The Rams got decked at home to hated divisional rival, the 49ers. The Niners came into the Coliseum and did to them what Tony Soprano did to Ralphie. They beat them in an ugly fight and then chopped up their bodies in the bathtub. How bad was this loss?
Offensively, Jared Goff had 78 yards on the day, the leading receiver was Brandin Cooks with 18 yards, and they were 0/5 on 3rd down and 0/2 on 4th down. So what happened? Yes, the Niners have an incredible defense particularly on their defensive line, but also the Rams’ offensive line got WORKED. This is something that deep down fans feared.
They let Rodger Saffold go to Tennessee in free agency because Les Snead believed that Joe Noteboom (now hurt), Austin Blythe, and Brian Allen were all worthy of starting so no money needed to be spent there. That gamble has come up snake eyes and now the Rams’ offense is in a downward spiral.
It might seem unfair to place ALL of the blame on the line but they deserve the brunt of it, or rather Les Snead deserves the blame for overestimating the quality of the second-year starters on the offensive line. Goff was sacked four times on Sunday and while the running game succeeded with 109 yards on the ground, the passing game wasn’t able to get going. The play-action game, which is a pillar of the offense, didn’t stand a chance. The goal-line stop in the second quarter was because the line got no push, NONE. This isn’t a one-off game either. While the offensive line has had drives where they were dominant, they can’t stay consistent.
What doesn’t help is that the young guys aren’t the only ones having problems. Andrew Whitworth has played less like the elder statesman on the line and more like an actual elder. Rob Havenstein who was rewarded with a massive contract extension last season has looked off. He no longer looks worthy of being the successor to Whitworth and that’s a problem (one that’ll be explored in a bit).
The penalties are up and that’s contributed to the offense not being able to get into a rhythm. They’ve committed 21 penalties thus far. They aren’t the only ones. The Rams also committed dumb illegal shift penalties and the skill players have also had moments of weakness. That said 21 offensive line penalties through six games is not ideal.
Still, the sins of the offensive line aren’t exclusive to the line itself. Les Snead has mismanaged the construction of this line and while he’s certainly done a lot of good things this is one area he’s slept on. It’s understandable that he’d believe the line will be okay sans Saffold and center John Sullivan and not trade for Trent Williams or find a quality veteran. There’s a world where he hits on all three picks and now he has a kick-ass line for cheap. That didn’t happen and now the line is not only young but because of other trades, lack significant depth. Blythe and now Noteboom have gotten hurt and their next man up is Jamil Demby, a sixth-round pick who is not ready for primetime.
Snead’s early contract extensions, save for Aaron Donald, have looked bad in the short term. It’s a habit he had during the Jeff Fisher years but it didn’t seem as bad when the players being rewarded were contributing to a contender. That doesn’t appear to be the case anymore. Havenstein was one of the sure things and now it’s unclear if he can be counted on to protect Goff who also received a massive deal. The point is, the line was the sacrificial lamb on Snead going all in to win a title. Now they’re like Matt Damon after he busts out in Rounders dejected, broke, and back in law school.
The Rams can still come out of this spiral as they play a slew of other spiraling teams but if they can’t make it out of this stretch this season is over. They are no longer one of the elite teams in the NFL. They have a ton of talent, a great head coach, and are always in games but until the line can right itself they are a borderline wild card team at best.