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2020 Rams Recall: A Week 8 loss to the Dolphins

Despite a season-high 31 first downs

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Miami Dolphins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe the strangest game of the year, and that would be saying something. I’ve added tweets with highlights since the NFL is blocking my attempt to promote their product from YouTube.

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 - (5-2) Los Angeles Rams at (3-3) Miami Dolphins

Important Personnel Notes:

  • Tua Tagovailoa made his first career start, one week after throwing two passes in his NFL debut
  • Malcolm Brown led the backs with 57 snaps, a career-high; Cam Akers had 20 snaps; Darrell Henderson had 18
  • The offense played 95 snaps, the defense played 49 snaps
  • Taylor Rapp in place of Jordan Fuller
  • David Long played a season-high 37 snaps
  • Kai Forbath replaced Sam Sloman at kicker

Here’s what the final score of this game would be if we were only counting offensive scores: Rams 17, Dolphins 14. LA forced nine punts, including a punt on every drive of the second half with a total of 76 yards allowed. They also had an incredible 16 offensive drives in the game. And yet this phrase was used that day: “Rams gettin’ blown out.”

Now let’s see what happened.

This game started on a neutral zone infraction that gifted the Rams with a free five yards. But Jared Goff went 0-for-3 on the drive and they punted only :90 seconds in. There was some immediate good news on defense, with Aaron Donald sacking Tagovailoa on the first snap of his first start, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Leonard Floyd.

It took only three plays and 15 yards for the Rams to go up 7-0 on a Robert Woods end around.

Football is easy, right?

Tagovailoa completed his next pass, eight yards to Preston Williams, but as I felt going into the 2020 draft, he is far from being a starting NFL quarterback. In Tagavailoa’s first career start, he went 12-of-22 for 93 yards with a fumble lost. But to Miami’s credit, he wasn’t sacked again for the rest of the game.

Or maybe to Goff’s credit given what plays actually handed this game over to the Dolphins to cruise to a win.

Miami punted on their next two drives, but defensive coordinator Josh Boyer, a defensive coach under Bill Belichick for 13 years in New England, managed to force Goff into giving the Dolphins their first break. Panicked with a defender in his face, Goff pitches the ball directly to Miami defensive tackle Christian Wilkins.

Miami defensive tackle.

Getting the ball at LA’s 33, Tagovailoa was able to complete three short passes that went for just enough yards to get the score tied at 7-7 at the end of the first quarter.

After Sean McVay drew up a couple of short passes that resulted in double-digit gains, the Rams crossed into Miami’s territory at the start of the second quarter, but had to punt. No matter, because Myles Gaskin fumbled (thank you, Taylor Rapp) on the first play, hand-wrapping a red zone opportunity for Goff.

No matter again, but this time no matter for the Dolphins, because Goff was sacked on the second play of the drive, fumbling it right back to Miami. Emmanuel Ogbah forced it out, Andrew Van Ginkel took care of the next 78 yards, and the Dolphins went up 14-7 directly because of pressure on Goff that turned into turnovers by Goff.

Despite a spectacular start on defense, the Rams were down 14-7 because they had not been this bad offensively to open a game at any point all year. They couldn’t get anything going and Goff couldn’t complete — or even attempt — anything other than a short pass.

After Miami forced a three-and-out, a Johnny Hekker punt (his first mention in the 2020 Rams Recall series) went 60 yards one way — and 88 yards the other way.

The Dolphins were up 21-7 before the midpoint of the second quarter, even though their offensive drives up to then had gone for 0, 12, 5, 33, and 4 yards. Miami’s offense wouldn’t get any better as the game went on. But neither would LA’s.

Sean McVay entered Cam Akers into the game and he immediately picked up 15 yards on the next two plays. Seemingly not trusting Goff, McVay kept the ball on the ground and couldn’t even try to ‘air it out’. The Rams got to the Miami 27 and were in position to at least get a Kai Forbath field goal, but have you guessed by now that they wouldn’t?

Instead, Goff had his third turnover of the first half, once again forcing the issue and gifting a ball to the defense. Eric Rowe picked this off and setup Tagovailoa for another spectacularly bad drive. But at least they kept LA off of the scoreboard again.

Getting the ball back almost immediately, Goff was sacked on the third play and gave it back to the Dolphins even more-immediately. That’s four Jared Goff turnovers in the first 27 minutes of the game. Shaq Lawson forced it out, Kyle Van Noy took it back to the 1.

A one-play, one-yard drive was such: Gaskin, touchdown.

Dolphins 28, Rams 7

With 2:47 remaining in the half, Goff did go 8-of-13 and get the Rams deep into Dolphins territory. Here’s the description of those 13 passes:

  • Incomplete short left
  • Incomplete short right
  • Complete short left
  • Complete short left
  • Complete short right
  • Complete short left
  • Complete short left
  • Incomplete deep left
  • Complete short left
  • Complete short left
  • Complete short left
  • Incomplete short right
  • Incomplete short right

So 12 of Goff’s 13 attempts were “short” on the drive. Even on short passes, he still missed four of them, including those last two and that’s why the Rams got a 23-yard field goal instead of a touchdown. The Rams were down 28-10 at halftime and things wouldn’t get much better in the second half.

I don’t expect Matthew Stafford to have drives where he attempts 12 short passes, and yes, that should matter when your team is down 28-7 because the quarterback had four turnovers.

Key Play(s):

We saw them already!

Despite that aforementioned defensive dominance in the second half, LA had two punts, one missed field goal, a turnover on downs, an ‘end of game’ drive, and on 89-yard touchdown drive after halftime.

There were no “Bills-esque comeback” or close to it and I don’t see the value in reviewing much of the second half. Goff threw for 355 yards and a touchdown pass to Robert Woods, but it took 61 attempts to get there and he only completed 35 of those. Cooper Kupp had 11 catches for 110 yards, but it took 20 targets.

Similar to losing to Buffalo, the Rams ‘recovered’ from this game. They won four of their next five and a road loss to an AFC team shouldn’t bother anyone that much. However, if the Rams had played better against the Bills and Dolphins, they also might have won the NFC West.

Better yet, they wouldn’t have been so embarrassed in the first half of those games. What can they learn from this performance that will help them in the future?

I think we’ve already seen the fallout and reaction by McVay to games like this one.

Final Score: Dolphins 28, Rams 17

Up next: Bye Week / vs Seahawks