The expectations for the Los Angeles Rams going into Week 5 were probably the highest the season. Coming off a thrilling win in Dallas, the Rams were riding a wave of adoration from the league all the way to a home game against their rivals, the Seattle Seahawks.
I was expecting innovative offensive schemes, an uneven defensive unit that would probably struggle against Russell Wilson, and a special teams unit that would probably find a way to hand the win to the Rams.
Let’s take a look at what was Expected and Unexpected:
Expected: The Rams made a frustrating amount of mental mistakes
A significant element to this week’s narrative regarding the Rams lost has to be the 5 turnovers. Some of those were just due to a stout Seattle Seahawks defense (I’m looking at you, Frank Clark’s strip-sack and Todd Gurley’s touchback fumble). What was expected was Tavon Austin’s inability to catch the ball on special teams. Even Austin admitted this after the game – it’s a mental thing he needs to get over. In the meantime, hello Cooper Kupp on punt returns. I will also say that WR Sammy Watkins seemed to be somewhere else on the field, not finishing his routes and/or being nowhere near the ball when his number was called. And though it didn’t decide the game, Coach Sean McVay has a time management issue that can’t be ignored. I wasn’t surprised to see those things, but it’s still frustrating.
Unexpected: Strong Showing from Safety John Johnson III and Cody Davis
I was excited that the Rams drafted Boston College S John Johnson in the 3rd round, but didn’t really know what to make of him in the first four weeks. Was he not producing in practice? Well, turns out he just needed some play-time to prove to the coaching staff that he’s a future star and they can probably just release S Maurice Alexander. And while we’re at it, I was even more surprised to see Cody Davis show up with some impressive plays, including a spectacular interception grab. Only targeted 3 times during the game, Davis didn’t allow a catch. Cody Davis still seems to be a liability with open-field tackling, but I’ll give it up to him: his overall performance was a welcome surprise.
Expected: QB Jared Goff’s confidence melted away amid Seattle’s pressure
The Jared Goff hype train slowed down a bit after Sunday’s loss, but Goff still had some positive moments (his throw to TE Tyler Higbee on the final drive was something special). However, Jared Goff went 22 for 47 with no touchdowns. That’s way too many pass attempts for a young QB still struggling to prove that he’s a star in this league. The fact that the Legion of Boom under Goff’s skin wasn’t fun to watch, but not a complete shock. Goff was able to rack up some impressive stats against less formidable defenses in the first four weeks, but let’s just admit that Seattle was the first elite defense that Jared Goff faced. And guess what? They got the best of him -- for the most part.
Unexpected: The sure-handed pass catchers were not sure-handed
I’ll admit that I feel guilty placing any more blame on WR Cooper Kupp for not catching that ball that would have won the game. It wasn’t a perfect throw and if he had brought it in for a touchdown, it would have been a classic regular season catch that would have been on every highlight reel last night. Instead, it was a tough break. But keep in mind that rookie TE Gerald Everett also dropped a catchable ball in the end zone as well.
Expected: Aaron Donald and Mark Barron dominated
In one of the most satisfying aspects of the game for Rams fans, DT Aaron Donald made the Seattle offensive line look silly. With three solo run tackles, two quarterback hits, and eight hurries, Donald was everywhere. Russell Wilson was running for his life and Donald was instrumental applying pressure. LB Mark Barron also impressed with 12 solo tackles. The guy was relentless, appling some vicious hits that set the tone. The Rams gave up only 16 points and these two guys were a big reason behind this result.
Unexpected: DE Matt Longacre and LB Alec Ogletree got after the QB
With another sack, it’s no longer advisable to think of DE Matt Longacre as just a backup that adds depth to the Rams defense. This dude can get to the quarterback. And it was surprising to see that Alex Ogletree was being used much more effectively as a pass rusher. On a whole, the defense keyed off the weak Seattle offensive line and made them pay on 3rd down, blitzing aggressively with Ogletree leading the charge with one sack and three solo tackles.
Expected: Tavon Austin is an effective part of the Rams offense
With 6 carries, WR Tavon Austin accumulated 27 yards rushing with one touchdown, proving that he’s a worthy backup to star RB Todd Gurley. And let’s face it, Todd Gurley was getting too many touches, so it was not surprising that Coach Sean McVay kept calling up plays for Austin. Although he’s given a lot of grief by Rams fans for his big-time contract and muffed punt returns, his presence on offense is still a positive aspect that helps Goff move the ball down the field.
Unexpected: Sammy Watkins and Todd Gurley were not effective
You didn’t have to read WR Sammy Watkins’ not-so-passive aggressive tweets after the game to get a handle on the idea that he’s not exactly fitting into McVay’s offensive game plan. Maybe this isn’t a surprise to Buffalo Bills fans, but Watkins isn’t happy not getting a bunch of targets and his body language seemed to suggest that he’s rather be anywhere but on the field this past Sunday. And even more unexpected was Todd Gurley’s inability to get the ball in the open field. I get that Seattle shut down the rushing attack, but I was under the assumption that Coach McVay was going to draw up some screen passes to him to get him going. But alas, with 2 receptions on 7 yards, that didn’t happen.
The reaction from Rams fans after the game seemed to suggest that blame needed to be placed on one play or even one player since it was such a close game. However, this game was decided after their first drive, as the Rams lost their offsenive momentum and never recovered. The rest of the game was just the Rams trying to pick up the pieces in an ugly battle that their defense kept them in.
Are these the LA Rams that we should expect to see for the rest of the season? Probably not. They’re young and hungry to prove that they’re better their Week 5 performance.
Time will time if they can put it all together and make it happen.