It has now been a month since the Los Angeles Rams have won a game and their most recent loss delivered by the hands of the Green Bay Packers was not as close as the 36-28 final score suggests. Their third loss in a row has continued to cause questions to surface surrounding the teams ability to make a deep run in the playoffs.
The Rams are currently on a downward spiral into oblivion after dropping their third loss in a row, their third loss to a playoff-bound team this season, and will be hoping that a matchup against the 2-9 Jacksonville Jaguars will break their losing streak.
Before we move on to the next one, let’s take a look at the things we learned in Week 12.
Sean McVay loses time of possession battle again
Coming into Sunday’s matchup with the Packers, the one thing the Rams could not do is allow Aaron Rodgers and his offense the ability to control the flow of the game, and yet that is exactly what happened. Green Bay controlled the ball for 39:40 to the Rams 20:20 —nearly the same stat from LA’s loss to the San Francisco 49ers from their game prior.
Losing this badly in TOP is a good indication of an offense struggling to sustain drives and a defensive inability to force teams off the field on third down. Green Bay converted 21 first downs, went 7 of 19 on third downs, and converted both of their fourth down attempts. Both the the 49ers and the Packers were able to exploit Raheem Morris’ soft coverage on third down situations and sustain time-deleting drives.
The home team this week had two drives that lasted seven or more minutes: their first drive that took 8:08 off and ended in a punt, and early in the third quarter that wiped 7:42 off the board and ended in a touchdown.
Los Angeles did not have a single drive over three minutes.
The argument may be that LA’s lack of possession time is because they are scoring fast, and the answer may be they are scoring too fast. Two of Matthew Stafford’s touchdowns came on big plays to Van Jefferson, who took a deep ball 79 yards for the score, and to Odell Beckham Jr., who took a pass from Stafford 54 yards for his first touchdown in a Rams uniform. Though both plays were huge in keeping the game close, there were just not enough of them.
Sean McVay’s offense relies too often on Stafford’s big arm for chunk plays and does not allow for enough methodical dink-and-dunk drives. The defense is on the field a lot, at some point the offense needs to play complementary football and keep its defense fresh. The Rams need to look no further than the team they lined up against last night for a solid example.
Following the Packers drives of 8:08 and 7:42, their defensive came back on the field refreshed—forcing the Rams offense to punt both times.
Odell Beckham Jr. begins the next chapter of his career, officially
Let us be fair for just a second here and all agree that Beckham’s first start as a Ram should be erased from existence. LA’s newly acquired asset had only two practices with his new team before being asked to play against the 49ers in Week 10 due a Robert Woods injury. His new chapter officially started against the Packers, the team he nearly dressed for.
Beckham was tied Cooper Kupp with 10 total targets and was able to haul in five of them for 81 yards and a touchdown.
In his second start with LA, Beckham looked much improved following the team’s bye week. With just three weeks in McVay’s system and little time to build rapport with Stafford, Beckham reminded everyone who was watching why patience is a virtue. His first touchdown in LA came when they needed it the most and in Hollywood fashion.
Beckham may never be able to replace Woods, not many players could, but his versatility as receiver puts another weapon on the field that is hard to cover. As time persists the Stafford-Beckham connection should only continue to get better in the last stretch of the season.
Turnover woes and play-calling issues continue to plague LA
If there was any attempt to identify the sole reason LA lost on Sunday the top answer would be the sudden turnover-plague that has entered the building. Stafford continued to give the ball up with two turnovers: a fumble that led to an Aaron Rodgers touchdown, and an interception that was returned by defender Rasul Douglas for six. J.J. Koski also joined the turnover fiasco when he fumbled during a punt return in the third quarter, and let us not forget McVay’s play call on a fourth-and-1 that turned into a turnover-on-downs late in the first quarter.
Rasul Douglas intercepts Matthew Stafford for a pick-6 and his FIRST career touchdown!— packers clips (@packers_clips) November 28, 2021
What a signing Douglas has been for GB. Now on his 6th team, Douglas appears to have found a permanent home with the Packers. pic.twitter.com/p4bIhSpWxk
LA’s success at the beginning of the season was predicated on scoring fast early to gain a lead, limit losing possessions by playing turnover-free football, and run the clock out in the second half of the game with a run-heavy approach. In their losses against the Tennessee Titans, the 49ers, and the most recent one to the Packers, the Rams were trailing at halftime. This team is not built to win from behind.
Early turnovers have been the catalyst to the LA’s recent demise. As poor as the defense has been playing it is hard to put too much blame on them when the offense is handing a lead to the opposition time and time again. Stafford will need to end his streak of turnovers if there is any hope of achieving his first playoff win.
Someone needs to take the blame for abysmal special teams play
The good: Matt Gay is the answer at the kicking position for the Rams. He was two-for-two on his field goal attempts and made all of his extra point tries. Despite a bad game against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 5, Gay has been solid all season long. Robert Rochell has also looked like a good find as a special teams player. He downed Hekker’s first punt of the game at the six yard line and also recovered the Packers lone turnover when Randall Cobb muffed a punt.
The rest: Johnny Hekker is no longer the answer for the Rams at the punting position. Despite a 53 yard boot at the beginning of the game, the veteran’s following attempts failed to pin the Packers within the 20 yard line. With optimal field position for most of the game, Aaron Rodgers was hardly challenged to move the ball the length of the field. Hekker’s former teammate, and the punter that should have been kept on the Ram’s roster, had a terrific appearance on Sunday. He pinned the Rams at the 15, the 10, the one, and the 20 yard line on four of his five punt attempts. His other attempt ended in a fumble recovery after Koski fumbled during the punt return.
The best part about Corey Bojorquez droppin nukes —like this 61 yarder— is that he did it against the team who had to decide whether to keep him or Hekker, the 10 yr vet/4 time all-pro. #RevengeSzn // #GoPackGo#ForTheBrand // #ProBowlVote— Hogg (@HoggNFL) November 29, 2021
The Rams roster currently does not have an answer at the return position, though Sony Michel may carve himself a role as the season progresses. Kupp is too busy and too valuable on offense to take on punt return duties and everyone outside of those two players are turnover-prone. With Tutu Atwell out for the season due to injury and DeSean Jackson falling out with the team, the Rams return game does not scare anyone other than themselves.
It feels like former Liberty Patriot @KrysBarnes makes big plays every week.— Adrian Luevano 23ABC (@a_luevano) November 29, 2021
The Bakersfield native recovered a fumble and led the Packers' defense with 9 tackles against the Rams. #GoPackGo pic.twitter.com/QqxwuzGHrq
If the punting and returning situation was not bad enough, undisciplined play may be the most embarrassing trait from the unit. With an opportunity to get the ball back in the hands in the offense after solid play from the defense, rookie running back Buddy Howell lined up offsides during a Packers punt late in the second quarter and gave the home team a free first down. Though Rodgers and company would end up punting again during the drive, it was enough to erase an opportunity for LA to drive down the field for points at the end of the first half.
What did you learn this week? Let us know in the comments below!