The Los Angeles Rams fell to the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday Night, 34-31, and were eliminated from the 2019 Playoffs. A year after appearing in the Super Bowl, the Rams will not have a shot to return.
There is so much to digest with this game, and we will go into all of it on Monday on the LA Football Podcast, but I at least want to share my thoughts and give a brief reaction to this painful loss.
First off, let’s talk about Jared Goff. Similar to the entire 2019 season, he had highs and lows. However, other than a terrible read that led to a pick six, I thought Goff played a very good game against an elite pass rush and the number 1 pass defense. On paper, he finished with 323 yards, two touchdowns, and the aformentioned INT. These are admiable numbers, but I was more impressed by some of the elite throws that he made.
If you have listened to anything that I have said or written in the past, then you know that Goff is a top QB outside of the pocket, and he proved that again on Saturday. On play-action waggles and bootlegs, Goff is not only efficient but also extremely accurate. He made some elite throws outside of the pocket that should keep fans excited.
Does he still need to be a better decision-maker in the pocket? Yes. Is he the guy to carry the offense on his back? Probably not. At this point, we know what Goff is, and there really is no point debating or arguing about it. He is a very good quarterback when the scheme fits and the play call meshes with the personnel. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just is what it is.
Jared Goff is not going to be Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson, he just won’t. But he can absolutely play at a high level and lead this Rams team back to the playoffs. The play design just needs to be consistent and play to the strengths of the offense.
Alright, let’s stay on the positive train and talk about another bright spot in this loss that bodes well for the future, tight end Tyler Higbee. Higbee went toe-to-toe with arguably the leagues best tight end, George Kittle, and in terms of yards and receptions, outshined him. For the third straight game, Higbee went over the century mark as he finished with nine receptions for 104 yards. What is even more encouraging was how he got to these numbers. He was utilized over the middle, on seam routes, and in the screen game. These last three weeks have shown us that the contract extension he received prior to the season may have been for good reason, and his future in the city of LA is bright.
Now for a bit of the doom and gloom, but don’t worry, I will always end with a positive.
Wade Phillips and the defense. On paper, giving up 27 points isn’t abysmal (seven of the 34 points came on a pick-six), but it still isn’t good, and they folded when it mattered most.
Garoppolo finished with two interceptions. Mostert was the leading rusher with 53 yards. Kittle was held to five receptions (had 13 the previous week). The unit finished with six sacks and dominated the third quarter.
But, in the 4th quarter, after Goff and the Rams offense drove down to the tie the game, the defense gave up not one, but two 3rd and 16 conversions that eventually ended in a game-winning field goal for the Niners.
Unfortunately, this has kind of been the Achilles heel of the defensive unit all season. They have played extremely well against lesser opponents, but when it has mattered, against playoff teams, they have not been able to lock down and play to their talent. A lot of this will fall on the shoulders of Wade Phillips. Does he deserve the rumors swirling of him potentially being gone next year? I don’t want to make any rash statements, but it is certainly worth exploring as this unit is too talented to not show up in the big moments.
In Phillips’ illustrious coaching career, he has NEVER coached anywhere longer than five years, which includes position, coordinator, and as a head coach. His contract expires after this season and it will be up to the Rams if they choose to extend him past year three.
Alright, let’s try and end with a positive. Not easy to do after a heartbreaking loss that knocks a team with lofty expectations out of the playoffs, but I’ll do my best.
There seems to be a “sky is falling” mentality towards the organization after another loss and a potential 8-8 season. While I don’t personally agree with Les Snead’s tactics of trading away pretty much all early-round draft capital, there are still plenty of opportunities to improve the team through the later rounds in the 2020 draft. Andrew Whitworth was a 2nd round pick. Robert Woods was a 2nd round pick. Cooper Kupp was a 3rd round pick. Tyler Higbee was a 4th round pick. John Johnson was a 3rd round pick. Cory Littleton was undrafted. So with cap room being tight heading into the offseason, this team can still be exponentially improved through the upcoming draft.
Time will tell, but we still have one game to play. Let’s end the season on a high note, and then we can get into the draft! Tough loss, but there are things to build upon.