The Los Angeles Rams fell to 1-1 on Sunday after losing to the San Francisco 49ers, 30-23. While there aren't necessarily any moral losses, this was one that was hard not to at least feel a little bit good about considering how the Rams competed for 60-minutes against one of the NFL’s best teams.
It’s going to be a rollercoaster for much of the season with a young roster filled with good and bad moments. Sunday’s loss was the epitome of that. Here are my 10 takeaways.
1. The offensive line held up well
Who knew that the Rams would miss Joe Noteboom? Until Noteboom went down with a knee injury, the offensive line was keeping Matthew Stafford pretty clean. In the first half, he had only been hit twice and was making vintage Stafford throws.
The 49ers really only started to get to Stafford once the Rams got down and were able to pin their ears back and rush the passer. That’s not a situation you want to be in against the 49ers front. The Rams were forced to throw at that point and there was no threat of run.
Said Sean McVay after the game,
“I thought the guys did a good job. It gets a little bit out of hand when you’re in a two- minute mode and you end up...probably 15 to 20 of those throws are in the latter parts of the game when you’re kind of down two possessions...I was proud of the way those guys fought and we’ll see where we’re at from an injury standpoint coming out of this.”
McVay didn’t give a status update on Noteboom, but we’ll likely learn more during the week of the extent of that injury.
2. Kyren Williams had a good day outside of one bad moment
It’s clear to see why the Rams like Kyren Williams. He runs extremely hard and is able to pick up extra yardage. The second-year player once again scored two touchdowns, and had the first receiving touchdown for a Rams running back since 2021. There was a play where he fell after catching the ball and still managed to pick up 11 yards.
“I thought he did really well. I thought he had great command of what was going on. I thought he made his plays. I thought his extra effort, especially whether it was running it or just his feeling the screen game or being able to catch a low pass and then be able to create a little bit after the catch. It was unfortunate, but those are things that can sometimes occur in football and I was really pleased with Kyren overall.”
On 14 carries, Williams averaged 3.7 yards per carry against a good 49ers front. Last year, Cam Akers had 1.63 yards per carry in the one game that he played against San Francisco. This isn’t to say that the Rams shouldn’t consider bringing in a short-yardage style running back, but there are things to like about Williams’ game and he’ll learn from the drop that ended up being an unlucky play.
3. Young players are going to make mental errors
One of the biggest difference in the second half came down to experience. The 49ers are a team that are built to win these types of close games whereas a lot of the players on the Rams are still learning.
Derion Kendrick had some lapses in coverage and the Rams got lucky on a few Brock Purdy overthrows. Kyren Williams had the drop that led to an interception and TuTu Atwell wasn’t on the same page as Stafford on a play that ended up getting called for intentional grounding. Puka Nacua had a drop or two as well.
These are things that are going to happen, but it’s about how these young players respond and learn from their mistakes. Williams has good hands and shouldn’t make that error again. Atwell will watch the film and see what Stafford saw and make that play next time.
4. Puka Nacua might be special
Nacua broke the record on Sunday for most receptions by a rookie in their first two games. He also became the first rookie to have 10 catches for 100 yards in each of their first two games. The Rams found a good player in Nacua and it’s clear that he’s been a bit of a safety blanket for Stafford in the same way that Kupp is.
McVay said after the game,
“He did a great job. You know, he’s tough. He’s a physical competitor. I thought that showed up. He continued to battle all the way through the end. I mean, he’s the epitome of what we want to be as Rams. I love Puka Nacua and I was really pleased with him today.”
It’s exiting to think about what Kupp, Atwell, and Nacua will all look like once they start playing together. Given how they’ve played, that needs to be the trio once Kupp returns to the lineup. The duo of Atwell and Nacua are one of the more productive wide receiver pairing in the NFL right now.
5. 49ers got all the bounces to go their way
In these games, it seems like the 49ers always get the bounces to go their way. In the first half, a snap hit George Kittle coming across the formation in motion and the ball bounced directly to Christian McCaffrey. Williams’ drop ended up right in the hands of a 49ers defender. In the fourth quarter, Deebo Samuel fumbled and the ball seemed to go out of bounds.
That’s not to mention, rookie kicker Jake Moody, who struggled in the preseason, made a 57-yard field goal. There are games when the bounces just don’t go your way and this was one of them for the Rams. Obviously, it sucks when it happens against the 49ers, but that was the case on Sunday.
6. Defense Needs to Create More Opportunities
With that being said, good teams create their own luck. Right now, the Rams aren’t creating a lot of opportunities on the defensive side of the ball. Through two games, the defense has yet to create a turnover.
This is a defense that is going to have good and bad moments simply because of the youth and lack of overall talent in some spots. On Sunday, they came up with some stops in the second half, but the offense wasn’t able to take advantage. The Rams played the 49ers wide receivers tight just like they did last week against the Seahawks. However, they need to get hands on balls and try to create some opportunities and short fields.
7. Cam Akers shouldn’t be the only player on the hot seat
Akers was rightfully on the hot seat after the game against the Seahawks. However, he shouldn’t be the only player in question.
On Matthew Stafford’s second interception, Van Jefferson ran a poor route that led to the defender being able to under-cut it. He also had a bad blocking rep last week to go with a drop. Kendrick has had some good moments, but should Tre Tomlinson gets some looks out the outside? With the number of young players chomping at the bit for opportunities, it will be interesting to see how long it takes for the Rams to make changes.
8. Have to like the way that the Rams competed
Beating the 49ers was always going to be a tall task. However, you have to like how the Rams competed for 60 minutes. They should have had a lead at halftime and looked like the better team for the first half. With five-minutes left, the offense had a chance to go down the field and tie the game with a touchdown,
Through the first two weeks, the Rams have exceeded expectations and shown that they are going to compete for 60-minutes. That alone will win them some games this year. They never went away, and in the end, the 49ers depth and experience turned out to be the difference. Outside of Noteboom’s injury, they also came out healthy.
9. That’s nine straight regular season losses to the 49ers
The Rams have now lost nine straight regular season games to the San Francisco 49ers. For that to happen against a division rival is unacceptable. It doesn’t help that the Rams essentially play two road games against the 49ers every year.
Kelly Stafford is going to be seeing red … pic.twitter.com/ItjlKIyhs6— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) September 17, 2023
The expectations for the Rams may not be at an all-time high, but the amount of red in the stands on Sunday was impressive in a bad way. Sunday marked the third one-score loss at home for the Rams against the 49ers. In those types of games, having a crowd behind you can make a difference and Los Angeles hasn’t had that. With the Philadelphia Eagles coming to Los Angeles in Week 5, the Rams may not have an actual home game until October when they play the Arizona Cardinals.
10. Rams may have opportunity on Monday Night against Bengals
Looking at the initial schedule, not many would have expected the Cincinnati Bengals to be 0-2. Not to mention quarterback Joe Burrow’s calf injury isn’t 100 percent and he may have re-injured it against the Baltimore Ravens. The Rams will either get a not-healthy Burrow or Jake Browning on Monday Night Football.
This is still a Bengals team that will be fighting to keep their season alive and not fall to 0-3. At the same time, it’s an opportunity for the Rams to possibly get a win in a game that not many would have given them a chance in when the schedule was released.