The Los Angeles Rams came crashing back down to earth with a 24-12 Monday night defeat against the Green Bay Packers. The Hollywood phenomenon that was Baker Mayfield and Co. could not muster up a sequel to Week 14’s critically acclaimed spectacle and instead offered a mediocre effort with a predictable ending. The Rams suffered their 10th loss of the season and are now officially out of contention to make the playoffs. All efforts will look to the future as LA prepares to improve next year, but until then here is the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
Cam Akers puts some effort on film
Cam Akers has had one of the most up-and-down seasons this year and after Monday’s matchup against the Packers it appears to have gone full circle. Akers was barely used in the run game early on in the season after losing favor with the coaching staff and went public with his frustrations on Twitter. That sparked a push to trade the third year running back ahead of the trade deadline which faltered as Les Snead could not find a proper suitor. LA then let Darrell Henderson walk as rookie Kyren Williams got healthy and Akers has remained the premier back for at least the last three weeks of the season. That was the case on Monday Night Football, but for the first time this year the world got a glimpse of why there was once so much excitement surrounding young back.
Akers looked impressive against one of the worst run defenses in the league with an average of 5.4 yards per carry on 12 attempts that was good for 65 yards on the ground. He was also the lead receiver, catching all three of his passes for 35 yards with a long gain of 18. He likely could have easily surpassed the 100-yard mark against the Packers with more opportunities, but in typical McVay-fashion the head coach abandoned the run early on in the game.
It remains to be seen if Akers and the Rams have been able to repair a damaged relationship, but on Monday Akers at the very least put out some film for the rest of the league to take note of.
Leonard Floyd and Greg Gaines contain Rodgers
With Aaron Donald nursing his injury and unavailable for Monday’s game the pass rush was left in the capable hands of Leonard Floyd and Greg Gaines and they did not disappoint. Floyd lead the way with two sacks (one of which was arguably forced by Gaines) and two tackles-for-loss as the edge rusher proved his worth to the team in his best game of the season. Gaines finished with his first sack since Week 11 and two tackles-for-loss proving to be a great Robin to Floyd’s Batman.
With the season officially in shambles Snead and McVay will have plenty of opportunity to think ahead to the future and figure out how they might find a way to retain Gaines on the team after his contract expires at the end of the year. Alongside Aaron Donald he has become one of the better defensive linemen in the league and could fetch a good pay day from other teams next year. LA will likely do all they can to retain his talent with no one currently on the roster to take over the spot.
Baker Mayfield comes back to Earth
It would be unfair to fault Mayfield for his performance against the Packers who, despite their record, is still a formidable defense against the pass. Mayfield did not get much help from his offensive line either, especially with center Brian Allen going down with an injury on the second play of the game. Mayfield looked more comfortable in a game he had only two games to prepare for than the week of preparation he had for Monday night which could be a clear insight to his head coach over-thinking the play calls.
Peyton and Eli Manning watch Baker Mayfield throw an interception, before the Packers choose to lateral the ball on a chaotic play.— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) December 20, 2022
"Did no one watch the game yesterday and see that was a BAD idea?"- Eli
"The Rams deserve to get the ball back after that."- Peyton pic.twitter.com/ToTfEYLIIo
Regardless, the Hollywood-like comeback for a quarterback that has struggled this season came to a quick and disappointing conclusion. Los Angeles may not have really been in the playoff race but there may have been a silver-lining if they could find a way to win out with Mayfield. The good news? If the NFC offensive player of the week cannot find his footing fast it could mean the Rams are able to sign him on a short-term deal as a capable backup to Matthew Stafford next year.
Sean McVay’s play calling continues to be suspect
McVay is facing an unprecedented season with an offensive line in constant flux, his best talent sidelined with season-ending injuries, and a continued revolving door of coaches on his staff, and yet, even with all these excuses the one thing that may be holding back his team back might actually be his play calling. The offense for the Rams has gotten stale and that is not due to a lack of weapons. Even with near-full force to begin the season the Rams offense was too reliant on the Matthew Stafford’s connection with Cooper Kupp and lacked the creativity that fans have grown to love. McVay’s offense used to be predicated and celebrated for its ability to surprise defenses by utilizing all of their weapons. How things have changed in just a year.
"Sean McVay has no offensive line to work around"— JAKE ELLENBOGEN (@JKBOGEN) December 20, 2022
I'm over this excuse. Where are the quick outs? slants? bootlegs? I mean I'm just over the excuses man. The offense has plenty of guys that can make plays. The play-calling is an issue. It's not the only issue but stop dismissing
The Packers defense looked like they had McVay’s playbook in their back pocket as they jumped predictable screen passes and tackled receivers in the backfield on end-arounds for a loss and when Akers was finding success on the ground he suddenly disappeared. The Rams offense is boring to watch and easy to play against. Don’t get me wrong, McVay is still a genius and one of the best head coaches in the league, but game-managing and play-calling may just be too much to handle.
LA is officially out of the playoff race
It is finally official. With Monday’s loss the Rams have been eliminated from the playoffs as the “run it back” season has turned into a “please look away” disaster. With three more games left in the year the defending Super Bowl champions are on pace to have the most losses by a champion defender in NFL history. They have already tied the 1999 Denver Broncos with 10 losses on the season.
The Los Angeles #Rams became the first defending Super Bowl champions to fail to make the playoffs in 6 years. Overall, 32% of defending champions have failed to make it back to the playoffs the following season. Here's a list of how each one's next season turned out. pic.twitter.com/rBtit5kxNr— Deniz Selman (@denizselman33) December 20, 2022
Despite retooling and maintaining a lot of their talent from a year prior an onslaught of injuries and other issues have made the team unwatchable. It will be interesting to see who gets some playing time with the season coming to a quick and bitter ending and it may be the only reason to tune in for the rest of the year.