Following a 24-12 loss to the Green Bay Packers Monday night, the Los Angeles Rams have lost seven of their last eight games. This has clearly been a season to forget with all the injuries and lack of consistent play across the board. Perhaps this will change next season once the team gets healthier and gets added reinforcements. To add salt into an already deepening wound:
The Rams have officially been eliminated from playoff contention. pic.twitter.com/to5Ggp1R3k— ESPN (@espn) December 20, 2022
So it’s official, there will be no repeat for LA this year but we already knew that a long time ago just based off their lackluster play this entire campaign. Until the team finds their way back to playoff contention, here are my three takeaways from the Rams’ loss underneath the primetime lights.
Baker was comfortable in second game with LA
Much to the dismay of that loudmouth Jaire Alexander, Baker Mayfield did not throw seven interceptions against the Packers. Last season when Baker played at Lambeau, he had four giveaways. This time, he was a lot better in taking care of the ball while appearing more at home in his second week in McVay’s offense.
It wasn’t a pretty sight as the offense struggled to get much going against a porous defense. Mayfield threw a pick in the second half which Green Bay later turned into a touchdown on the following drive. Still, there was a lot to respect even if his encore from the Raiders game left a lot to be desired.
Baker’s ability to stand firm in the pocket was my biggest takeaway from his performance. He looked like a seasoned vet in waiting for the play to develop instead of getting happy feet and panicking in the pocket. This pass that went for a first down to Van Jefferson showcases Mayfield’s ability to scan the field even with pressure in his face.
In LA’s only touchdown of the game, Baker again locked onto his target and fired a bullet into the waiting arms of tight end Tyler Higbee. On this play, the Packers’ defensive front was having their way with the Rams’ O-line and were closing in before Mayfield got the pass off.
There has been a lot of debate as to what to do with Baker once the season ends. He’s been making these last few games an audition for the NFL to show that he still has something left in the tank. I doubt his future will remain in Hollywood but that’s a shame considering the Rams are the most stable organization he’s had during each of his professional career stops.
To go from Hue Jackson to a Super Bowl champion is quite the upgrade, no matter LA’s lack of success on the field. Now he just needs a team to believe in him and his current one didn’t help on Monday as I will get into.
Playcalling let down offense more than anything (SHOCKER)
Sean McVay may be an offensive genius but you wouldn’t know it after watching his team each and every week. Very little has gone right for LA in 2022 and McVay has been a significant part of the problem. His playcalling has left a lot to be desired and did his new quarterback zero favors in trying to ease him into the offense.
For one, why is McVay calling bootlegs and play action with the league’s worst O-line at his disposal? Does this guy know how badly they’ve been playing this whole year? On two separate occasions, Sean called two such plays as if he had an elite line in front of his QB.
Packers rookie Quay Walker comes flying off the edge on the blitz for the strip sack.— Seven Rounds in Heaven (@7RoundsInHeaven) December 20, 2022
The first-round pick out of Georgia already had a huge third down PBU on MNF, and now this. He’s been superb for Green Bay as a rook. pic.twitter.com/DGuXUCFg4V
Having Baker with his back initially to the defense is a huge mistake. That is putting the quarterback in harm’s way for a play that was broken from the start. Mayfield was forced to run for his life to even evade the pressure and fumbled the ball which LA jumped back on.
Later with the Rams down 12 with a chance to get back into the game, McVay called this “gem”:
Packers rookie Devonte Wyatt shoots the gap to beat the down block and causes the sack.— Seven Rounds in Heaven (@7RoundsInHeaven) December 20, 2022
On the play before, Wyatt had a nice run stop. Both the Packers first-round pick out of Georgia (Wyatt and Quay Walker) are flashing on MNF. pic.twitter.com/VkNYRCytPE
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Again, this was a stupid play to call as it had to be blocked perfectly which it clearly wasn’t. Tyler Higbee was on the outside block and then had to shed the defender to give his quarterback a chance to unload a quick pass. Having a quick passing scheme would have been a smarter call just to help Mayfield get into a rhythm. Instead, McVay was trying to force something that wasn’t there and never was all night long.
sean mcvay is obsessed with play action without establishing the run first lol— The PropFather (@The_PropFather) December 20, 2022
Speaking of the running game, this was another area that the head coach wasn’t able to utilize properly. McVay was getting a little too cutesy by giving snaps to Tutu Atwell and Brandon Powell rather than to Cam Akers. In fact, Akers had a nice 19-yard run on the Rams lone touchdown drive. However, he wasn’t being committed to as much as he should have.
Cam has often been treated as a workhorse back whenever he’s been inserted into a game and this would’ve been an ideal game for him to get going. Green Bay has been making most running backs look like prime Barry Sanders and Akers was no different.
He finished with a 5.4 average after rushing for 65 yards on a mere 12 carries. For the game, LA ran the ball only 17 times compared to 21 times through the air. That isn’t a bad ratio to have. Yet for a Packers team that has been gashed on the ground all year long, Los Angeles missed a golden opportunity to ram it (pun totally intended) down their throats. Their inability to capitalize falls squarely on Sean McVay.
Defensive line depth has to be addressed in the offseason
There’s absolutely no replacing Aaron Donald. That much is obvious, especially after watching Green Bay run all over LA’s defense with ease. For the game, the Packers ran for 138 yards on 35 total carries and two touchdowns. Aaron Jones was the game’s leading rusher with 90 yards and a 5.3 average off 17 attempts. AJ Dillion or Quadzilla as the kids call him, added 36 yards on the ground and a pair of scores. His first score perfectly demonstrated the thin line options behind Donald.
The Packers came into this game without David Bakhtiari and despite allowing three sacks, they handled the Rams’ pash rush with ease. On this play in particular, there was a monster hole opened for Dillon yet no one on the line was close to getting him. They were pushed aside while leaving Taylor Rapp as one of the few players left standing to stop him. Rapp against Dillion is a size mismatch that was always going to favor the rusher.
About midway through the third quarter for Dillon’s second touchdown, there was again very little attacking up front from the defensive line. Instead, the running back surged ahead to put the Packers up by 11.
Granted, AJ Dillon is a difficult player to get on the ground but the line has to do a better job at somehow getting into the backfield to disrupt the play. Throughout the night, the Packers were exploiting the holes in the lack of consistent pass rush and burned LA alive.
Since holding the Seahawks to just 90 yards in early December, the Rams have given up over 100+ on the ground in back-to-back matchups, including 165 in their win over the Raiders on that infamous Thursday night. Injuries have killed this team all year long and this is another spot that LA should look to bulk up in the offseason. Again, what else is new? We’ve seen how much of a walking injury report this squad is.