It was not easy to write this recap, but perhaps it was less difficult than watching this game.
There are games the Rams win and games the Rams lose, but Sunday’s performance against the 49ers is a game that they’d like to forget. That may not be as difficult as it seems because there was little memorable about LA’s 23-20 loss to San Francisco other than how poorly the day went for the coaches and most players not named Aaron Donald.
These are some difficult reminders of what transpired on Sunday to lead to the upset loss at home to a 49ers team that is now back in the wild card races despite being 5-6 — with two of those wins coming against Sean McVay and Jared Goff.
And nothing could be more accurate than pinning the bulk of the blame for both losses on the head coach and quarterback.
Goff had four turnovers in the first 31 minutes of the game, including a lost fumble as the Rams were driving for points late in the first half and a pick-six on LA’s first drive of the third quarter. Goff finished the day 19 of 31 for 191 yards and he had few people to blame for his mistakes other than himself.
A first half interception to Richard Sherman, playing for the first time since Week 1, seemed to be intended for no other player other than Sherman. Plays like those may suggest miscommunication, but it is Goff’s job as much as it is Sean McVay’s to make sure every offensive player is on the same page.
Despite Defensive Player of the Year candidate Aaron Donald nearly willing the Rams to victory like an MVP candidate should, Goff and McVay imploded in the final quarter and allowed San Francisco to re-take the lead on a game-winning field goal by Robbie Gould as time expired. With possession and a first down at the 2:39 mark, Goff threw two more inaccurate passes to Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, sending the ball back to the 49ers with 2:10 on the clock.
Not to be discounted as partially responsible for the loss, the defense allowed backup quarterback Nick Mullens to drive the 49ers from their own 20 (after a special teams gaffe botched a Johnny Hekker punt that should have been covered at the SF 1-yard line) to the Rams 24 in short order, converting third-and-2 and fourth-and-1 in the process.
The Niners were also playing without Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle, their top two players in receiving yards this year, but they did get back receiver Deebo Samuel, who had 11 catches for 133 yards, including a key 24-yard gain on the game-winning drive.
Despite forcing three turnovers — two fumbles, one interception — the Rams defense couldn’t do enough when it mattered.
Of course, the real issues for the LA Rams on Sunday and this season exist on offense. Goff has 11 turnovers in his last four games and his Week 6 performance against these same 49ers (19 of 38, 198 yards, two touchdowns and one interception but most of his success came late in the game and trailing by 15 points) has set him back into the dark ages of the 2019 season.
Goff has eight touchdowns and seven interceptions with five fumbles over his last six starts. The Rams are 3-3 and have fallen from potentially grabbing the NFC’s top seed to swimming with the wild card teams for now. A group that may get more crowded now that the 49ers have ended their three-game losing streak with another victory against LA.
Rookie running back Cam Akers was one of the lone bright spots on offense, gaining 61 yards on an important third quarter run and finishing with 84 yards and a touchdown on nine attempts. Woods caught seven passes for 80 yards, but Kupp was held to two catches and 41 yards on five attempts in his direction.
To avoid getting in more trouble in the NFC playoff races, the Rams must rebound quick. They next travel to Phoenix to play the Arizona Cardinals, who fell to 6-5 with their own field goal loss, this one coming against the New England Patriots. If the Rams don’t return home with a win, they may find themselves in third place in the division just a week after being in first.
Then the questions about Goff and his future with the franchise will be impossible to ignore. Or forget.