Rams Suffer From Bad Blocking and Poor Tackling; Lose To 49ers 24-9

The Rams struggled with football fundamentals. A look at where they fell short and where there is hope for the Rams

Rams Defensive Lineman Aaron Donald Photo Credit: Brevin Townsell
Rams Defensive Lineman Aaron Donald Photo Credit: Brevin Townsell

Sigh….well Kyle Shanahan still owns the Rams in the REGULAR season. The last time the Los Angeles Rams played the Niners stole the Rams souls like they were Shang Tsung. This is causing everyone to question whether Sean McVay was capable of anything besides having a good head of hair. They exorcized those demons in January but they still haven’t won a game in Levi Stadium in four years. Now, this time it was a 24-9 game that honestly wasn’t as soul-sucking as it would appear.

Yeah, Deebo Samuel had several Madden plays, and yes the Rams couldn’t force a turnover on Jimmy Garappolo. That all sucked, BUT at least this time there are key culprits rather than the team being in a tailspin the likes of which gave all fans cirrhosis.

Furthermore, last season’s NFC Championship game win over the 49ers prevented a complete Twitter Chernobyl. It was more of a Three Mile Island.

The Rams Offensive Offense

Seriously though, tonight’s offensive performance was exactly that; offensive. And it all starts with their flaws in football fundamentals; Blocking and tackling. The blocking has gone from bad to worse. Coleman Shelton went down on the first drive, meaning Matthew Stafford was down to his third center in Jeremiah Kolone who is also the third backup guard.

David Edwards was already out with a concussion so Bobby Evans was the starter. The line has been banged up all year beginning with Logan Bruss going down in camp. Brian Allen coming back is the one bright spot and even then Brian Allen should never be anyone’s bright spot.

The interior of the Rams line got eaten alive by Nick Bosa and company to the tune of seven sacks and 54 yards lost. Stafford didn’t stand a chance, nor did the running game.

Even Ben Skowronek and Malcolm Brown couldn’t do much to block. Running out of 12 personnel gave them SOME momentum but the Rams lack of weapons also didn’t help. From a fantasy perspective, Cooper Kupp had 14 catches for 122 yards, which is awesome. But the Rams are 0-2 when he’s targeted more than ten times.

Also, the last two weeks allowed the Rams to try and spread it around like the Chiefs are trying to do but unfortunately, they still don’t have a deep threat and Allen Robinson (more on him in a moment) was the worst invisible man since Chevy Chase. Tyler Higbee had ten catches for 73 yards but beyond that, the next most Ram was Skowornek with two catches. NOT GREAT. The Rams also only rushed for 57 yards.

McVay and Liam Coen have struggled to adjust to this rash of injuries on the offensive line and it doesn’t help that Van Jefferson is out until at least week eight (Niners round two) Maybe his return will open up their ability to generate explosive plays. Although, even if he does the line hasn’t given time to allow those plays to develop. Stafford threw the game-clinching pick-six trying to get Kupp and honestly it was inevitable.

As tempting as it is to come after Stafford for having four touchdowns and six interceptions on the year while Jared Goff is leading the league in touchdowns, the situations are completely different. Give Goff or any QB this line and see how well they do.

The Rams desperately need someone to step up and it’s getting weird that Robinson has only had ten targets all season. It isn’t clear if it’s a chemistry thing or if there’s an underlying issue with Robinson but there’s something wrong and that has hamstrung the offense considerably. Tutu Atwell was a healthy scratch tonight and given the Rams desperate need for a burner, it is telling that Brandon Powell has a bigger role than Atwell in addition to being a returner. The blocking issues are likely to continue against Micah Parsons and a dominant Cowboys defense. It’s on McVay to at least mitigate the damage.

The Rams Bendy Defense

Defensively, things weren’t all that great either. Jeff Wilson scored on a big running play after the Rams came in with the number two rushing defense and allowed the fewest explosive runs. That’s why their ‘bend, don’t break’ defense is tolerated.

This brings up the second fundamental. Tonight the tackling was sloppy and while the Rams playing their DBs ten yards off the ball can work, the Niners were content to run screens because even when everyone knew it was coming the Rams couldn’t stop them.

Outside of Jalen Ramsey, they were down to their third and fourth cornerbacks so they’ve been dealing with injuries there too but Aaron Donald and Greg Gaines weren’t able to generate enough pressure. The defense was once again struggling on third down allowing the Niners to go 5-12.

The screens killed them as well as blown tackles. As awesome as Bobby Wagner and his ten tackles were tonight he over-pursued and allowed the Wilson touchdown. That said, they only allowed 88 rushing yards so they weren’t gashed all night.

It’s tough because ‘bend, don’t break’ can work but not if the defense allows big runs. The Niners weren’t going to allow Jimmy to beat them and there needs to be some adjustment to prevent teams from keeping drives alive for too long. It’s not as simple having the corners play closer to the line of scrimmage either.

What’s telling is that the game was still 17-9 deep into the fourth quarter. They were still in it right until the Stafford pick-six. The entire NFC West is 2-2 so they didn’t lose much ground and if they can get healthier after the bye they’re right back in it.

For the next two weeks, they need to find a way to protect Stafford and allow the offense to find some sense of rhythm. Things aren’t as dire as they were the last time the Rams left Santa Clara. Sure, tonight sucked and Dallas stands to be a brutal assignment on a short week but the Rams are good at problem-solving. It won’t happen right away but as long as they don’t lose anyone else before the bye week they can figure it out.

Rams Defensive Lineman Aaron Donald Photo Credit: Brevin Townsell
Rams Defensive Lineman Aaron Donald Photo Credit: Brevin Townsell