The Los Angeles Rams are 3-5 after losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday and Sean McVay is two games under .500 for the first time in his coaching career. The Rams have also lost for the third time in four games and for the sixth time this season, the offense was shutout in the fourth quarter.
In a game with such a low margin of error, it’s going to be decided by just a handful of plays. That was the case here against the Buccaneers. A few plays go the other way or the Rams don’t make an early mistake and it might have ended differently. What are the three most important plays that changed the game?
(7:16 - 1st QTR), 1st-and-10 from LAR 25
The Rams offense simply isn’t very good right now. That’s why when they get an opportunity to make a big play, they can’t let it slip through their fingers.
In the first quarter, Stafford gets protection to take a deep shot down the field. Van Jefferson is coming across the field and Stafford throws a near perfect ball that would put the Rams across midfield. The Rams wide receiver dropped it.
Ugly drop by Van Jefferson who tries to use underhand position and clap the ball after it careens off his chest.— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 7, 2022
Overhand position and extension of arms to meet the ball prevents this forfeiture of a huge okay #Rams pic.twitter.com/6glUeMzu0J
Jefferson has been out all season and was seen as a player who could add a spark. On Sunday, he was targeted five times and had zero receptions. This is a play that has to be made and could have given the offense some momentum. Instead, the Rams were forced to punt.
(1:57 - 4th QTR), 4th-and-Goal from LAR 6
The Rams led 13-9 late in the fourth quarter and the Rams defense was on the field, hoping for a goal line stand. Tom Brady threw incomplete on second down as Scotty Miller dropped a pass that hit him in the face. On third down, Brady once again threw incomplete - this time to tight end Cade Otton.
With this Rams team, it’s not always the plays that are made, it’s the plays that aren’t made. Brady rushed his throw on fourth down due to pressure from Aaron Donald. Jalen Ramsey cut the pass underneath and dropped an interception in the end zone.
Big time players makin' big time plays!— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) November 7, 2022
5️⃣ @jalenramsey | @NFLonCBS pic.twitter.com/XTiEU8sewy
The Rams got the ball back, but instead of taking over at the 20, they took over at the seven. This is field position that could have helped on the ensuing drive. The defense got the stop that they needed and it should have been enough.
Ramsey has been good and bounced back since what happened in Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills. However, these are the difference-maker type plays he needs to make. He’s dropped a handful of interceptions this season and this was another big one.
(1:46 - 4th QTR), 2nd-and-10 from LAR 7
The defense did its job and now the offense needed to do theirs. The offense needed 10 yards in three plays. However, the Rams haven’t been able to run the ball all season and this is a situation in which the opposing defense knows that you’re running the ball.
On 2nd-and-10, McVay put the ball in his best player’s hands and called a jet-sweep to Cooper Kupp. There are two ways that you can look at this play. On one side, you could argue that Kupp should have gone for the extra yards even if he ran out of bounds or at least cut inside. On the other side, you could argue that Kupp made a head’s up play to slide and keep the clock moving.
Kupp doesn't get the first if he continues up the sideline, but if he cuts back inside?— Cameron DaSilva (@camdasilva) November 7, 2022
I dunno, maybe? pic.twitter.com/RXIjPwcbla
Neither argument would necessarily be wrong, although the first one is likely made in hindsight. A first down in this situation ends the game. This is the risk with an outside run in that situation. Even with five yards to go, McVay needs to be more aggressive on the third down and let the offense ice it.