The Los Angeles Rams won the NFC West and get a Cardinals team that’s lost six of its last seven including one to the Rams just a month ago. And yet Sean McVay and the Rams aren’t celebrating, nor should they. The Rams had a chance to lock in the two seed, knock out the Niners, and play a Saints team with a shaky offense. Instead, McVay lost his halftime lead streak (45-1) and has lost to Kyle Shanahan six times in a row. Today’s loss was absolutely crushing because, for the first half, the Rams were physical on both sides of the ball and were doing great at all three phases. Then via poor tackling, poor blocking, and some bad decisions by McVay, the Rams blew it in overtime.
Offensively, Matthew Stafford (21/32, 238 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs) came out swinging in the first quarter. The problem is the Niners absolutely dominated the Rams line and basically prevented the running game from really going. To his credit, McVay didn’t abandon the run as he is known to do. Overall, the Rams had a total of 64 rushing yards and Cam Akers made his season debut with three yards. While that’s not a great stat line, the fact that he played at all is a miracle.
The offensive line allowed five sacks and because they got absolutely destroyed, Stafford was forced into making terrible throws. McVay had two big coaching blunders that probably swung this game (he’s not the only reason). His decision to go empty set on 3rd and one allowed the Niners to get a field goal to end the half. In the fourth, all they needed was one first down and he chose to run three times instead of throwing it to ice the game.
Defensively, the Rams were physical in the first half. They shut down the Niners’ offense and allowed the offense to control the time of possession. Then in the second half, the Niners were able to run all over them. The Rams couldn’t tackle and while the “FIRE RAHEEM” crowd was out in full force, that’s not on him. Schematically he coached a solid game, but if the defense can’t finish tackles then it doesn’t matter what he runs.
Deebo Samuel continued his annoying dominance over the Rams defense and the third quarter brought out the worst in everyone. Even Jalen Ramsey who had clutch tackles and a clutch pick got caught out of position on long passes, especially the trick play to Jauan Jennings that went for a touchdown.
The third quarter played out exactly like the Monday night loss in November. After Ramsey had the pick in the end zone, the defense briefly caught fire before inexplicably being unable to stop the Niners’ run game.
Furthermore, they got eaten alive in the middle of the field. The Niners converted several third downs by throwing in the middle of the field. This is largely because Troy Reeder was abysmal in coverage. The secondary also struggled all day, especially after losing Jordan Fuller to an ankle injury. It was a frustrating second half and the Niners’ drive in OT was equally frustrating. The Rams simply have to wrap up.
Terrell Burgess came in relief of Nick Scott and was able to wrap up George Kittle to force the Niners to settle for a field goal. It’s perplexing that he hasn’t been starting at safety in lieu of Taylor Rapp who had a pick but was of course roasted in coverage. Despite them sacking Jimmy G three times and picking him twice, the defense still allowed him to make clutch throws which of course was sickening.
Despite the Rams winning their third division title in five years under McVay, this title felt hollow. Jalen Ramsey’s “Nope” when asked about winning the West says it all. They know they could’ve controlled their own destiny and they blew it. The Rams were able to rally in the fourth quarter just when the internet had quit on the team for the umpteenth time.
Cooper Kupp (7 catches, 118 yards, and one TD) was absolutely clutch and deserves to be the MVP. He came within 18 yards of tying Megatron’s record and five catches from breaking Michael Thomas‘s record. He had key blocks, and circus catches including one for a touchdown. The triple crown winner was absolutely fantastic and it’s too bad McVay got too conservative at the end of the game. That said, he did get better at compensating for the lines “no good”, “horrible”, “very bad day” towards the end but, again, if it had happened sooner they win.
Look, as brutal as this loss was and as obnoxious as it is to be owned by Kyle Shanahan, the Rams still put together a solid regular season. Yes, they had a three-game spiral but they were able to get out of it. McVay was torn apart all season by the couch coaches and then he implemented blocking schemes that allowed for the offense to thrive. Sony Michel became a near 1,000 yard running back, and despite all the upheaval from injuries, new personnel, and Covid, the Rams won their division and host the Cardinals, who have lost six of their last seven including to the Lions. There is a lot of football left and yes, if the Rams beat Arizona next weekend there’s a good chance they play Green Bay but they’ve proven they’re better than the team that lost in Lambeau back in November.
Again, was this loss disgusting? Yes. Was it absolutely abominable that there were more Niners fans at Sofi? Absolutely. But this team has proven they can compete. The season isn’t over despite what the internet would tell you. The Rams are still talented and had won five in a row against stiff competition despite a ton of adversity every week. Don’t pour dirt on McVay or the Rams just yet.