Sean McVay had to answer to an ugly wild card loss at home, a Super Bowl defeat, to missing the playoffs, but he’s never faced adversity like what’s on the table after these last two losses. The Los Angeles Rams were 9-4 and controlled the division, so long as they could beat the previously-winless New York Jets at home. It only took eight days for the Rams to find themselves in danger of falling to third in the NFC West — and potentially out of the playoffs again — after a 20-9 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
McVay is facing questions about his playcalling and game management skills, while also figuring out how best to word his responses to queries about his quarterback. The Rams have made investment after investment into Goff (trading up to number one, then using the number one, then handing him an extension) and much of what they’ve done transactions-wise in the last three years has centered around McVay’s trust that Goff can be the guy.
That trust seems to becoming unglued faster than Humpty Dumpty can have a great fall.
Even if the Rams can put Goff’s thumb back together again, can they get him to sit on the wall long enough for the defense to carry them through some much-needed victories? That’s where McVay vs Adversity comes into play. LA’s next big game is only six days away, they have no more time for questions.
We do have time for some grades based on how these units played against the Seahawks.
QB: Jared Goff
It’s hard to believe that a 24-year-old Goff had 26 touchdowns and six interceptions through the first 11 games of the 2018 season. That type of quarterback would seemingly have advanced into becoming of the league’s best by now but Goff has not responded well to some of the personnel changes that have developed around him in the last 36 games.
Since that 54-51 Monday night win over the Chiefs in 2018, Goff has 48 touchdowns and 47 turnovers in the last 36 regular season contests.
I would say that Goff was well-more-than-solid over the first five games of the season but that was hundreds of centuries ago. In his last eight games, Goff has eight touchdowns, nine interceptions and five fumbles.
Out of 17 quarterbacks to throw at least 250 attempts in that period of time, Goff ranks 16th in both passer rating and adjusted yards per attempt, ahead of only Drew Lock. He is 15th in yards per attempt, ahead of only Lock and Ben Roethlisberger. Goff’s eight touchdowns ranks 17th out of 17 — two fewer than what Lock and Nick Mullens have thrown in one fewer start each.
Goff ranks third in quarterback salary cap hit for the 2020 season and is tied for the fifth-biggest hit in 2021 with who-better-than Carson Wentz.
Statistics are only a piece of the equation. We also need to use the eye test. So that’s what I’m going to do now:
Eye test-ify that Jared Goff also looks bad.
I was skeptical of Goff repeating the past success he had when the team extended him. I even postulated that the Rams might come to regret the contract as soon as 2021. That may have been too late. However, I don’t know what other choices they have and unless John Wolford reveals a hidden Kurt Warner below the blue-and-golds, Goff will likely be the starter next season.
What can the Rams do to improve the accoutrements?
RB: Darrell Henderson, Malcolm Brown
I had this grade higher initially because Henderson was fine (there’s a clear drop off from Cam Akers though) prior to his injury, but then also Brown really proved why he’s been a career backup. To the point that I’m now wondering why McVay wouldn’t have at least tried Xavier Jones.
WR: Josh Reynolds, Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Van Jefferson
Goff threw a bad pass but Van Jefferson should have caught a third down drop. Yes, much of the issue here is Goff and protection and Kupp had a good game — yet it was hardly an inspiring performance from this group. Kupp and Woods made nice plays as usual but when LA needs to go for broke they go for ... Josh Reynolds.
TE: Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett
I got to the point with Tyler Higbee where I do wonder if the team should release him and invest in Gerald Everett. He has been a part of some big plays but mental mistakes hold him back and he’s inconsistent. Everett is at least slightly younger. For a team that was hopeful it had two starting tight ends, I have some concerns that they are banking on Brycen Hopkins becoming a thing next year.
They needed someone to become “a thing” this year.
Offensive Line: Joe Noteboom, David Andrews, Austin Blythe, Austin Corbett, Rob Havenstein
Facing a defensive line without much “star” talent, the Rams offensive line seemed to get consistently beat by a defense that was meant to be inferior. Jarran Reed sacked Goff twice and Alton Robinson got another. Per Next Gen Sats, Benson Mayowa generated eight pressures on his own. Goff generated some of these issues but I wouldn’t say that the Rams offensive line is pushing players around anywhere near to the degree that they had been in the past.
Benson Mayowa generated 8 pressures on 24 pass rushes, the most pressures by a Seahawks defender in a game over the last 3 seasons.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) December 28, 2020
Mayowa's 33.3% pressure rate was the 2nd-highest in a game this season (min. 20 pass rushes).#LAvsSEA | #Seahawks
Defensive Line: Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers, Morgan Fox, Sebastian Joseph-Day
It’s not that I have anything negative to say, but when you’re talking about Aaron Donald — that’s when the grades need to curve. We know that they’re capable of even more but the Rams, I thought, had few mistakes on defense this week.
One question does come to mind: Was this anything close to the plan for A’Shawn Robinson? What condition is he in? Should he even be playing at all if he’s only healthy enough to get 10 snaps? Or is he only getting 10 snaps for some other reasons? Robinson has played in seven games and he’s participating in about 18% of the snaps.
Because of how his deal was restructured, Robinson isn’t costing the team much this year. I wonder if there’s anything more he could do or if this is his limit. What’s the plan for the defensive line next year?
Linebackers: Troy Reeder, Leonard Floyd, Justin Hollins, Kenny Young
Contrary to the defensive line, I would say that this could be as good as we can hope for from a unit that has lost a lot of talent. They played well, they got stats, I don’t have much to criticize.
Cornerbacks: Jalen Ramsey, Darious Williams, Troy Hlll
If Williams makes the pick, we could’ve bumped this up a level. Otherwise, it’s a strong effort against DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Even the 45-yard pass to David Moore was a contested catch and somewhat lucky.
Safeties: John Johnson, Jordan Fuller, Nick Scott
One player getting more snaps on defense than Robinson: Nick Scott. He played 23 snaps on Sunday, while Johnson and Fuller each played all 63. Johnson had a great game. Few complaints. It really stems from the offense, the issues.
Special Teams: Matt Gay, Johnny Hekker, Nsimba Webster
Webster fumbled a punt return and that hurts the overall score. Gay went 3-of-3 on field goals, including from 51. The Rams have benefited from some midseason changes by Sean McVay this season, including when he finally unleashed Cam Akers and eventually landed on Gay. Will they be forced to make one at quarterback now?