It was imperative that the Los Angeles Rams come out of the Week 8 contest against their rival San Francisco 49ers with a victory, but after a second-half collapse LA fell to a disappointing 3-4 record.
Matthew Stafford set the tone early with a physical 1-yard TD run at the goal line, and the chaotic QB played mistake-free football for four quarters. He had another TD that he threw to Cooper Kupp, but the Rams were held scoreless in the second half and Stafford was overall less effective as well.
LA’s quarterback was not the reason the team fell short against the 49ers, but there were a handful of individual contributions that just weren’t good enough on Sunday afternoon:
Stafford and Leonard Floyd, who earned his first two sacks of the season, belong in consideration as “winners”, but ultimately this was a total team loss and their individual performances were good not great.
The Rams needed their star players at their best in Week 8, but it was the 49ers’ stars - Christian McCaffrey, Brandon Aiyuk, and Nick Bosa - that made the incremental difference in this game.
Tyler Higbee, TE
Higbee injured his neck on LA’s second drive after the tight end caught a screen pass. When he came back into the game he just wasn’t his normal self.
Stafford and Higbee failed to connect on multiple screen passes, and then on 3rd and 2 with San Francisco holding the lead Higbee dropped a short pass when he had a ton of green grass in front of him. Los Angeles punted the ball on the next play.
On a day where there were multiple mental miscues across the roster, Higbee’s momentary lapse stands out the most.
Rams TE Tyler Higbee would still be running if caught that football on a shallow cross. Huge drop on third down.— Tyler Dragon (@TheTylerDragon) October 30, 2022
Ernest Jones, MLB
The second-year linebacker also suffered from a lapse in mental judgement when he pushed a San Francisco ball carrier down well out of bonds to draw a personal foul. The Rams were already down at this point, but the penalty allowed the 49ers to move down the field quickly and put up more points.
It was one example of several that showed the 3-4 Rams could be growing desperate and coming unraveled.
Derion Kendrick, CB
Credit to the rookie, despite Troy Hill and Cobie Durant providing reinforcements in the secondary, Kendrick was a starter at outside cornerback.
But late in the game Kendrick inexcusably jumped an out-route, which left backup tight end Ross Dwelley open deep down the sideline. Kendrick is an aggressive, confident corner that will gamble from time to time - but in this instance he was burned badly.
The biggest concern with Kendrick through the draft process was his lack of speed, and those concerns came to fruition on Sunday. There were multiple occasions where McCaffrey simply outran the rookie corner, which resulted in multiple big gains on the ground and through the air.
As steady as Jimmy Garoppolo is, he will give you opportunities to create turnovers.
Unfortunately for LA, the Rams dropped multiple passes that could have become important interceptions - two by Jalen Ramsey stand out the most. Ramsey doesn’t deserve blame, but instead credit for being in the right place and forcing incompletions; however, the ball didn’t fall LA’s way.
Another example of pure bad luck is the fumble by McCaffrey that was forced through a big hit by Ramsey. The ball flew into the air, but it fell into the waiting arms of a 49ers teammate instead of the sea of Rams defended that surrounded him.
Sometimes the oblong football doesn’t bounce your way.
Rams have wasted a pick 6 opportunity (Ramsey) and a FF. Neither converted. Those two plays loom large now— Rams24/7 (@Rams24_7) October 30, 2022
Sean McVay’s decision to not bench starters
A consistent criticism of Sean McVay is his reluctance to pulls starters after the outcome of the game has been decided. Stafford was in for the final moments of the contest, and the QB was still throwing the ball. One of these throws went to star receiver Cooper Kupp, who suffered an ankle injury after getting rolled on.
It’s inexcusable for both Stafford and Kupp to still be in the game at that point. As lost as the Rams’ season feels as this point, they would have no chance without their best offensive player the rest of the year.
Justin Hollins & Terrell Lewis, OLB
Los Angeles may or may not be in the trade market for a pass rush specialist ahead of Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline, but the performance of Justin Hollins and Terrell Lewis through 7 games shows the Rams have a glaring weakness at edge defender opposite Leonard Floyd.
Lewis flashed earlier this season, but Hollins has minimal juice as a pass rusher. Sure, they were going up against one of the best left tackles in football today, but their play has been uninspiring overall.
The lack of a pass rush aside from Aaron Donald and Floyd allowed Garoppolo time to make his way through his progressions and get creative at times. If the Rams don’t make a trade in the next couple of days, they still need to fill this glaring roster hole for 2023.