What happened on Sunday Night Football against the Tennessee Titans is all just part of the show that keeps us busy from now until the playoffs. I’m not guaranteeing that the Rams will make the postseason, but at 7-2 and with a three-game lead over any team that isn’t currently in the playoffs, it will take a monumental collapse for that to happen.
Although I suppose you could say that Matthew Stafford had a monumental collapse in the first quarter against the Titans, as LA fell behind 21-3 in the first half and lost 28-16 at home in primetime. Not all hope is lost. Far from it.
Ultimately, losing to an AFC team is the least of the Rams’ concerns this season. It is disappointing that LA couldn’t keep pace with the 8-1 Arizona Cardinals this week, but the Rams will have opportunities ahead to close that gap. And it sucks that Stafford was his worst self on Sunday, but he was also the biggest reason for LA’s 7-1 start after a so-so season in 2020.
These are four immediate reactions I had to Week 9’s game.
Matthew Stafford had his worst throw as a Ram
Matthew Stafford doing his best Carson Wentz impression pic.twitter.com/AlTEdJ1fk4— Action Network NFL (@ActionNetNFL) November 8, 2021
There’s no way to justify this play on any level, even though Matthew Stafford has proven to be one of the few quarterbacks who can argue that he’s made crazier things happen before. The problem is that there was not nearly enough of a reward to explain why Stafford wouldn’t just take the sack. Even if he assumed he was about to take a safety, there’s no recourse for throwing the ball—NOWHERE NEAR ANY RAMS.
Stafford threw at a body on the field and that’s not good.
However, the interception that came right after was mostly just a great play by one of the NFL’s greatest defensive backs. Kevin Byard led the NFL in interceptions in 2017 and might do so again in 2021.
This is where film study comes into play. Kevin Byard KNEW where the ball was going and it was confirmed by how Matthew Stafford telegraphed the throw. Byard jumped it and picked it off for the 24 yd TD. #Titans 14, #Rams 3. pic.twitter.com/zKjSLjWEXa— TURRON DAVENPORT (@TDavenport_NFL) November 8, 2021
We can’t put all of the blame on Stafford
I have to admit that even I found myself being too harsh on Stafford before and after the game. Because while it is true that the defense played really good, that the special teams was much improved from the last two weeks, and that the running game was solid when LA could turn to it, that shouldn’t necessarily mean that all of the blame for the passing game should fall on Stafford.
It was too easy for me to forget perhaps that Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Van Jefferson, and Tyler Higbee could have made plays that they didn’t make. Plays that they often routinely make.
Van Jefferson NEEDS to catch that. Stafford uncorks a dime downfield on a post and Jefferson loses it on a PBU. Ugh— Sosa Kremenjas (@QBsMVP) November 8, 2021
There were drops, there were miscommunications, there was Higbee going out of bounds in the end zone. It felt like all game the Rams needed one of their great weapons to make a play and that never happened.
Nights like tonight help explain to some degree the Tutu Atwell pick and the DeSean Jackson signing, it just happens that those moves and decisions will not result in more explosive plays for the Rams in 2021. Additionally, with the offensive line playing as poorly as it did on Sunday, and the Rams being penalized 12 times (some of which were actually legitimate), Stafford was far from the only problem.
He’s just so valuable that if he hadn’t made those two interceptions, we know that the entire game would have gone much differently. And that is his responsibility.
Sean McVay could have been more aggressive
At that point of being down 21-3 at home and the defense is doing well, I think just go for it on fourth-and-Goal from the 4. Instead, McVay kicked a field goal to make it 21-6.
Unfortunately, when McVay was more aggressive and went for it on fourth-and-1 on the next drive — and succeeded — Stafford was sacked for a loss of 6 on third down and that took away an opportunity to go for it on fourth-and-12 from the 36...But I still think that Sean McVay maybe should have just gone for it on fourth-and-12.
Can the Rams really not trust the prized quarterback and the NFL’s leading receiver to pick up 12 yards?
Finally, the Rams did go for it again on fourth-and-1, but only because they had no other choice at that stage, and did not convert. The calls didn’t work, the execution wasn’t there, and all-in-all the offensive coaches have to be disappointed.
The refs were egregiously bad and it did hurt the Rams
But that doesn’t make it a conspiracy. It also doesn’t mean that the Rams didn’t deserve to lose the game. It just means that in addition to LA losing this game, they were also the victim of an amateurish performance by the referee crew.
This is just as bad as it gets:
3rd down, game potentially on the line, and @NFLOfficiating calls THIS roughing the passer for an automatic first down pic.twitter.com/OoFm5YySNh— Bad Sports Refs (@BadSportsRefs) November 8, 2021
And I didn’t even find that to be the most surprising bad call.
The worst was when the Rams were running a critical third down in the second half, the refs blew the whistle, stopped the play, made sure Sean McVay couldn’t run that one now, and then just...blew the whistle again and said “Game on!” What?
If the refs blow a play dead for no reason, it should be an automatic 5-yard penalty and first down. That was insane!
It wasn’t a conspiracy, just some terrible officiating and an amateur performance by the crew on primetime.
To talk more about our Immediate Thoughts and Reactions to Rams-Titans, myself and Blane Dydasco recorded an INSTANT REACTION podcast. Blane reports LIVE FROM SOFI STADIUM! (‘s parking lot). Subscribe to Turf Show Times for more.