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Los Angeles Rams are a pretender until proven otherwise

Monday night’s loss to 49ers marked third ugly loss for LA in 2021

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

All the Los Angeles Rams had to do Monday night was win against the struggling San Francisco 49ers. Instead, they absolutely crapped the bed in a 31-10 primetime loss on the road, missing a chance to gain ground on the division-leading Arizona Cardinals who lost to the Panthers on Sunday. With LA’s second-consecutive loss in front of a national audience, the question is whether the team should still be deemed a Super Bowl contender.

Don’t get this confused with being an overreaction. This team obviously has the talent to be something truly special. However, it’s clear that the Rams might continue to stumble over their own feet before their potential is realized. Think of how disappointing it would be if Los Angeles doesn’t get close to hosting the Big Game in their home stadium in February, especially with the all-in mentality the front office has exhibited with their most recent moves.

The quarterback of Sean McVay’s dreams in Matthew Stafford has laid a dinosaur egg in the team’s biggest games this year. Case in point, the Rams first loss against the Cardinals was the first of Stafford’s three games this season in which he finished with a passer rating below 90. Against Arizona, Staff went 26-of-41 for 280 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, finishing with a 89.5 passer rating. Half of his eight interceptions have come within the last two games. This was his statline against the Titans and 49ers respectively:

Pro Football Reference

Note in both those losses, Stafford was held to an average of under five yards per attempt. While Matthew has played poorly under the lights the last couple weeks, I’m not going to sit here and lay all the blame at his feet, especially with all the numerous dropped passes his pass catchers had in San Fran:

Most of those passes appeared catchable for the receivers. As I’ve noted previously, football is clearly a team sport and a quarterback can only do so much. While a true statement, this doesn’t exactly put Stafford in the clear either. On Stafford’s first interception to his favorite receiver of the night, 49ers safety Jimmie Ward, he made a terrible decision in seemingly forcing the ball to the newly-acquired Odell Beckham Jr.

Stafford clearly tried to force something that wasn’t there with Beckham much like myself with any of my romantic endeavors. Chemistry isn’t something that can be created immediately, it has to be given time to grow and eventually flourish. It seemed like Beckham was given too much of a workload in his first game and that is unfair for any new player. What is also unfair is for Beckham to basically quit on the route and allow Ward to make the easy pick, as Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning notes:

Following the game, another Hall of Fame quarterback in Troy Aikman mentioned that Stafford might be feeling the pressure in getting Beckham involved in the game plan right away. These are some of the comments he had to say on the topic:

Aikman appears to be making a fair point in that forcing the ball to OBJ would cause a lot of pressure for a player like Stafford because there’s that need to keep him happy. I completely disagree that the acquisition would “shake the team’s foundation”. Odell has only been with the team for about a week, so it’s far too premature to question the move.

Last night’s game was horrible and made my eyeballs nearly bleed out at what I just witnessed, but I still love the moves that the team has made. Stafford has clearly been an upgrade at signal caller over Jared Goff. That much has been proven. Odell will also have to grow into the role provided for him. The chemistry with his quarterback will come soon enough as long as McVay game plans wisely for him. I believe it’s better for the chemistry to come late than never at all. Right now, the Rams are in wait-and-see mode.

Then comes the issue of the defense which has taken a major step back following last season’s top ranking in total yards. It was expected that the unit was going to take a step back, but this much was unseen by the fanbase. The Rams were beatdown last night with this passing attack:

A mere three of Garoppolo’s 15 completions went for over 10 yards. THREE. Two out of the three went for touchdowns. Two out of three ain’t bad at all for those Niners (thank you Meat Loaf). The 49ers also became the first team in three years to do this:

San Francisco had a great game plan throughout and it allowed them to rack up 156 rushing yards on an absurd 44 carries against a unit that had allowed only 97.6 yards rushing per game. Shanahan was unafraid in attacking the other new acquisition Von Miller who struggled against the run and became a pancake compliments of George Kittle:

Miller was making his Rams debut much like OBJ so clearly it’s not going to be the smoothest transition. There’s clearly a lot to figure out defensively which is going to be Defensive Coordinator Raheem Morris’ job to decipher as LA heads into their much-needed bye week.

Sean McVay has expressed his frustration over the results of the last two weeks and he was very blunt in what he had to say:

“I choose to believe these last couple of weeks are not who we are,” McVay said via ESPN. “I refuse to believe that, even though you’re only as good as your last game.”

Los Angeles fans are about to find out who exactly this team is. With games against the NFC-leading Packers, a rematch with the Cardinals and a trip to Baltimore following the bye week, we’ll all have an idea of the Rams’ makeup. They deserve all the scrutiny they can get until they’re proven to handle the alphas.

Green Bay would be the perfect place to reassert their place among the NFL’s elite.