Sean McVay wouldn’t last long in the National Football League if he acted like losing to the previously-winless New York Jets was no big deal. Every loss is meant to sting. If you can stand losing, go watch baseball. This is football. Every loss hurts, and every win feels special.
But ultimately every loss can also serve as an opportunity to identify what’s wrong with your team and therefore, losing to the NFL’s version of Martin Short in Pure Luck is like having all your greatest wounds exposed with no excuses left in your pocket.
The LA Rams entered Week 15 as 17.5-point favorites. By the middle of the third quarter, the Rams trailed by 17 points.
Last season, McVay went 1-3 against the AFC East. During his entire career, Tom Brady has gone 32-3 against the Buffalo Bills. He never lost three games in the AFC East. Not once. And he had to face the AFC East six times per year, not four.
The Jets exposed wounds on the Rams on parts of the body that LA didn’t even know it had. Ultimately, knowing that the Rams still finished the season with a road playoff win and would have still probably been at Green Bay regardless of the outcome of Week 15, getting a loss against the Jets didn’t matter.
But that doesn’t mean it will be forgotten. Or that there isn’t value in losing.
Week 1 - Win over the Cowboys
Week 2 - Win over the Eagles
Week 3 - Loss to the Bills
Week 4 - Win over the Giants
Week 5 - Win over a Football Team
Week 6 - Loss to the 49ers
Week 7 - Win over the Bears
Week 8 - Loss to the Dolphins
Week 9 - BYE
Week 10 - Win over the Seahawks
Week 11 - Win over the Bucs
Week 12 - Loss to the 49ers
Week 13 - Win over the Cardinals
Week 14 - Win over the Patriots
Week 15 - (9-4) Los Angeles Rams vs (0-13) New York Jets
Important Personnel Notes:
- Just a reminder that Andrew Whitworth spent the second half of the season on injured reserve
- So did Micah Kiser
- But otherwise, the Rams were healthy and this was the team at near full-strength
- Justin Hollins played a season-high 38 snaps
- The Jets started Pat Elflein and Josh Andrews at guard, in place of their usual starters
- Otherwise, New York was pretty healthy, not that they were usually a good team when healthy
The Jets entered winless, but how many games did they come close to winning? They were close to a few bites of the apple — In Week 7, the Jets held a lead over the Bills at halftime and they forced Buffalo to make six fields goals, but New York couldn’t get anything going on offense and lost 18-10; in Week 9, the Jets blew a 27-17 fourth quarter lead over the Patriots, losing on a 51-yard field goal as time expired; in Week 11, New York had a chance to tie with the LA Chargers late in the fourth quarter, but backup Joe Flacco couldn’t complete a pass to save his job; and in Week 13 against the Raiders, this happened:
Henry Ruggs keeps the Jets hopes for the No. 1 pick alive pic.twitter.com/pZveBpuOv8— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) December 6, 2020
So, Weeks 7, 9, 11, 13, and 15. At a certain point, every odd-numbered week became the week that maybe the Jets would finally get a win. They got a little bit closer every time and consistently fell short in crunch time. In between those four losses, the Jets lost 35-9 to the Chiefs, 20-3 to the Dolphins, and 40-3 to the Seahawks.
It was impossible to guess which Jets team would show up, it seemed, but every other week it seemed as though Adam Gase was almost competent. If New York had been 3-10 instead of 0-13, would that have made it “better” to lose to them? If they had finished 5-11 instead of 2-14, does it become more justifiable to lose at home?
Two weeks after Henry Ruggs got behind the defense in the final seconds, finally things clicked enough for the Jets to get a win.
The LA Rams might have been the best first quarter team in the NFL in the first half of the season, but they were among the worst after their bye week. People often look to find a “Why?” but the answer could be as simple as regression; “hot streaks” followed by “cold streaks” are typically just corrections.
But whatever opening drive magic McVay and Jared Goff had in September and October, it was completely evaporated by December.
The Rams went three-and-Out to begin, then Sam Darnold led a 13-play, 74-yard drive that included four third down conversions, including an 18-yard touchdown pass to running back Ty Johnson to give New York a 7-0 lead.
Darnold finished the game completing 71% of his attempts and a 99.8 passer rating, both his best single-game marks on the season. Johnson only caught 16 passes during the entire season, but he had four receptions for 37 yards on that drive, including three third down conversions.
Perhaps it was difficult for Brandon Staley to predict that drive because dumping it to Ty Johnson hadn’t really been in the plans before.
On the next drive, Cam Akers opened with a 10-yard run, but it was called back for a holding penalty on Joseph Noteboom. Three more runs later, LA was punting again.
Morgan Fox sacked Darnold to end the next drive, his third in the last four games, but Goff was sacked by Quinnen Williams when the Rams got the ball back and were once again punting soon after. Now, Johnny Hekker once had a 78-yard punt against the Jets:
While you may never want your team to punt, oh boy when you have to it’s rare to have a talent like Johnny Hekker. Against the Jets in 2016 the All Pro had a 78 yard punt! pic.twitter.com/OM65qDGlaJ— RAMS ON FILM (@RamsOnFilm) December 19, 2020
This punt was about 88 yards worse than that one.
Last day of NFL season so I thought I would share my favorite play of the year. Former Florida Tech player JT Hassell blocking a punt, helping Jets secure their 1st win of season. JT is an unbelievable talent, hard worker, & tremendous human. Can't wait to see what he does next. pic.twitter.com/shbUUYuaBv— Blitzology (@blitzologyblog) February 7, 2021
A few plays later, former Rams kicker Sam Ficken made it 10-0.
Goff was again sacked on the next drive, which was enough to set the Rams back again, but former Rams defensive lineman John Franklin-Myers was called for a neutral zone infraction on fourth-and-1. All was right again for LA, until it wasn’t.
I’ve written this phrase already: “This game could have been the final straw for Sean McVay and Jared Goff.”
It bears repeating.
This game could have been the final straw for McVay and Goff’s relationship.
In his final eight regular season games as the Rams starter, Jared Goff went 219-of-329 for 2,162 yards (6.57 Y/A, 5.83 AY/A) with eight touchdowns, nine interceptions, five fumbles, four of which were recovered by the defense. That’s 13 turnovers by Goff in eight games and only 10 touchdowns (two rushing) to make up for the mistakes. That’s not enough scoring to make up for 13 turnovers.
Even Sam Darnold had only nine turnovers in his final eight starts as a member of the Jets.
Goff threw a pass directly to Bryce Hall and a few plays later, Ficken was good from 25 and made it 13-0.
The Rams punted, the Jets punted, the Rams punted, the Jets punted, and following three straight Goff incompletions, Matt Gay made a 45-yard field goal at the end of the first half.
Let’s just cut to something that could have ended this game and move onto the next one.
The Jets led 13-3 to start the second half, and they got the ball to open things up. It’s at this point that Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, Leonard Floyd, John Johnson, Jordan Fuller, Darious Williams, and the rest of the number one defense should step up and put an end to this ridiculousness. It’s understandable that a blocked punt and an interception would screw the defense, but what about when New York was backed up to open a drive?
The Rams still allowed a 74-yarder to open the game, then had the Jets at their own 28 to start the third quarter. This is supposed to be the worst offense and the best defense in the NFL.
Darnold to Jamison Crowder gained 10 on the first play.
Darnold fumbled when sacked by Samson Ebukam, but the ball went out of bounds.
Denzel Mims then gained 11.
37-year-old Frank Gore picked up three yards on third-and-2.
Darnold to Breshad Perriman for 21 yards.
Gore for two yards.
Darnold to tight end Chris Herndon for 22 yards.
Gore for one yard.
Darnold to Braxton Barrios for four yards and now it’s third-and-1 at the 1.
Gore for zero yards. It’s fourth-and-1.
If the Jets were 3-10 instead of 0-13, then who knows, maybe they take the three points. The fact that Gase was coaching out his contract without any hope for another year may have played into the decision to go for it. The Rams should have been ecstatic that the Jets decided to go for it. They should have been amped to give the offense a chance at a 99-yard drive to make a point. They might have been amped.
Frank Gore might have been more amped.
Everything is going wrong for the Rams. Frank Gore extends New York’s lead. pic.twitter.com/ODwJHYcJM3— uSTADIUM (@uSTADIUM) December 20, 2020
It’s now 20-3.
More plays happened after that, but not enough could go right for the Rams after being down 17 points in the third quarter to a team that wasn’t nearly as talented as they were. Matt Gay cut the lead to 23-20 with 6:35 remaining, and the Rams got the ball back with that same score and 5:33 on the clock.
Without a sense of urgency, and following a penalty on Tyler Higbee for an illegal block, the Rams found themselves with third-and-4 at the Jets 37.
Jared Goff incomplete deep left.
Jared Goff incomplete deep right.
Perhaps the last quarterback in the NFL who you’d expect to want to throw deep at this point, the Rams called two deep shots, including on fourth-and-4. The Jets got the ball back with 3:54 on the clock and they handed the ball off to Gore on the next four plays. Third-and-6, 2:17 to go, and LA has burned their remaining two timeouts.
Darnold throws to Gore. He gains six. And Darnold is kneeling for the first time all year long.
The Jets would beat the eventual 11-5 Browns in their following game. Would 5-11 really be that much different than 2-14?