Up 13-9 with 44 seconds left, the Los Angeles Rams just needed to prevent the big play and keep the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in-bounds in order to secure their fourth win of the year and move to .500. However, even with no timeouts, the Buccaneers marched 60 yards down the field to steal the game in the final seconds, walking away with a 16-13 victory.
Now, last week, I wrote an article about how there was no need to hit the panic button just yet. But, following the absolute heart-breaker of a loss yesterday evening, it is officially time to panic.
The game against the Buccaneers was an absolute must-win for the Rams, no matter how ugly it may have been, they needed to win. For a vast majority of the game, it seemed as though Los Angeles would get the win against a team that was just as desperate as themselves. Yet, they allowed the game to slip through their hands and, in turn, will most likely end up becoming a season defining loss.
The main point of concern, in my eyes, is not the coaching or the performance of the players, which may sound odd, but allow me to elaborate. Football is a game of momentum, riding waves of good stretches and bad stretches, often driven by the overall morale and mood of a roster and coaching staff alike. Sitting at 3-4 prior to the game, the Rams would have gotten a big boost morally with a victory, as they’d be sitting at 4-4 and just two games behind the division-leading Seahawks.
With a loss, a negative impact on team morale would be inevitable as falling to 3-5 is not ideal whatsoever, especially for the defending Super Bowl champions. Having said that, the size of that dent is often determined by how the game goes, and losses like Sunday’s can destroy the mood of the team as a whole. Despite how ugly the game was, the Rams should have won the game, and winning is all that matters in a league like the NFL.
All L.A. needed was a first down at the end of the game to secure the win, they could not get those 10 yards. Negative yards altogether for the offense in the 4th quarter, that is flat out unacceptable. On the bright side, Tampa had to burn the rest of their timeouts, no way a team that has not gotten in the end-zone all game can drive 60 yards in 44 seconds with no timeouts right? RIGHT?!
Well, that’s exactly what they did, getting one chunk play followed by dinks and dunks to get all the way into the end-zone with 10 seconds left in the game. Wow. An absolute fatal loss, as the offense could not support a valiant defensive effort, and the defense could not prevent a 60 yard touchdown drive with 44 seconds left. Wow.
Many will get on the performance of the offense, and rightfully so, but let’s not forget that this offense has been destroyed by what is a now a makeshift offensive line. We know this team has a difficult time moving the ball, but 13 points seemed like it should have been enough to win this game as it unfolded. The defense played solid for 59 minutes, but had perhaps one of the worst defensive sequences in a two minute (really 44 seconds) drill that I have seen in a long time, which ultimately overshadows the spectacular performance they put together. Sure, they shut down the Bucs for a majority of the game, but what team has not?
This Buccaneers offense is not what it used to be, let’s not forget they only scored 3 points against the Carolina Panthers, a team that is giving up an average of 25 points per game.
Stopping what has been an awful Buccaneers offense from going 60 yards in 44 seconds should not be difficult, I mean these guys could not score a TD all day. Tom Brady will get all the credit for “striking again”, however the defense of the Rams made that drive awfully easy for the quarterback. Tampa needed one big play, and they got it on the first play of the drive. Even with that big play, all L.A. had to do was keep the Bucs in the field of play and keep the clock moving, but the DBs continued to play 10-12 yards off the line of scrimmage. This would not be an issue if the DBs were protecting the sidelines, but they were not. This questionable tactic would lead to easy pitch-and-catch completions for 5-10 yards a pop and, most importantly, allowed the receivers to get out of bounds to stop the clock with ease following the completions.
The Rams had this game won, all the way up until they lost it. This was a must-win for both sides, and Los Angeles had the win ripped from them in the (literal) final seconds of the game. A loss at a pivotal point in a season is what can define the overall morale and outlook for a team, and I expect this loss to do just that. Seeing the facial expressions and tone of voice from players and coaches following the game tells you all you need to know, the 2022-2023 Rams are in deep, deep trouble.