That Tom Brady line a few weeks ago about watching a lot of bad football.
Uh-huh. I feel you Tom.
No one will hang the Los Angeles Rams-Carolina Panthers game Sunday in a museum. If anything, it was a dysfunction-fest. But the Panthers are a sinking ship faster than anyone else in the NFL. The Panthers aren’t just bad. They’re coached poorly. They were eager to capitulate as the Rams played a better second half to win 24-10 Sunday.
On the bright side, no one should take wins in the NFL for granted. The Rams are 3-3 entering their bye week. That sweet, sweet bye week where they may get some guys back healthy. Van Jefferson, where are you?
They are now in a three-way tie for the division lead with the Cardinals and Seahawks and after the bye have a shot at revenge against the 49ers at home.
Rams fans saw Sunday what bad football looks like, fortunately, the team on the other sidelines did it much worse.
The Panthers came into the game with interim coach Steve Wilks at the helm and XFL refugee PJ Walker at starting quarterback (by the way, that’s not a knock on the XFL, it was good football).
Once an NFL team makes a coaching change, it’s hard to maintain any discipline on the team, because the players figure, shoot, no one is really in charge here, and I will do what I want. NFL players are alpha dogs, the only way they line up is if there’s a bigger alpha dog as coach. The minute you make a coach “interim” the players know he ain’t the alpha dog.
The biggest story to come out of the Rams/Panthers contest was the sideline altercation between Panthers wide receiver Robbie Anderson and WR coach Joe Dailey. Eventually Anderson was sent to the locker room in the middle of the game.
I went back and re-watched the first half to see what was going on with Anderson, like, why was he so mad? I could only come up with one thing.
He wanted the ball.
Anderson was a willing blocker from what I saw, but never targeted. Now, this is especially important because the Panthers never threw the ball downfield, lots of screens and hitches, and if Anderson is your second-best offensive weapon, then wouldn’t you be throwing a screen pass to him once or twice?
Rams Dysfunction Inside
The Rams battled their own disgruntled player situation this week, but at least it happened before the game. Early in the week, Rams coach Sean McVay basically said that running back Cam Akers wasn’t going to be playing against the Panthers and both sides needed a “fresh start.”
What does that really mean?
I listened on some of the pre-game shows Sunday morning, to see if any insiders had any notes, like, hey, Akers got into a fight in a meeting room, or he refused a coach’s orders or something, but there was nothing. Most just parroting what McVay said (which means Akers agent isn’t talking).
Akers was a great story last year, but this year he’s struggled in limited action: 51 carries for 151 yards. Again, it’s probably a similar situation to Anderson. Akers probably wants to start, wants the ball more and the Rams are like, why? You haven’t shown us anything.
Sunday the Rams used seven different ball carriers led by Darrell Henderson. They ran for 111 yards, not spectacular, but not bad either. They didn’t seem to miss Akers.
But at this point, who’s going to trade for him? Every NFL franchise knows the Rams don’t want him. They’ll wait for him to get waived.
Rams Biggest Problem: Offensive Line
Bad offensive line play manifests itself so differently than everything else in the NFL. It’s not as easy as, well, he can’t catch, or in the case of PJ Walker Sunday, he can’t complete a pass more than eight yards down the field.
The Rams offensive line took another huge hit Sunday when Joe Noteboom got hurt and was carted off with an ankle injury. The Rams had to plug in journeyman guard Oday Aboushi at right guard and shuffle things around.
Right now, every issue connected to the Rams offense is because of the offensive line. The Rams can’t run the ball well. Why? The linemen can’t get push. The Rams struggle to hold up in passing situations, so quarterback Matthew Stafford is forced to hurry his decisions and he makes mistakes.
Again though, the sweet, sweet bye week is coming. Center Brian Allen should be back. Wide receiver Van Jefferson should be back. Will we get to see rookie running back Kyren Williams, finally? That may be the other shoe that dropped in the Akers deal because the Rams might have told Akers he’s going to get fewer carries.
Did You Notice?
Would Christian McCaffrey look great in a Rams jersey? Absolutely. He’s a modern-day Marshall Faulk. He is the type of player who can compensate for a poor offensive line because he only needs a quick opening. Word is the Panthers are listening to trade offers, but what do the Rams have to offer? Not much. I can’t see the Rams making a legitimate offer.
You’ll rarely see an NFL team and coaching staff quit at the end of the half like the Panthers did on Sunday. The Panthers had all the momentum after the Donte Jackson pick-six, they forced the Rams to punt again with under two minutes left. Carolina had all their timeouts. Did they use them? Nope. Not a one. They demonstrated no faith in their offense to do anything with the ball in that situation. Way to inspire the team there.
Stafford really sold that roughing the passer penalty early in the third quarter, rocking back on his shoulders as he was thrown to the ground. It was the equivalent of a soccer flop.
There was a Tutu Atwell sighting! He had a run for nine yards on a fly sweep. Why can’t he return kickoffs?
The Darrell Henderson touchdown in the fourth quarter was the Rams first touchdown in the fourth quarter all season. Oof.
Aaron Donald four tackles, no sacks, no quarterback hits. He has four sacks this season. Jalen Ramsey has two. Do I think it’s all Donald? No. I think he’s not getting enough support from the rest of the defensive line.
Walker got popped late in the game and was taken out by officials for concussion protocols. He never returned. This is just so weird. One of the first plays of the game Rams safety Taylor Rapp rocked McCaffrey so hard that his helmet almost came off (two plays later McCaffrey decked Rapp). How was that not seen?
Man, Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper can really work that gum.