The saga of Sean McVay versus Kyle Shanahan continued on Sunday and the script was all too familiar as the San Francisco 49ers increased their regular season win streak to eight games against the Los Angeles Rams. I’d like to say I’m surprised or that I didn’t expect this outcome. This team simply isn’t the same one from a season ago and even that team couldn’t manage a regular season win against their most bitter rival. The result was another loss in what has become one of the most pathetic losing streaks in the NFL.
Here are my observations from Sunday’s 31-14 loss to the 49ers:
• As usual this exercise starts with the quarterback and I thought Matthew Stafford had his best half of football this season in the first two quarters of play. When the protection was even semi-adequate, Stafford mostly delivered. Some crazy arm angles were on display and he spread the ball around early on.
• I think I’m ready to say it: the Rams may have the single worst backfield in the entire NFL. Darrell Henderson hardly played due to an apparent illness. Ronnie Rivers looked largely uninspiring other than the bevy of designed screens. Malcolm Brown runs as if his cleats are filled with cement. It’s a terrible unit and simply offers no big play potential.
• The offensive line was adequate when Sean McVay was cooking up plays to get the ball out fast, neutralize the rush, and stay ahead of the chains. But as soon as the Rams sputtered and landed in third and long situations, the unit folded like a lawn chair. Bobby Evans was laid flat on his back at one point and continues to prove he belongs on a practice squad. Run blocking was nonexistent. The smoke and mirrors in the first half covered up what remains a bottom five unit.
• This offense lacks weapons at receiver. Cooper Kupp can’t do it all. Allen Robinson had a better game and it seems Stafford is starting to realize how to throw him open with his bigger frame. Did Van Jefferson come back or was it a mirage? Zero catches for the third receiver despite a desperate need for playmakers outside of Kupp. Simply not good enough. Most of the top offenses in the league have two to three good to elite receiving options. This offense has one by my count.
• TE Tyler Higbee was not a reliable option on Sunday. When the Rams desperately needed momentum, Higbee dropped a cupcake that would’ve ended in a touchdown or at the very least, a red zone trip. It was a ghastly error that pretty much sealed any hope the Rams had of coming back.
• Defensive line was mostly handled by the 49er blockers and Christian McCaffrey scampered through holes all game with relative ease. McCaffrey had a complete field day and abused the Rams in every way imaginable.
• Bobby Wagner still looks slow to me and I don’t care what PFF says about him.
• I bang this drum every week and will do it again here. The pass rush outside of Aaron Donald is a glaring deficiency. Leonard Floyd got involved finally but the other side of the rush is virtually nonexistent. Jimmy Garoppolo had all day to throw and his completion percentage is partially indicative of just how pathetic the Rams rush was all game.
• It’s hard for me to blame the secondary much when the scheme demands they play 5+ yards off the line of scrimmage but Derion Kendrick had a rough game and was toasted on a few routes that led to points. Taylor Rapp has somehow managed to hold onto a starting role despite continually being out of position or blatantly confused.
Overall, it’s a sickening loss in a long line of losses that always seem to follow the same script. The Rams simply cannot figure out a way to beat the 49ers and Sean McVay has to be annoyed by losing to his friend Kyle Shanahan over and over again.
The fact is that the Rams have too many issues right now. Can they be fixed before it’s too late? Will a few trades change their fortunes or is this headed toward a lost season?
The offense is stuck in mud because the pass and run blocking are just poor. McVay can only coach around it to a certain degree. On defense, the soft zone defense deployed by Raheem Morris is ineffective against even mediocre quarterbacks and provides too many free yards and allows teams to stay ahead of the sticks. Make no mistake about it. This is a bad football team right now. And Sunday was some of their worst football coming out of a bye week. Either the powers that be find a way to fix things before it’s too late or this team misses the playoffs and heads into 2023 with an aging core and a lack of draft capital. Time will tell and the season is still young.