Since taking over as the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams in 2017, Sean McVay hasn’t suffered many losses like the one that happened Sunday.
In fact, by score, it was the sixth most lopsided loss in his tenure. San Francisco came into SoFi Stadium and unleashed their new toy Christian McCaffrey who scored touchdowns running, catching and throwing (if he could have punted for a touchdown he probably would have too) in a 31-14 shellacking Sunday.
The 49ers outscored the Rams 21-0 in the second half. They were tougher. They were faster. And, of course, better.
It’s now eight wins in a row for the Niners over the Rams in the regular season. (Of course, the Rams beat the Niners in the NFC Championship game last year).
The Rams are 3-5. If the playoffs started today, they’d be out. They’re third in the NFC West, a game-and-a-half behind the (checks notes) Seattle Seahawks.
There are losses that just feel like losses. One team plays better, one team gets a late break. Then there are losses that feel like real turning points, like when a defending Super Bowl champion gets decked. That’s what Sunday felt like. The Rams had no answers and didn’t look like a team that could find them.
About the only thing that could have made it worse for the Rams was if Cooper Kupp had gotten hurt.
Wait, say what?
McCaffrey Triple Threat
Tip your hat to San Francisco for the double pass touchdown to McCaffrey early in the second quarter. The Rams have the same type of play in their play book, just a swing pass wide to a running back or wide receiver (Rams do it with Kupp).
But McCaffrey took a deeper angle, Niners quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo knew he had to throw the ball backward and did. McCaffrey caught it took a few steps forward and threw the ball for a 34-yard touchdown pass. Rams defensive back Nick Scott had crept up just a bit allowing Brandon Aiyuk to get behind him.
It wasn’t Scott’s fault. I would have stepped forward too.
What was scarier was the Rams had no match-up for McCaffrey. Heck, they just saw him two weeks ago when he was with the Panthers. McCaffrey ran through the Rams defensive line and he made the linebackers look slow. He exposed a shocking lack of athleticism on the Rams defensive side of the ball.
We can talk all we want about the Rams’ offensive shortcomings, but the defense has struggled too.
What Do The Rams Do
I don’t ever chart exact play-by-play, but with the Rams down 24-14 and 12 minutes left, the Rams needed to score. Fast.
I wanted to see exactly what the Rams would do in that situation because it would say so much about who they rely on offensively and how they’d attack the Niners.
The bad news was the Rams Achilles Heel, the offensive line, makes it so hard. The drive started with a Kupp jet sweep, then an incomplete pass, then the pass to Allen Robinson who got the first down but was called for taunting (horrible call). Then an incomplete screen pass, a short pass to Darrell Henderson and then Tyler Higbee dropped a pass when he would have had a big gain.
Six plays, five short passes. There was still time to run the ball, but McVay showed no confidence in the offensive line. The Rams were down and they panicked. Or maybe this is what they are, a flawed team with a bad offensive line and a defense that hasn’t carried the load.
Kupp Gets Crunched
After giving up another Niners touchdown to make it 31-14, the Rams did something completely unusual. They stopped being aggressive.
On third and 16 on their next possession, the Rams ran a draw play (even commentator Greg Olsen said “wow” after the play). They essentially waved the white flag. I can’t remember the last time I saw the Rams really do that with so much time left. Maybe in the opener against the Bills.
On their last drive, the Rams ran the ball a couple of times and then threw a quick pass to Kupp in the flat. Niners defensive back Jimmie Ward came flying around trying to punch the ball out. Kupp got tangled up with Niners linebacker Fred Warner and then didn’t get up.
At first I thought Ward had maybe punched Kupp south of the border by mistake, but no, Kupp got his ankle twisted in the pileup.
All indications are it’s not serious, but for a moment, when Kupp was down, it all looked lost.
All right, you want the good news? The Rams next three opponents, ironically, are all 3-5. The Rams take on Tampa Bay and Tom Brady next week. The Bucs look one-dimensional and old, kind of like the Rams. Then the 3-5 Cardinals who the Rams own, and then the 3-5 Saints who are flailing.
I can see the Rams winning all three. I can see them losing all three. Well, no, I can’t see them losing to the Cardinals.
Did You Notice?
McCaffrey became the first NFL player to score a touchdown rushing, passing and receiving since LaDanian Tomlinson did it in 2005 against the Oakland Raiders.
Those blue uniforms the Rams wear with the yellow pants is their best uniform combo.
Ronnie Rivers was the Rams starting running back Sunday. Ronnie Rivers? An undrafted free agent from Fresno State? He had 21 yards on eight carries.
Speaking of running backs, are the Rams really going to bring Cam Akers back? I mean, really? That can’t be good for the locker room, right?
Great to have Van Jefferson back for the Rams huh? He didn’t have a catch.
If I’m Odell Beckham Jr., why would I come back to the Rams right now?
I know it’s not anything new about opposing fans taking over SoFi Stadium, but it had to impact the Rams Sunday with how loud the Niners fans were. The Rams used a silent count in passing situations and every time you saw the crowd, it was red. It was comical how the signboards read “Rams House” when it was so clearly not.
Can we retire the term “Arm Talent” used by announcers? What NFL quarterback can’t make all the throws downfield? Arm talent is a dumb phrase.
Shocking to see the Rams lack of discipline. Ernest Jones hit McCaffrey about six yards out of bounds on one play (flag), Jalen Ramsey and Derion Kendrick were spotted yelling at each other on the sidelines. I didn’t agree with the Robinson penalty for taunting, but man, know what’s going on. You were down 10 points. Get back in the huddle.
When they showed the replay of the big Garoppolo pass to Ross Dwelley, he gets way behind Kendrick for a big gain, and as Garoppolo released the ball in the background Rams linebacker Terrell Lewis just puts his hands on his head like, “what the heck?” It was that kind of day in the Rams House.