Pathetic, absolutely PATHETIC. Any hope the Los Angeles Rams had at making the postseason died today, there is no reason to believe the Rams can turn this around and all the best they can hope for is to finish with a winning record. Other than that, this is a lost season.
Normally, these recaps offer optimism in the face of Rams Twitter quitting before game time and demanding every single coach and exec be fired, but not today. Today the Rams proved that they haven’t hit rock bottom because they can sink WAY LOWER.
Sean McVay is facing a new kind of adversity and it’s unclear how he will handle it or what can even be done at this point. The injuries to the offensive line are almost unprecedented but McVay still hasn’t figured out a way around it. Insisting on starting Bobby Evans at guard is baffling as he routinely allows multiple sacks, today he was responsible for three sacks.
The offense only amounted five yards in the fourth quarter and couldn’t get a first in the last two minutes to seal the game. Tom Brady only needed one good drive to beat the Rams. This was supposed to be the get-right game and instead, a terrific defensive performance was wasted. The Rams are in a dark place and need to turn their sights on 2023. This season is over.
The Rams rightly didn’t make a major splash at the deadline although not without trying. They offered multiple firsts, a second, and Cam Akers for Brian Burns but the Panthers foolishly said no. Good thing too, because the Rams need those picks to rebuild the offensive line and overhaul most of their offensive staff.
Matthew Stafford (165 yards, 1 TD) to his credit didn’t turn the ball over for the second straight week. He had a 69 TD to Cooper Kupp (8 rec, 127 yards, and a TD) and for a brief moment, the offense had life. He still got sacked four times and was under duress for a lot of the game.
The anemic running game didn’t get any better with Cam Akers (3 yards) back in the fold and while Darrell Henderson had 56 yards, the Rams couldn’t get into any kind of rhythm for most of the game. Van Jefferson dropped a bomb early in the first and was never heard from again. Allen Robinson was the second-leading receiver with 24 yards. NOT GREAT.
The Rams couldn’t get any blocking for jet sweeps or screens. Bobby Evans bears the brunt of the blame as he got beat play after play. Injuries or not, there is no reason for him to be starting. Oday Aboushi should be the guard until David Edwards and or Coleman Shelton come back, end of story. They briefly lost Alaric Jackson forcing them to turn to Ty Neshke further demonstrating how exhausted their offensive line resources are. McVay clearly doesn’t trust the line (nor should he) but the onus is on him and Liam Coen to find a way to make use of what they have.
Even more curious is the fact that Tyler Higbee was only targeted once. They don’t even try to make use of any of their other tight ends either and the offense is predictable to the point where even the non-Romo announcers can tell where it’s going.
Given their lack of weapons, it’s DAMNING that they don’t play Tutu Atwell more even as a decoy, ditto Jacob Harris and Brycen Hopkins. There isn’t any real adjustment being made in the second half as evidenced by the fact that the Rams have been AWFUL this entire season in the fourth quarter. Schematically, something is fundamentally broken with this team. The creativity isn’t there and given how smart McVay is, it’s inexcusable. If today was the day McVay became inspired to overhaul his philosophy into something functional then this performance was a blessing in disguise, but that’s unlikely.
Defensively, the Rams actually played well. Yeah, that last drive was atrocious. Brady kept picking at Derion Kendrick (rough day for him) but other than that last drive, the Rams shut the Bucs down. Raheem Morris is not the author of this loss. For all the “soft D” whining that happens online every week, it worked today.
The problem is that bend-don’t-break only works if the offense can sustain long drives, otherwise the defense will be sucking wind and sure enough that’s what happened. They had a massive goal line stand that should’ve sealed the game but Kupp slid too soon and the offense sputtered forcing the defense to have to do it again and they were gassed.
They are also lacking a second pass-rusher, hence why they were willing to go all in on Brian Burns. Leonard Floyd has gotten going but even still he can’t generate consistent pressure. Aaron Donald is back to doing it all himself as Greg Gaines has had a quiet year and none of their other defensive linemen have stepped up. Donald generated pressure, swatted passes, and forced Brady into bad situations.
Bobby Wagner was an absolute beast today, not only did he lead the team in tackles but he blocked a field goal.
The defense pitched as solid a game as they could but time and time again the offense refused to take advantage. Having said all that, they need to get better at catching INTs. There were at least five dropped interceptions today and they’ve struggled to generate turnovers all season. It’s frustrating to see the DBs play so far off the ball but they weren’t and shouldn’t be the scapegoats today. Sorry to the “FIRE RAHEEM” crowd but he did his job today. The offensive staff didn’t.
Brandon Powell has struggled as a returner and Riley Dixon gave the Bucs decent field position for most of the day. Outside of Matt Gay, the special teams had their own share of coverage/tackling issues today, and once again that unit is starting to slip. Conversely, the Bucs real MVP today was their punter Jake Carmada who was absolutely outstanding. He made the Rams already anemic offense start deep in their own territory just about every possession.
If this game doesn’t inspire SOME form of fundamental change then nothing will. McVay isn’t and shouldn’t be on any type of hot seat but does need to demonstrate the willingness to change. He’s replaced the staff before but this one might require a massive overhaul.
They also really need to honestly assess their roster. Right now they only have $7.4 million-ish in cap space next year but despite themselves, there’s always money in the banana stand. It might require them to make some tough choices to find said money but they really need to do some soul-searching. This game was winnable, and outside of the Chiefs game, their entire schedule is winnable, they just have to get out of their own way.