woes on Thursday were merely an indication of complacency or lack of hunger. The Bills assuredly had hunger, thrashing the Rams every which way and piling on offense — Josh Allen was even running the football up 21 points — while the game was effectively decided.

Sep 8, 2022; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Matthew Stafford also looked like, well, Matthew Stafford. Pundits adore Stafford, so his sins will be forgiven on Friday — if they aren’t already. He is one of the few quarterbacks leaguewide who can author a miserable game, and the NFL body politic will conjure theories of “Is he hurt?” or “Just a bad day at the office.” Stafford is afforded eternal and universal sympathy.

Perhaps Stafford clicked with O’Connell, and the Vikings coach’s absence reared its head against Buffalo. O’Connell also dragged 2021 Rams quarterbacks coach Wes Phillips to the North Star State with him, so Stafford dealt with a brave new world in Week 1.

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Kevin O’Connell

Sean McVay will “figure it out.” That’s what he does. Without O’Connell, McVay somehow shoved Jared Goff into a Super Bowl four years ago. His resume is credible and can withstand a Week 1 defecation.

On the whole, though, for a single game, the Rams — and Matthew Stafford, in particular — looked like a wayward offensive team without its trusty offensive coordinator.

And that guy now works for the Vikings.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

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