The Los Angeles Rams lost to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, 20-3, to fall to 3-6 on the season. For the fourth time in five years, a Sean McVay-led Rams team has lost three games in a row. With Matthew Stafford under center, the Rams likely win this game. Instead, it’s a reality check to understand exactly where Los Angeles is in its currently build. Let’s get to this week’s 10 takeaways.
1. The Rams are who we thought they were
The mirage that was witnessed in Week 1 against the Seattle Seahawks was fun while it lasted. At the very least, it showed what this Rams team is capable of as they look ahead to 2024 and 2025. At the beginning of the season, it was expected that Los Angeles would be competitive but not be among the NFL’s contenders. That’s exactly what they are.
At the end of the day, this Rams team is extremely young and this is going to be a learning/”re-tool” year. The front office didn’t make a single move throughout the entire offseason that showed that they were looking to make a push at being competitive. In fact, they did the opposite. Queue the Dennis Green, “they are who we thought they were” clip because that is the 2023 Los Angeles Rams following Week 9. They are a team with eyes on the future as they look to make one final push with the current pillars.
2. Brett Rypien just needed to manage the game, instead he made mistakes
There was always some hope that Stafford could play against the Packers. However, as it got closer it became less and less likely. On Saturday evening, it became apparent that the Rams would be rolling with Brett Rypien.
The Rams simply needed Rypien to manage the game. They didn’t need him to be a hero or make all of the throws. An efficient performance would have gotten the job done. Instead, on the second drive, Rypien fumbled instead of just taking a sack. Green Bay went on to score a touchdown. In the second half, he threw an interception at his own 27-yard line, leading to a Packers field goal to go up by two scores. Half of the Packers points came off of Rypien turnovers.
3. Mishandling of backup quarterback position rears its ugly head
It all goes back to the Rams mishandling the backup quarterback situation. It’s worth noting that Rypien didn’t even make the initial 53-man roster. Snead and McVay selected Stetson Bennett in the draft. Now, we can empathize with Bennett’s situation while also questioning the decision to draft him in the first place. Those two things are entirely separate.
Aidan O’Connell threw for 209 yards on 16-for-25 attempts and was taken seven picks after Bennett. Tyson Bagent did throw three interceptions, but it also came against a very good New Orleans Saints defense. He also threw for 220 yards and two touchdowns. This is the path that the Rams chose and they’ll likely be back at square one next offseason.
4. Costly execution errors showed in critical moments
On the opening drive Ben Skowronek slipped on a jet sweep. There wasn’t a lot of room, but the loss of momentum gave him no chance at all at making a play. Later in the game, the Rams trailed 7-3 and Rypien hit Puka Nacua for 16 yards along the sideline. However, Nacua threw the defensive back at the top of the route. The penalty took away the play and the offense out of field goal range.
With the game mostly over, Jordan Love found Christian Watson for 37 yards. Yeast was in position, but made a bad play on the ball. These things are separate from play-calling and scheme. The offense wasn’t good enough with Rypien to be able to overcome penalties. At some point, the players have to be able to execute.
5. Tyler Higbee struggles continue following extension
Given the current status of the tight end room, it makes sense why the Rams extended Higbee. For the most part, he’s been reliable in the passing game and a player that could be counted on. Those moments are now few and far between. He has three drops this season and his 10.3 percent drop percentage is the fourth-highest in the NFL among tight ends.
Tyler Higbee, ladies and gentlemen... pic.twitter.com/u6TWYBOgcG— Mike Winchell (@mrmikewinch) November 5, 2023
He had another drop against the Packers and completely whiffed on a “wham block” that led to Darrell Henderson getting tackled in the backfield. Higbee hasn’t been good enough. It’s fair to note that he’s been dealing with an injury. According to Stu Jackson from the team, Higbee is “fighting through a lot of stuff and playing with something that restricts” his right hand, on his right thumb.” If that’s the case, the Rams should be utilizing Davis Allen and Brycen Hopkins more.
6. Rams lack complementary football on offense
This is not to say that the Rams defense put out an impeccable performance. There were certainly issues, especially in the red zone and in some third-down situations. They benefited from some untimely Packers mistakes on offense.
With that said, the defense had almost as many turnovers as the offense had points. The offense scored 0 points off of those turnovers. Green Bay had 10 points off of turnovers while the Rams had 0. That was a big difference in this game. The Rams overall lack complementary football. The Rams defense ranked 11th in EPA for the week. They were one of two teams along with the Arizona Cardinals to have a top-11 defense in Week 9 and lose.
7. McVay has struggled against former assistants
When going up against his former assistants, Mcvay is just 2-6 with both wins coming against Zac Taylor and the Cincinnati Bengals. One of those wins against the Bengals was with Andy Dalton at quarterback in 2019 and the other is obviously the Super Bowl.
This is notable, especially when you also consider Kyle Shanahan’s success against McVay. McVay has been one of the best among NFL head coaches when it comes to developing coaching talent. However, when he has had to face that talent that he developed, he has struggled.
8. If the Rams travel to Lambeau Field in the next decade, it will be too soon.
Over the past four seasons, the Rams have had to travel to Lambeau Field four times and were 0-4 in those games. One of those was a playoff game, but the other three were all regular season matchups.
The Rams will play the Packers again next season, but at SoFi stadium. If the Packers and Rams finish in the same spot in their division, they will play at SoFi Stadium again in 2025 and the same in 2026. After 0-4 in four trips to Lambeau, the Rams likely will want to stay away from Green Bay for quite awhile.
9. Rams closer to a top-5 pick than playoffs
Following their third straight loss, the Rams are now closer to a top-5 pick than they are the playoffs. If the draft were to take place after this week, Los Angeles would hold the sixth overall pick.
While the Rams certainly won’t tank, the goal needs to be a pick inside the top-10, if not the top-5. This gives them a chance to draft a blue chip prospect whether that’s at left tackle or potentially even quarterback. Much like last year, don’t be surprised if the Rams tank without tanking. If Stafford or a starter isn’t 100 percent healthy, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Rams sit them out.
10. Loss to Packers likely ends any playoff hopes
Had the Rams won on Sunday, they would be the eighth seed in the NFC and just one game out of the playoff picture. Now at 3-6, they are two games behind the Minnesota Vikings. Going into the bye at 4-5 is much different than their current situation. At 4-5, you still feel in the hunt. While earning the seventh seed would have been nice, the Rams would have to go 6-2 down the stretch to make that happen. Nothing about this current team shows that they can string together a series of wins.
Right now, it’s important to have eyes on “Project 2025”. This isn’t a ‘fire everybody’ situation and there doesn’t need to be drastic changes. As mentioned earlier, everyone should have known what this year was. The team openly said it was a “re-tool” year and they didn’t make any moves to show they were going to make a push. While they competed for the first six weeks, the Rams have always had the big picture in mind and that doesn’t include a playoff appearance this season.