At the beginning of the season, this past Sunday’s matchup between the Rams and Chargers looked like the marquee type placing the two Los Angeles teams head to head in SoFi Stadium for the first time. But leading up to this game, I just felt indifferent. The league brass must have felt the same as it was flexed out of Sunday night and into an earlier window.
With the bevy of injuries the Rams have undertaken this season including their starting QB and best defensive player, it’s hard to really dub this a battle for the city. Regardless, the game happened and I have some thoughts on it.
Offense: No time to pass with a lack of talent available to catch
Baker Mayfield was ineffective on Sunday, only throwing for 132 total yards. As I did with Stafford early in the season, I don’t lay all the blame on his feet. Playing with Van Jefferson and a collection of backup receivers, it’s hard to pile on. But even worse was the offensive line giving Baker minimal time on most snaps, even when the plays were designed rollouts. I thought he had some nice throws but also some misses. The Akers pass was a bit too far down the left sideline and should’ve been a TD. He also missed a deep pass to Tutu Atwell later in the game that would have also likely gone for six.
The Cam Akers late season resurgence continued with more effective running in which he displayed more burst and power than he did in the first half of the season when things were rocky. He’s played so well that Kyren Williams has been reduced to mostly special teams snaps. It’s looking as if Cam Akers will be RB1 in 2023 which is a solid development since it is one less hole to fill.
As touched upon earlier, this receiving core is simply bare bones. It resembles the lineup from preseason with only one starter available. Van Jefferson led the unit with 3 catches for 77 yards. TEs Brycen Hopkins and Tyler Higbee combined for 4 catches and 32 yards. With Baker only completing 11 passes, there wasn’t much to go around. Preseason darling Lance McCutcheon had a prime opportunity down the right sideline on a deep route but was unable to come down with a catchable ball.
Another week, another poor performance from the offensive line. I loved what they were able to do in the run game against a poor run defense. But to keep pace with Justin Herbert, they needed to protect Baker long enough to get a passing rhythm going. They were unable to do so, allowing constant chaos in the face of their quarterback. Offensive line help is priority number one in the offseason.
Defense: Soft zone fails to stall Herbert with easy completions all day long
I’ve been saying this all season: the pass rush is terrible on this team. Justin Herbert had a clean pocket all day and was able to easily carve up the secondary as a result. Pass rush and secondary have always gone hand in hand. Both have been bad, but in this game pass rush was worse. The interior of the line failed to stop the ground game and allowed Austin Ekeler to thrive.
I didn’t glean much from this unit in this game as most of the damage done by the Chargers offense was passing on the boundaries and a few big runs from Ekeler. The combo of Wagner and Jones was unable to stifle the run and shoulders some blame with the gaping holes in the middle of the field.
Justin Herbert and his receivers diced the secondary up all game long for chunk plays, picking on the soft zone defense. The pass rush gets some blame here but Mike Williams was consistently winning contested catches. I’ll give Jalen Ramsey some love for the one pass rush that caused a fumble (yes, it was a fumble). Other than that, this unit had a rough four quarters. Nick Scott left with injury and Taylor Rapp was burned for a TD. Put safety at the top of my offseason wishlist behind offensive line.
The fight for Los Angeles wasn’t much of a fight. It’s hard to say how this game would’ve gone had the Rams not been playing with a preseason offensive line, backup receivers, and a QB on his third team in one year. This remains a bad football team playing for next year with the sole purpose of evaluating the depth on the roster. It was a hard game to watch with the Rams only scoring 10 points and offering minimal resistance on defense. On the bright side, only one week left until this team can be taken behind the shed and put to rest.