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Rams-Titans: 4 things we learned following a primetime loss

Stafford proves he can have a bad game, Henderson needs more opportunities, and other things we learned in Week 9

Syndication: The Tennessean George Walker IV / / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Los Angeles Rams were defeated 16-28 in a lopsided game against the AFC leading Tennessee Titans on Sunday Night Football.

The Rams are still 7-2 on the season, a game and a half out of first place in their division, and are well on track to make their way into the playoffs come January.

LA will have to clean up some of their mistakes offensively and avoid in the future costly turnovers that cannot be overcome. The team as a whole will fix their penalties after being called for 12 of them on Sunday that sent them back 115 yards throughout the game, including two roughing the passer calls that handed the Titans their last curtain-closing touchdown of the match.

The Rams will take on the San Francisco 49ers for yet another primetime game for Monday Night Football and will have an opportunity to get a bounce-back win in Levi’s stadium. Until then, here are the four things I learned in Week 9’s matchup against the Titans.

Matthew Stafford can have a bad game

Matthew Stafford is currently enjoying one of his best seasons in his 13 year career. After Week 9 he has already thrown 23 touchdowns to only six picks, has a 68.2% completion rate and has led the Rams to a 7-2 record. Of those seven wins one has come against the reigning Super Bowl champions and both losses have come against teams that are expected to make a deep playoff run this year.

When Stafford was traded to Los Angeles early in the offseason there seemed to be a split between excitement and confusion. Excitement because the Rams were getting one of the elite passing arms in the NFL that would allow Sean McVay to delve deeper into his playbook than he ever had before. Confusion because LA gave up two first-round picks and a Super Bowl quarterback in Jared Goff for a player that had never won a playoff game in his career. The Stafford-Goff conversation has seemed to die down as the Lions new QB is still looking for his first win without McVay as his head coach, but after last night’s performance the conversation about Stafford’s ability to win in prime time has resurfaced.

(26:10) “I basically spotted them 14-points,” Stafford explained in a press conference after the game, “Can’t do that in the NFL especially against a good team like that... Just wasn’t good enough early in the game. Turnovers really killed us and those are on me. If I clean those up, and I know I will, I got a lot of confidence in this team to go out there and play some really good football.”

There is no sugar-coating the veteran quarterback’s game last night. The two interceptions he had against the Titans were ill-advised and consequently gave the opposition 14 easy points that LA could not make up for despite how well the defense played. Stafford looked rattled by Tennessee's defensive schemes that emphasized delayed pass rushes in the middle of the field and sneaky coverage formations against the Rams pass catchers that led to Stafford’s second interception.

Stafford finished the game with 294 yards passing on 48 attempts with a touchdown and two interceptions that were good for a quarterback rating of 71 which was his lowest rating this season. Next week he will have a chance at redemption during Monday Night Football against the 49ers. A win against a divisional rival during primetime may be just what Stafford needs to get back on track.

The Rams defense kept their team in the game

When Jalen Ramsey intercepted Tannehill on the Titans first drive of the game you instantly knew that the Rams defense had something special for the fans to watch on Sunday night. Shadowed by an atrocious overall outing from the Rams offense the defense did their best to shine through the darkness and put together their best performance of the season. That was with Von Miller on the sidelines.

The Rams defense swarmed their opposition and finished the game with three sacks. Donte Deayon continued to make his case as a starter on the roster when he did his best Ramsey impression and absolutely destroyed a wide receiver screen that ended in a three yard loss for Tennessee. Jordan Fuller was the lead tackler with seven combined tackles and Ernest Jones appears to be a bonified started for LA’s defense after another solid game from the rookie.

Ryan Tannehill finished the game with a 79.7 QBR, his third lowest of the season, and only 143 yards passing. The Titans lead rusher D’Onta Foreman finished the game with 29 yards rushing and the team as a whole only had 194 yards total—their lowest of the season. If not for the two turnovers that led to 14 points on the scoreboard the Rams defense held the Titans to just 14 points which would have been good enough for the win.

Against the 49ers LA will more than likely have Von Miller ready to make his first appearance in Rams uniform. If the defense can continue to play at the level they did last night it may be bad news for opposing offenses. The defense is coming into form at just the right moment as the NFL heads into the last half of the season.

Special Teams bounces back

It may be awhile before the Rams have to be ready for any onside kicks or fake punt attempts and therefore it is to early to speculate that the special teams is ready to tackle those situations, but on Sunday the unit did enough to help their team stay in the game. There are still questions at the return position that will need to be answered as the season goes on but Matt Gay has proven to be the answer at the kicking position for the foreseeable future. Gay went three-for-three and was successful from 34, 22, and 54-yards out.

When LA could not get things going on offense Hekker proved that he is still one of the best punters in the NFL. After four punts the veteran punter averaged 49.8 yards a punt and had a long of 57-yards. His ability to flip field advantage gave his defense a fighting chance every drive. Mentioning Hekker might be an indication of how the night went for Los Angeles but his talent at the position can truly change the course of the game.

Darrell Henderson needs more opportunities

Darrell Henderson has yet to eclipse the 100-yard rushing mark this season but do not let that deter you from what he means to the Rams offense. Henderson is a starting-caliber talent in this league that has one issue—he does not get the ball enough.

McVay runs a pass-heavy scheme that utilizes the pass before the run in many cases meaning Henderson is left with less opportunities to work with. Against the Titans he only had 11 attempts but did the most he could with them and ended the game with 55-yards on the ground with a long of 14. Against the Houston Texans he had 14 attempts for 90 yards and against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 4 he had 14 carries for 89 yards. On the season he averages 4.6 yards a carry and through nine weeks has five touchdowns.

After watching his team get absolutely demolished at the line of scrimmage McVay may make some drastic changes to his play calling in order to help reelevate some of the pressure they have been facing up front. We have already seen those changes take place in the second half of the Titans game when the Rams offense went from the drop-back scheme to calling heavy play-action to move the pocket away from the pressure.

What that will mean going forward for Henderson is more opportunities with the ball in his hands. In order to set up the play-action opposing teams will have to be forced to respect the run game and the best way to do that is to get the run game going early and often. With Cam Akers still nursing his injury with hopes of being ready for a playoff push in January Henderson has a chance to make a real impact on the team for the rest of the regular season.

What did you learn in Week 9? Let me know in the comments below!