The Los Angeles Rams fell 37-31 in overtime to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 14. While a disappointing loss, it was a sneak peek as to the ceiling of what this Rams team can be at their best. Not many expected the Rams to win this game and had a few plays gone their way, they just might have. Here are 10 takeaways from the loss.
1. Great start, frustrating end to opening drive.
The Rams started the game by imposing their physicality on the Ravens defense and Baltimore wanted no part of it initially. Sean McVay called nine straight runs out of the gate. Five of those went to Kyren Williams for 41 yards. And then the offense got into the red zone.
McVay proceeded to call three consecutive passing plays from shotgun. All three passes fell incomplete and the Rams had to settle for an opening drive field goal. With how well the Rams had been running the ball, it would have made sense to continue that or try something off of play action. The opening drive was a good sneak peak that the Rams offense was going to be able to move the ball, but it also had a very frustrating end.
2. Kyren Williams remains the engine of the offense
There were still questions coming into the game on whether or not Williams could be the guy. While he was having a lot of success, two of his 100 yard games came against the Arizona Cardinals. Now, Williams has rushed for 100 yards in four of his last six games and is just 199 yards short of 1,000. It should be remembered that he also missed four games. With his performance against the Ravens, he surpassed Cam Akers’ best season in 2022 in 30 less carries.
Williams has shown that he is the engine of the Rams offense. He’s been one of the most efficient runners in the NFL this season and is what makes the Rams running game work. We’ll see if the Rams can ride Williams to the postseason.
3. Is Davis Allen another 2023 draft class home run?
The Rams absolutely nailed the 2023 NFL Draft. Between Steve Avila, Puka Nacua, Kobie Turner, and Byron Young, it’s hard to beat that. However, Davis Allen got an opportunity on Sunday and took advantage, showing his potential as a receiver and ‘seam buster’ in the middle of the field.
The focus for Allen will be the drop on 3rd-and-9 in overtime. With that said, it’s hard to say the rookie even gets the first down as he was still short of the sticks with defenders ready to meet his path. Allen made some huge catches in the middle of the field and scored his first NFL touchdown. McVay may have something here.
4. Cooper Kupp was back in form.
There had been a lot of chatter about Cooper Kupp losing a step and not being his normal self. Kupp heard all the talk and had arguably his best game of the year. The Rams wide receiver had eight receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown against arguably the best secondary in the NFL. He may have had another touchdown if Matthew Stafford doesn’t under throw him on the final drive of regulation.
Cooper Kupp was indeed back!— Blaine Grisak (@bgrisakTST) December 11, 2023
Did a lot of his damage outside the numbers which is a slight shift for him. pic.twitter.com/21fEAOj785
Sunday was a reminder that Kupp is still very good. There may be some fair questions about his future, but as he gets healthier down the stretch, it would not be surprising to see more performances like the one against the Ravens.
5. Missed opportunities cost the Rams.
The 3rd-and-17 will be the focus as that’s the play that essentially put the Ravens in control late in the fourth quarter. With that said, there were several other missed opportunities on both sides of the ball. Ernest Jones nearly had an interception at the end of the half that would have allowed the offense to get more points. The offense had drives to potentially go up by 10 and then 9 early in the third quarter and punted both times. Puka Nacua had a key drop in the fourth quarter. He made up for it on the ensuing drive, but it could have been a play that lost the game had Baltimore proceeded to score. Matthew Stafford missed an open Kyren Williams on 2nd-and-4 in overtime.
These types of games always come down to a handful of plays and whether or not you make them. The Rams needed to play a perfect game to beat arguably the best team in the AFC on the road coming off of a bye. They almost did. However, in games like this when you also have a talent deficit, the margins become small. The Rams had opportunities to take control or win the game and just didn’t make the winning play when they needed it.
6. Two shots to Demarcus Robinson at end of regulation?
On the final drive of regulation, the Rams had the ball at the Ravens 22 yard line with 43 seconds to play. It’s in those situations, especially with a historically conservative coach in Sean McVay, that you would rather be down by four so that you’re forced to score a touchdown and go for the win. That should have been plenty of time to get in the end zone and win the game right there.
The Rams did take two shots at the end zone, but both plays went to Demarcus Robinson. While Robinson had been playing well, Kupp has made plays in those situations. Puka Nacua brings physicality and Davis Allen is a big body that excels in contested catch situations. It seemed odd that with the game on the line and a chance to win, the Rams targeted Robinson. They also could have targeted the middle of the field more in that situation rather than take two long shots at the end zone.
7. Defense made the mistake, but also gave offense a chance.
The Rams plan on defense coming into the game was clearly to take away the run game and force the Ravens to win by throwing the ball. It almost worked. This isn’t to let the defense off the hook. The backend of the secondary needs to be more disciplined. They have to be better. A busted coverage, beat on a double-move, and then giving up a touchdown on 3rd-and-17 is less than ideal.
2 pt play. Lamar dodges one pass rusher and then throws a pinpoint pass into a tiny window while leaving his feet and getting drilled, as one does. pic.twitter.com/AqhajF4bHu— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) December 11, 2023
At the same time, the Rams almost accomplished the game plan of taking away the Ravens’ identity and forcing them to win another way. Since 2018, the Ravens offense leads the NFL with a 45.5 percent rushing success rate and 0.038 EPA/rush. The Rams defense held that offense to a 23.8 percent rushing success rate which was their lowest since Week 16 of 2018. That was Lamar Jackson’s rookie season. Their -0.218 EPA/rush was Baltimore’s lowest since Week 5 of 2022. The Ravens lost that game 42-38 to the Miami Dolphins. Jackson threw the ball 43 times. Coming into the game, he was 16-11 when throwing the ball 30 or more times.
It’s important to remember the ethos of this team. This Rams team was built for the defense to do enough and the offense to win games. While the offense averaged three yards per play on their first four drives of the second half, the defense held Baltimore to six points. In overtime, the Rams defense forced a three-and-out, giving the offense a chance to win with a field goal. Self-inflicted errors caused a three-and-out and the rest is history. The defense had a chance to win the game as well, but the offense is built for those moments. Both sides of the ball had chances. Neither got it done when it counted.
8. Special teams remains an issue, but not at kicker.
Following the 2019 season, McVay opted not to bring back John Fassel as the special teams coordinator. Since then, the Rams have ranked inside the bottom three in special teams DVOA twice. They currently rank 32nd. Evans has been good this season, but a line drive punt down the middle of the field are the types of punts you like to avoid. Yes, there was a missed block in the back and opportunities to tackle Tylan Wallace. At the same time, that’s also putting the coverage unit in a tough spot.
Austin Trammel was lucky not to have one of his multiple muffed punts recovered by the Ravens. McVay is now on his third special teams coordinator since Fassel. The Rams special teams coordinator job has become the Defense Against the Dark Arts position at Hogwarts. Is it a coordinator problem, talent problem, or philosophical problem? On the bright side, Lucas Havrisik made all of his kicks despite tough Baltimore conditions.
9. Loss is a reminder that Rams still have serious problems.
Weaknesses can sometimes be hidden through victories and that was the case after the Rams won three straight. A loss to the Ravens is a good reminder that the Rams still have serious holes on the roster that they need to fill this offseason. Lamar Jackson’s average time to throw was 3.64 seconds. That was his second-longest time to throw this season. That’s a combination of Jackson’s mobility and the inconsistent pass-rush. We can talk about the lack of holding calls, but this defense needs a pass rusher outside of Aaron Donald.
For as long as Jackson had, the secondary played admirably. At the same time, the Rams have to look to make upgrades at cornerback and safety. Joe Noteboom missing a key block on a Kyren Williams screen is a reminder that he is not a solution on the offensive line. The loss shows potential of what this Rams team can be, but a good reminder that they are an imperfect version of the product that they are striving for in 2024 and 2025.
10. If Rams play like that, they will be dangerous down the stretch.
Over the last two weeks, the Rams offense has faced the number one and number two defenses via EPA. They rank fifth in the NFL in EPA while playing against the Browns and Ravens defenses. That’s impressive considering some of the offensive struggles early in the season.
The Rams are on the outside looking in when it comes to the NFC Playoff picture. With that being said, if they take care of business, they will find their way into the postseason. Is there a team right now that wants to play the Rams? They are showing that they can compete with the best in the NFL and have the ability to steal a game. While a loss is disappointing and there are no moral victories, it’s hard not to be proud of the effort and what the Rams showed against a Super Bowl contender.