Eight days ago, the Los Angeles Rams were 9-4 and in first place in the division with an upcoming game against the previously-winless New York Jets. This evening, they are 9-6 and have to settle fighting for an NFC wild card spot after losing to the Seattle Seahawks, who claimed the division title with a 20-9 victory on Sunday.
It leaves Rams head coach Sean McVay and starting quarterback Jared Goff with a bevy of difficult problems to address at a time when they are also still in the hunt to make the 2020 playoffs. But because of the loss and a win by the Chicago Bears, Los Angeles has gone from division favorites to potentially missing out on the postseason altogether if they can’t beat the Arizona Cardinals in Week 17.
That starts to look like a tall order once you consider how the Rams have played over the last two weeks — and given how the offense has been stalled for months.
Leading 6-3 and driving into Seattle territory late in the second quarter, Goff threw a bad pass that was intercepted by Seahawks safety Quandre Diggs and returned to the the Seattle 35. The Seahawks were able to get a field goal out of the drive and the score was tied 6-6 at halftime instead of LA leading 6-3, 9-3 or even 13-3 in the best case scenario.
Seattle returned from the locker room in the second half to go on a 70-yard touchdown drive that ended in a four-yard scoring run by quarterback Russell Wilson. That gave the Seahawks a 13-6 lead, but the game didn’t officially look out of reach until Wilson threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Hollister with 2:51 remaining in the game to put Seattle ahead by 11 points.
Those scores could have been manageable had the Rams been able to score touchdowns instead of field goals, but Los Angeles once again failed to put together impressive offensive drives like they did earlier in the season.
The Rams drives on Sunday: Punt, Field Goal, Punt, Field Goal, Interception, Punt, Downs, Field Goal, Punt, Downs.
LA’s four longest drives resulted in six points, one turnover and another turnover on downs.
Goff finished the day completing 24 of 43 attempts for 234 yards, no touchdowns and he was sacked three times. The Rams were playing without rookie running back Cam Akers and after being reinserted into the lineup as a starter, Darrell Henderson had 12 carries for 62 yards with a long of 23; but Henderson left the game after getting his right ankle wrapped up by Jamal Adams on a goal line drive that ended in zero points.
After scoring at least 30 points in three of their first five contests of the season, the Rams have now scored 27 or fewer in nine of their last 10. That includes managing only 20 points and two touchdowns in their loss to the Jets last Sunday and nine points and no touchdowns this week against the Seahawks. Goff has eight touchdowns and nine interceptions over his last eight starts and the Rams have turned the ball over in all 15 games this season.
But they remain alive for remaining alive.
The Rams can’t get the division or one of the top four seeds, but they could finish anywhere between the five seed and being the first team out depending on how next week goes. LA hosts the 8-7 Cardinals and the 8-7 Bears are hosting the Green Bay Packers. The 10-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers clinched a wild card berth also and have previously lost to the Rams.
That seems like a long time ago, but LA is far from out of it and the defense once again proved tough.
Leonard Floyd had two of the five sacks taken by Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. Aaron Donald, Greg Gaines and Sebastian Joseph-Day also had sacks. Darious Williams had a pass defensed but the ball hit him in both hands and it ends up as a moment left on the cutting room floor that could have really changed the tone of the first half given that Williams may have had a clear path to the end zone.
But the Rams did not take advantage of what breaks came their way on Sunday and they now have to deal with the consequences of that. Beat the Cardinals and they can move onto preparing for the playoffs. Lose to Arizona and it could be an even more difficult early offseason to process than the last one.