The Get Back Phase: Sean McVay And The Los Angeles Rams Turn The Page
The Los Angeles Rams started the season on a fantastic hot streak. The team entered the month of November with a stunning seven wins and just a single loss. That momentum felt nearly unstoppable with the surprise addition of superstar Von Miller on November 1st. Adding to the excitement, the Rams landed another superstar, Odell Beckham Jr., whose arrival only boosted the confidence of Rams fans. Unfortunately, the team hit a snag and ended up on the ‘No-Win November’ list, finishing the month with a 0-3 record. Things felt bleak, and football fans and analysts were ready to throw in the towel and write off the Rams for the remainder of the 2021 season. The team was in dire need of a reset.
Then came Jacksonville. The 2-9 Jacksonville Jaguars were set to face off against the 7-4 Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium. Rams fans were cautiously optimistic for this game, hopeful that the team would be able to bounce back against an atrocious AFC South opponent… and that they did. Now, this victory was much needed, but it was against the Jaguars. While it felt like a “get right” game, it was not clear if the Rams were ready to get back to their elite level of play.
Then came Arizona. The 10-2 Arizona Cardinals were set to face off against the 8-4 Los Angeles Rams at State Farm Stadium in Tempe. Rams fans were far less optimistic for this matchup (Arizona had beaten the Rams in Week 4 and led the entire NFC conference) and multiple Rams’ starters, including god-tier CB Jalen Ramsey and TE Tyler Higbee, were kept off the field due to positive COVID-19 test results.
With hours to formulate an adjusted game plan, not many football fans were willing to put faith in LA. However, the Rams followed the keys to success they had used against Jacksonville, and they ushered in the Get Back Phase in full force by securing a win over arguably the most important opponent left on their schedule. The Rams left Arizona at 9-4 after beating the now-former NFC conference leaders in a thrilling 30-23 win. What changed with the Rams? What caused them to get right and get back to who we all know they could be?
The Rams two recent victories can be boiled down to three key pieces: 1. They ran the ball 2. They utilized play-action 3. They toughened up in response to adversity
Running The Ball
Sean McVay is absolutely in love with passing the football. Quarterback Matthew Stafford is also absolutely in love with passing the football. It should be no surprise to anyone when the Rams neglect the run game, as poor of a choice as it clearly is. However, during their Get Back Phase, referencing the month of December games thus far, McVay has yet to neglect the run. In fact, Rams running back, Sony Michel, became the team’s first rusher to surpass 100-yards this season. Against Arizona, Michel did not eclipse the 100-yard mark, but he did put the Rams in short-yard situations and kept crucial drives alive with incredibly high-effort rushes.
With RB Darrell Henderson battling injuries, the Rams would be wise to keep Michel running as often as possible. With a now dominant run game, the Rams can control the clock, take pressure off of Stafford, and unlock the second key to their Get Back Phase.
Over the course of the Rams nearly unwatchable November slate, Stafford threw five interceptions, three of which were pick-sixes, one in each of the three November games. The Rams could not seem to take care of the football to save their lives, and opposing defenses clearly saw the team as one-dimensional. Part of this was a lack of run game, which completely took away the Rams stellar play action. When defenses do not take your rush game seriously, they can load up on the backend, provide thick coverage, and apply tremendous pressure to a quarterback struggling to find an open receiver.
The Get Back Phase saw the Rams and Stafford utilizing the hell out of play-action passes, opening up the field dramatically, and forcing defenses to keep their eyes on every aspect of the Rams’ offense. This change of pace has allowed Stafford to absolutely light up the field, and the entire Rams’ receiving corps, led by the ruler of the galaxy, Cooper Kupp, who is feasting right now.
Response To Adversity
When everything is going well, it is difficult to change, where do you start? The old saying ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’ is something that a lot of us can relate to. The Rams sat at 7-1 coming into November and the whole world was open for them to take. The lack of emergency preparedness showed when they got dismantled in similar fashion three weeks in a row. The losses, coupled with the loss of Robert Woods, felt suffocating.
The Jaguars appeared just in time, the perfect hangover cure, but it was the Cardinals game that showed the Rams truly could bounce back. Despite being down multiple star players, despite being on the road, despite adjusting and readjusting game plans, the Rams played their best game yet this season. The team can respond to adversity, and here is hoping that they continue to do so. On to the Seattle Seahawks.