As a fan of the Los Angeles Rams since childhood, I can’t say that I’ve been this dumbfounded after a loss. With :44 seconds left, the Rams defense went out with a whimper in an unacceptable fashion in their 16-13 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week.
There is plenty of blame to go around and I’m here to dish it out. Here are my observations from another stinker.
Matthew Stafford can’t overcome atrocious offensive line
Another week, another performance by Matthew Stafford that was torpedoed by miserable offensive line play. He didn’t throw any picks and had a few beauties but is simply harassed too frequently.
Running back update: Rams have no running backs
Cam Akers returned…to rushing for a yard per carry. He creates nothing as a runner. Darrell Henderson had a couple nice runs but was also mostly stuffed. I feel like I’ve written this before.
The wide receivers room has too much room, not enough receivers
Van Jefferson is back but I’ve hardly noticed outside of a huge drop early in the game. The Ben Skowronek sizzle has left the pan. Second rounder Tutu Atwell is all but forgotten. It continues to be the Cooper Kupp or nothing show. Maybe it would be different if Stafford had more than milliseconds to survey the field.
Offensive line’s worst game
Time to dive into it. The offensive line had their worst game and that’s saying a lot. Bobby Evans should not be in this league let alone starting. Sean McVay and the coaching staff get blame for this man being on the field. Every sack was either directly or indirectly a result of Evans. On several plays, I watched him not block a single player while looking confused like the classic John Travolta meme. I understand injuries have destroyed this line but there just has to be a better option than #71.
Overall play-calling on the offense was gutless at the end and predicable for most of the game. The end of the game I blame McVay for not being more aggressive. He’s trying to turn rust into gold in many ways but he is not absent of blame.
Defensive line not to blame
Defensive line stuffed the run well all game long and left Leonard Fournette with little running room. Kudos to Greg Gaines and A’Shawn Robinson.
Aaron Donald looked like a game wrecker as usual for long stretches of this game. Part of what makes this season so hard is knowing that Donald’s prime is coming to an end. Pass rush was more effective in this game but the Buccaneers were also dealing with injury up front. Terrell Lewis dropped a pick that would’ve gone for six.
Bobby Wagner’s pretty good
Bobby Wagner looked solid this game and had a few tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage against ball carriers. Despite difficulty in coverage, he’s still an effective player in running situations.
Jalen Ramsey can’t catch
Although Jalen Ramsey had another terrific game, his stone hands are becoming a story. I’m not sure how many interceptions he’s dropped this season but I know it’s been at least four. Interceptions are game changing plays and CB1 should be making them more consistently. Derion Kendrick was picked on by Tom Brady routinely in this game. I think Kendrick has shown a lot this season but he’s still a rookie learning to adapt to the NFL game. Rough matchup for him today but I’m not writing him off just yet.
Taylor Rapp whiffs again
The infamous Taylor Rapp whiffed huge on a tackle that allowed the Buccaneers into field goal range on what should’ve been a dead drive. I don’t know what else to say that I haven’t already regarding Rapp. Nick Scott had some really good tackles and hits in this game. As much as I like him, I don’t think he’s ever going to be more than an average safety in this league. Regardless, he’s our best player in the back end.
Matt Gay is automatic at kicker, Riley Dixon was passable punting over and over again each drive.
The Final Takeaway
Overall, this was an absolutely unacceptable loss in a game where the victory was within grasp. The offense was miserable all day long and deserves the majority of the blame not only in this game but for the whole season. Play calls today were stale crackers, skill position players missed opportunities to make plays, and the offensive line play has somehow managed to reach an entirely new low.
The defense played good football against a bad offense most of the day but completely choked when it mattered most. In a matter of 40 seconds, the Buccaneers easily carved through the Rams’ Swiss cheese soft zone defense for a game sealing touchdown drive.
Raheem Morris needs to switch up the defensive scheme because I’m sick to my stomach watching cornerbacks play 5+ yards off giving opposing receivers easy positive yardage down after down. I’d say this was a gut check game for the 2022 Rams but losing to the 49ers twice should’ve been that wake up call. At this point, this is simply what this team is.
They’ve been outscored 71-10 in the 4th quarter this season. How much of that do we attribute to offensive line injury? Does it reveal a much larger issue? Regardless, this team is on the outside looking in and will need to play nearly perfect football from here if they want any chance at a playoff berth.