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Rams’ Sean McVay under .500: 3 important things the head coach said this week

Sean McVay needs more than words to get L.A. back on track?

Buffalo Bills v Los Angeles Rams
Sean McVay looks for answers
Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Even before the final gun went off in the Los Angeles Rams’ 31-14 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, I had the angle on my post-game wrap up. The plan was to do a kitschy Halloween piece, starting with how the big kids (the ‘Niners) stole the candy bags of the youngsters (the Rams), leaving almost them empty-handed. I would close by comparing the few things L.A. did right with unpopular candies that kids turn their noses up at.

But after listening to Sean McVay’s post-game interview, I decided to forget about the trick-or-treat holiday cliches and concentrate my thoughts on his. It was Christopher Daniel’s coverage of the press conference highlights that settled it.

Here are three huge takeaways from what McVay said this week:

“I thought we did enough good things in the first half, we just didn’t sustain it ”

In the first half, the S.F. played in deep shell with few blitzes and forced Matthew Stafford to grind it out, which to his credit, he did, and L.A. led at the half 14-10. The 49ers adjusted to the screen game and used more blitzes in the second half. McVay couldn’t counter the adjustments and the Rams offense, seemingly caught off guard, floundered. L.A. had 58 total yards in the final half.

After opening things up against the Carolina Panther team, McVay fell back into conservative mode. 10 different players had touches against the Panthers and misdirection was used to counter aggression. Versus San Francisco there seemed to be no imagination, it was straight ahead running and short/mid range passes.

Cooper Kupp did have a couple of jet sweeps later in the game, but they seemed more as acts of desperation rather than an integral part of a gameplan. Seven players did get touches, Malcom Brown’s came in mop up duty. The Rams most explosive players Brandon Powell and Tutu Atwell barely saw the field, let alone get any touches in space.

“We didn’t make enough plays”

Actually for the game, L.A. ran more plays than the 49ers (56-52 including punts) and in the first half, L.A. had 165 yards on 31 plays— on four total drives. For all intents and purposes, it was only three, the fourth drive was a kneel-down to close the half. It was the big chunk plays that were missing, the Rams had two pass plays over 20 yards and their longest rush was five yards.

The Rams plodding offense didn’t have any turnovers or many dropped passes, just the major Tyler Higbee flub. On the other side of the ball, Jalen Ramsey had those two almost-interceptions. That’s about all they left on the table. It was more of a case of the better prepared team eventually grinding down their opponent.

“... there’s a constant evaluation and there’s got to be an evolution and adaptation that is absolutely necessary”

Injuries are tough and when they are concentrated into one particular positional unit, it can be crushing. And so it is with the offensive line, but keeping Bobby Evans in the lineup hurts not just the front line but the whole team as well. After watching the the Rams/49ers replay, in an unofficial count, Evans missed 7-10 blocks where a play was either completely blown up or altered. I get that the game is not played in a vacuum and guys will get beat, but when you are whiffing on 10%+ of plays, that is simply unacceptable.

Injuries aside, the Rams have had glaring, season-long weaknesses on the offensive line, tight end, edge, and running back and have not addressed them in any serious manner. The lack of future salary cap space and draft capital may have a say in any big deals, but incremental upgrades have not been green lit. Only a couple of small retread patches.

The Cam Akers situation has been in public for thee weeks, likely longer than that around the Rams building and Malcom Brown is all the team can come up with. There must be a least a dozen inexpensive options who offer as much or more playmaking potential as Brown.

Love him or hate him, Higbee is the only serviceable tight end and has been since camp broke. Even when Brycen Hopkins was suspended, no real move to upgrade was made. Did Higbee’s early-game shoulder injury have a role in his drop scuttling a big play? Who’s to say. What can be said is that after a shoulder/neck stinger, his return was deemed questionable and logic suggests that the lack of adequate support off the bench was the reason he was returned to the field.

The offensive line has been cussed-and-discussed time and time again. I hate to keep pounding on one guy, but if Chandler Brewer and Matt Skura cannot outperform Bobby Evans, then the Rams have three dead spots on the roster. Jeremiah Kolone was forced into a role at center, Evans is there by choice.

On the edge, Leonard Floyd had a couple sacks, so he gets a pass for now. The 49ers ground game was more efficient than overpowering, but found plenty of room outside the edges and off tackle. For all the talk about making a big move and acquiring a top edge before the trade deadline, the Rams three-man rotation has the same since training camp with no earlier consideration.

What can fans expect going forward?

Obviously, more of the same, the trade deadline has passed and the Rams have to dance with who they brung. The only options now are street free agents and poaching opposing rosters. Unless the players returning from injury can help spark a flame, it will mean that as the schedule plays out, the future is beating the weaker teams and in turn, being beaten on by the better ones.

Even as the injured return, there are still questions. Are players like Bobby Brown, Travin Howard, Kyren Williams, Jordan Fuller, and Coleman Shelton difference makers? Will David Edwards be able to come back from multiple concussions and is Daniel Hardy being stashed on the Injured Reserve List?

The Rams really need an overall boost, they are in the bottom five of every offensive category and the have worst in the run game in the NFL. They sit in the middle of the pack defensively, but are the worst at pressuring opposing passers.

Unlike last year when the Rams got off to a hot start, the road to the playoffs looks long and filled with landmines. Suddenly, the Seattle Seahawks look like a tough out and the Rams see them twice, a sweep of the Birds appears necessary to have any chance at post season play.

Putting all that ranting aside, L.A. is currently just a half game/tiebreaker out of the seventh playoff spot. Of the final 10 games, eight would appear winnable and only road games against Kansas City and Green Bay seem overmatches. But the margin for error is razor thin, and the Rams have to address the offensive line issues to have any chance. If not, be ready for the cliches.