The Los Angeles Rams haven’t won since Week 6 against the lowly Carolina Panthers. Sunday tallied their seventh loss on the season and essentially guarantees this iteration of Sean McVay’s Rams won’t sniff the playoffs. The New Orleans Saints were a team experiencing similar troubles with injury and resulting losses but it didn’t matter as they cruised to a win in the second half.
Here’s a breakdown of my observations from the game.
• As always, I assess QB first and Matthew Stafford played well despite constant pressure until he was inevitably removed from the game to likely return to concussion protocol. He had some dimes in this game but it’s fair to wonder if shutting him down for the season is the right call moving forward. Bryce Perkins entered the game and showed what I expected: a QB with above average mobility and a far below average NFL arm. This team won’t win many more games if the backup QBs take over full time.
• Darrell Henderson started the game, played the first series, and then was a ghost. I’m not sure why but Cam Akers took over the bulk of the load after and was somewhat effective before Stafford went down and the Saints no longer feared the passing threat. I really like what I see from Kyren Williams who seems elusive enough to make the first guy or two miss and quick enough to burst through open holes. That’s more than I can say for his stable mates.
• In the absence of Cooper Kupp, Tutu Atwell showed up by toasting a corner for an early touchdown. Preseason darling Lance McCutcheon saw some snaps but not any targets. Allen Robinson and Tyler Higbee mostly led the passing attack with four catches a piece. I thought Van Jefferson had his best game since returning with some solid routes and good hands. This team will need more of that from him to have any semblance of success without Kupp.
• The offensive line was absolutely horrendous having one of the unit’s worst outings in a long line of poor outings. They lost another LT, this time Ty Nsekhe. Bobby Evans took over and returned to his usual song and dance of whiffing while looking entirely confused. To the surprise of nobody, Stafford was battered repeatedly until he checkout out of the game with another concussion. Injury has led an already bad line to hit rock bottom. There is simply no way to fix it now.
• Offensive play calling was relatively fine in this game. I have trouble blaming McVay here when the offense was moving pretty well with Stafford in despite the terrible line play. There was more commitment to the run game throughout this game and I felt it was effective. I didn’t like a lot of the play calls in the second half when Perkins was playing from behind but what can be done with a QB who can’t throw the ball effectively?
• The defensive line struggled in this one containing the runs of Taysom Hill and didn’t rattle Andy Dalton enough in this game allowing him to stay relatively clean and dice up the Rams defense. This has been a storyline all season and one that was an obvious weakness ever since Von Miller left. Another issue that simply isn’t fixable now. However, credit to my man Greg Gaines having his best game rushing the passer.
• ILBs Bobby Wagner and Ernest Jones managed Alvin Kamara fairly well in the run game but are both weak in coverage as we’ve seen all season. This is a common theme for the Rams defenses but they weren’t the reason for the loss Sunday.
• That reason would be the secondary play which continues to allow any mediocre QB to complete passes all over the field seemingly at will. This time it was Andy Dalton who played the role of hero. Jalen Ramsey, Troy Hill, Darion Kendrick, and David Long were all beaten at times this game and I tend to hold Ramsey more accountable than the others.
• Taylor Rapp gets his own bullet point here because he had his worst game in recent memory. I just don’t understand how he still sees the field as often as he does when any average fan with two working eyes can see how confused and out of place he seems to be every snap. Good riddance come next season.
• Outside of Rapp, the other safeties are unremarkable. I’ve been on this wagon all season. It’s not that Nick Scott, Russ Yeast, and Jordan Fuller are bad players they just aren’t consistently impactful. Very rarely when I do these posts do I think back on the game and remember a play that a Rams safety made. This team needs more juice out of the position. Another issue that won’t be fixed this year.
• Raheem Morris’ defense allowed the Saints to pull away in the second half with scoring drive after scoring drive. I understand he’s a players coach and a member of the Super Bowl team but McVay has to seriously consider a change.
• Matt Gay drilled a 58 yarder that could’ve been longer and Brandon Powell continued to cement himself as a solid return man in this league. I like his sure hands and it seems he always gains at least a little more yardage than I expect he will.
The Rams continue to drift further into darkness and have run out of time to make impactful changes as this season is almost certainly a lost one. I’ve heard it a lot recently from friends and fellow football fans. This team is on pace to be the worst defending Super Bowl champion in NFL history and currently sits in the bottom five of the entire league. It’s a mix of things, most of which aren’t fixable. Injuries continue to mount. Positional neglect and misses in the draft have left this team talent deficient in many areas. And the scheme on defense is allowing backup QBs to hit around 70% completion rates. It’s all maddening and a complete disappointment. I wish I could say things will get better and issues will be fixed. I fear it’s far too late for that.