In the ugliest of fashions, the Los Angeles Rams took down the New York Jets on the road.
The game ended 9-6 and the only touchdown, a trick screen play to Bilal Powell, was followed by a botched extra point. Neither team could generate consistent offense, and each team’s defensive shortcomings were negated by offensive mishaps. Everything was awful and the game felt like a warped, dystopian version of the sport that we have grown to love. There were plenty of excellent, exciting games throughout the league on Sunday, but Rams-Jets was not one of them.
Rams Offense vs Jets Defense
The Rams did not score a touchdown this Sunday. For the third time this season, the Rams did not score a touchdown in an entire regulation American football match. Somehow, the Jets offense was even worse and managed to score fewer than the nine points that Greg Zuerlein generated, but this game was yet another reminder that the Rams have deep rooted issues on offense.
If nothing else, Rams fans can take solace in the fact that this game marks the end of the Case Keenum era—or at least that is the dream. Keenum completed seventeen of his 30 passes for 156 yards, putting him at less than 60% of completion and averaging roughly five yards per pass. Some credit can be granted to Keenum for not turning the ball over at all, but he was again disappointing and it appears to have been the final straw for Jeff Fisher (or the shadow figures who forced Fisher to make this decision).
- I’ve done my best to advocate for Tavon Austin in the past, but this week was a depressing realization that he can’t be anything more than a gimmick player. Austin’s only real contributions came on hand offs and quick screens, even though he ran plenty of real routes against a porous Jets secondary.
- After trying to use Tyler Higbee last week, he was absent this week. Pharoh Cooper saw some snaps, but was not given a chance to do anything. When should we expect the rookies to be given a shot?
- The Jets played a lot of man defense, often coupled with a heavy blitz. They weren’t scared of Keenum at all, nor should they have been.
- This game was a total mixed bag for Todd Gurley. He popped off a handful of effective runs, but also failed to make the most out of some plays.
Red Zone Offense
Good teams win in the red zone. Inside the red zone, the field is compressed and crisp execution becomes key. The Rams can’t execute at all.
This screenshot is at the end of a long run that running back Benny Cunningham ripped off. By the looks of it, you would assume that Cunningham could stretch toward the pylon and finish the play. Of course, he does not, leaving the Rams with a fresh set of downs at the one-yard line.
Did the Rams score a touchdown with that fresh set out downs? They sure didn’t!
Originally, the Rams lined up in a tight formation that would normally be used to run the ball. The Rams then dispersed from that original alignment and forced fullback Cory Harkey and tight end Lance Kendricks in a doubles set to the right.
Offensive coordinator Rob Boras outsmarted himself. With this new formation, Keenum turned to his right and flipped a short screen pass to Kendricks, ultimately resulting in a play that was not a touchdown. Kendricks, not being an explosive athlete, was not able to do anything with the ball, as if the defense gave him much of a chance to anyway.
If the Rams were set on throwing a screen like that, they should have just flipped it to one of their normal play makers. Going through the hassle and feaux creativity of flexing out a fullback and an nonathletic tight end to run a screen play didn’t make sense before the snap, and made even less sense after the snap.
Kenny Britt Torched Darrelle Revis
It’s sad to see Darrelle Revis play this way. Revis is a Hall of Fame caliber player and, at his peak, was the most dominant cornerback I’ve seen in my young lifetime. Father Time has come calling for Revis and Revis now looks like a shell of himself, often playing slow and incapable of acting on his instincts. As a result of Revis’ decline, a rejuvenated Kenny Britt had little trouble in abusing Revis.
By day’s end, Britt had seven receptions for 109 yards. On every type of route, Revis was losing track of Britt and allowing Britt chances to make plays. Britt did not score a touchdown, but he accounted for two-thirds of the Rams receiving production and was by far the most impactful offensive player.
Revis got burnt on this play. Britt didn’t need a fancy route or a mishap by Revis, he just needed his speed. Britt did very little other than sprint down the field, but Revis could not stick with Britt stride-for-stride. As a result, Britt hauled in his biggest catch of the day.
The previous week, Revis was also given the work by Cleveland’s Terrelle Pryor. Prime Revis, or even not-prime-but-still-good Revis, would have vaporized Britt and held Pryor to a handful of short catches, but Revis is no longer that guy and it showed on Sunday.
Rams Defense vs Jets Offense
The Jets scored a touchdown! Touchdown be damned, the Jets still failed to outscore the touchdown-less Rams. With Ryan Fitzpatrick being bad and battling injury, head coach Todd Bowles gave the reigns to second-year quarterback Bryce Petty. Petty was a mid-round pick out of Baylor who had yet to play a significant amount of snaps until Sunday. The Jets are probably wishing that he still hadn’t played any significant snaps.
Petty was somehow worse than Fitzpatrick, who has been a turnover machine. Petty missed easy throws, failed to properly handle pressure and ultimately restricted the Jets offense. No matter the quarterback, though, the Jets passing offense is miserable to watch because the receivers are clearly talented, but there is not a viable quarterback who can consistently get them the ball.
On the ground, the Jets had much more success, but the passing offense was so dismal that it did not much matter that Matt Forte and Bilal Powell were running the ball effectively. Between the two running backs, the Jets ran for 5.6 yards per carry, but the offense was too often forced to throw and could not throw with success.
- The secondary played arguably their best game of the season. Bryce Petty was the opposing quarterback, yes, but they were surprisingly sticky in coverage and did not allow for many open windows.
- Defensive end Eugene Sims had a quietly great day in run defense. He was surely an unsung hero.
- The effectiveness of the Rams run defense between when Michael Brockers is on the field and when he is not, is stark.
- Robby Anderson: can scoot.
- Alec Ogletree was bad in run defense, but excelled in coverage. He had the game-sealing interception.
Surprise Performance: Cornerback Troy Hill
As a unit, the Rams secondary played a good game. Trumaine Johnson played up to par, the safeties held their own, and the secondary was aided by a quality pass rush. While all of those things can be expected from the Rams week-to-week, Troy Hill playing well is abnormal. Hill was originally inserted into the lineup early this season when it was clear that Coty Sensabaugh was horrendous, but at the time, Hill looked just as incompetent.
This week gave Hill something to build on. He still allowed a few short catches, but Hill came through with a handful of sweet deflections and locked down his assignment much better than usual.
The deflection above was on a third down early in the fourth quarter. It was a high intensity situation and Hill came through for his team. As soon as Hill saw the receiver break off inside, Hill followed him, undercut the route and swatted the ball to the ground.
Everything about this play was beautiful and a rare display of ability from Hill. He wasted no time in attacking the receiver’s route and did a great job of syncing up his undercut path with the path of the ball. Hill forced this pass to be perfect, and when it was not, he swatted it away.
Crippling Run Defense
I bring it up every week, but the Rams can not defend against the run when Michael Brockers is not on the field. Considering he is a massive human being who needs his rest to be at full capacity, the Rams have to substitute Cam Thomas onto the field to give Brockers a break. The Rams allow too many big plays when Brockers is off the field.
It’s not just Thomas’ fault, though. The linebackers somehow play worse when Brockers is off the field. More than likely, the problem is that Brockers so often destroys one side of the play so quickly that the linebackers know they can prioritize themselves elsewhere. When Thomas can not provide the linebackers that luxury, they play sheepishly and incorrectly.
Forte has a all the room in the world on this play. Cam Thomas, who is being pinned by #76 and #67, did a horrendous job of holding the line of scrimmage. On top of Thomas’ beatdown, linebacker Alec Ogletree is still seven yards off the line of scrimmage by the time Forte is about to cross the line of scrimmage. As the screenshot would suggest, #82 got a piece of Ogletree and Forte scampered for a 20-plus yard gain.
Part of the problem on this play is that the Rams were not able to outnumber the Jets in the box and the safeties did a poor job of flowing down to help, but this is still a questionable play without Brockers. Thomas was not able to get the push that Brockers normally does, so the linebackers were forced into a bind where they both had to make gap decisions. Neither of them played it correctly, and Ogletree ended up getting folded in half as he tried to move back over toward Forte. Again, Forte popped off a big run.
The Rams somehow came away with a win, but there was not much about this game that gives reason to be hopeful for the remainder of the season. Jared Goff being inserted into the lineup soon may give the offense some life, but it will be nearly impossible for him to be worse than Keenum was, so even slight improvement won’t mean much in the context of this season.
With a brutal four-game stretch coming up, the Rams still don’t look ready to be a real threat to anyone. They may luck into a win over this tough stretch because the NFL is unpredictable and inexplicable, but it’s tough to be hopeful about the near future, especially coming off a week without scoring a touchdown.