In a must-win game, the Los Angeles Rams dropped their third in a row for the first time in the Sean McVay era losing at home to the San Francisco Whiners, 20-7.
The Rams are now 3-3, and their chances of winning their third NFC West Division title in as many years seems only a remote possibility let alone making the playoffs.
Unless something dramatically changes, the NFC defending champions are facing huge fall from grace.
Success is harder to handle then failure.
Rams fans have been spoiled since McVay turned a 4-12 abject failure into an 11-5 playoff team and then guided them into Super Bowl LIII last year.
After six games, Rams fans are soul searching trying to figure out why the team isn’t having the success it had last year with back-to-back loses in the division to rivals Seattle Seahawks and Whiners putting the Rams three games behind San Francisco and two games behind Seattle.
It’s hard to imagine how the Rams rebound, just to stay relevant at this point. The most glaring phase leading to the Rams demise has been the offensive line, which was on full display this Sunday. Coming into the season it was the team’s biggest question mark.
As our own Elijah Kim loves to point out, it was I who believed that the Rams offensive line was going to be “younger and quicker”.
I’m sticking with my prediction because the Rams are “younger” to the point that they play like they’ve have no experience and no clue what they’re doing, and “quicker” as in faster at making whiffs and penalties which neither McVay or Offensive Line Coach Aaron Kromer have prevented. Injuries to the offensive line, which the Rams avoided the past two years, has finally struck up ts ugly head. This is especially hard on a revamped offensive line which is trying to develop chemistry among one another.
But worse, not only are the youngsters playing poorly. The veteran tackles, LT Andrew Whitworth and RT Rob Havenstein, are clearly not playing up to their potential leading to a dysfunctional unit instead of the finely-oiled machine Rams fans have been used to.
I’d like to think things are going to get better, but when LG Joseph Noteboom is grading out after six games at 37.2 and now gone for the season while the one you let get away, Rodger Saffold now with the Tennessee Titans, is grading out a 68.1 per Pro Football Focus, that’s a huge margin to make up.
Even when you think you have a simple answer to the problem, it winds up being more complicated then that. Just because the Rams may be able to fix the offensive line doesn’t mean the Rams are that much better than what their record currently is. There are more problems out there then just the offensive line.
The book is out on Jared Goff
From what I’ve observed of Jared, he’s a product of the McVay system and therefore a system quarterback. You rarely see him divert from the play called. That’s in the book of every defensive coordinator in the NFL. As a system quarterback, Jared is under instructions by McVay to manage the game and not lose it for the Rams. But when he panics under pressure, and if he gets hit, Jared is a turnover machine. This part of the book has also been noted.
Even when he is able to elude pressure, as a passer he’s a more proficient rolling to his left rather then his right. Defensive coordinators have this written in their book as well. So now other teams know three things about Goff: 1) He’s a system quarterback, 2) he panics under pressure, and 3) when you do put pressure on him, force him to his right.
A perfect example of what I’ve describe came on a third down play against the Whiners. Goff under pressure rolled to his right. WR Robert Woods was standing at the first down marker with no one near him. At that point, Goff had two choices: run for the first down which he could have easily picked up turning Woods into a blocker as the defenders ran to Goff or throw an easy toss to Woods for the first down. Rolling to his right, the system quarterback either unwilling to deviate from the playcall or on instructions from the aggressive McVay chose to pass. The only problem was that the throw was high, well over the head of Woods who would have had a first down if the easy toss had been made.
Following the book, San Fran stopped the Rams. It worked to perfection ending a drive which should have been extended.
It’s not easy to resolve this problem unless you have a competent running game and an offensive line who keeps Goff clean in the pocket when he does pass.
So where’s the Rams running game?
McVay is lost without RB Todd Gurley in the starting lineup. If the young McVay wants to grow and improve as coach, he should study the Whiner’s tape keeping his eye on what RB Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson, Jr., did when sharing the load with an absent Gurley on the sidelines.
Of the 109 yards gained on the ground, 56 of those, or half that yardage was accumulated on the opening drive. In the 14 attempts after that, the Rams accumulated a total of 44 yards. This is not a bad per yard average in 22 attempts. but is terrible when you compare the number of attempts the Whiners had—41 attempts for 99 yards. You have to run the ball more when your team is so dependent on the play action pass just to protect your system quarterback from screwing it up.
The simple answer of just running the ball is once again more complicated than that.
The Rams’ offensive line is playing poorly, and their injuries don’t make things better. Throw into the mix a “Surly Gurley” whose knee problem is never ending, and now you’re gameplanning a a strictly passing team something Goff can’t handle at this stage of this career for reasons I’ve noted previously. Nor does the plan for Brown take into account an injury suffered by Brown in the course of the game. When that happens, the running game is put onto the shoulders of rookie Henderson a completely different style of running back compared to Gurley and Brown. Hendo simply does not have the body to put the ball into endzone from the one-yard line, even if you run it twice. He’s an outside the tackles runner which isn’t a huge part of the Rams game plan.
The success that McVay’s had (in a copycat league) is adapting the system to the players on the roster. McVay needs to do a better job of adapting when faced with injury adversity; however, he’s been unwilling to do that, sticking to his system.
He needs to understand that Jared Goff is limited as to what he can do in the first place and without an offensive to protect him, at times he’s more of a liability as his system quarterback, unable to manage changes thrust upon him.
McVay should scale back his offense to tailor to the personnel he has on the field and sink or swim with it. If things get better, you can always add a wrinkle or two to what you’re doing. The Rams have demonstrated through six games that they’re a much better second half team after making adjustments than in the first.
Putting this mess together
Number one on the list has to be fixing the offensive line problems in the run and passing game. Once that sorts itself out, the Rams are in much better position to adjust for the personnel they intend to put on the field for the game.
The next thing to do is realize that Goff has his limits. This requires scaling back McVay’s aggressive tendency to throw the ball all the time.
Third, is the Rams have to stay healthy. That’s something you can’t control including Todd Gurley’s drama.
It can come together in the next two games against beatable teams, so the team can prepare for the stretch run to the playoffs. At this point the Rams can ill afford to slip up if they want to make the playoffs, but that’s where their are right now.
Rams fans too have to understand that our past success is harder to handle then failure. We’ve probably created unwarranted expectations that things will be a smooth ship this season. Instead its been a rocky boat ride at 3-3, with plenty of leaks and just when one leak seems to be plugged up, another springs up.
I’d just like to get the ship afloat again with some needed wins.