The Los Angeles Rams had a chance to get back on track in Week 9 when they traveled to take on another struggling franchise in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
A win would’ve gotten the Rams to 4-4, right in the thick of the NFC West division and playoff race. Sure, the Rams’ season hasn’t gone as planned but with injured players slowly returning, 4-4 wouldn’t have been a bad spot to be at the halfway point, especially in a wide-open NFC.
Unfortunately though, reality has set in for the Rams as they were unable to hold onto a late lead against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers and now Sean McVay‘s team instead sits at 3-5 after the 16-13 loss.
It was perhaps the worst loss in the McVay era for the Rams and one that leaves the team’s playoff hopes hanging by a thread at the midway point. No one could’ve expected this to be where the Rams are at less than a year after winning the Super Bowl, but let’s get into why L.A. couldn’t hang on to beat the Buccaneers.
Offense couldn’t get a first down
It’s hard to start anywhere when talking about the Rams’ struggles than their offense, which was putrid once again in Week 9.
The Rams offense ranks dead last in the NFL. They can’t block anyone, they can’t run the football, and outside of Cooper Kupp, they have no reliable threats outside.
That has been the case all season and played out as such against Tampa Bay.
The Rams offense got one big play in the first half, a 69-yard touchdown catch from Kupp. Outside of that though, they again could not find the end zone. Forget touchdowns, L.A. couldn’t even get a first down when they needed it most in the second half.
After kicking a field goal to take a 13-6 lead late in the third quarter, here is what the Rams offense did in their final three drives: Three-and-out, three-and-out, three-and-out. In those three drives, they had a total of -2 yards.
If they get one first down, especially on the final drive, the Rams are able to run the clock out and come away with a victory. It would’ve been an ugly victory, but a victory nonetheless.
Instead, the offense kept giving the ball back to Brady and the Bucs offense, putting a ton of pressure on the Rams defense.
Defense can’t hang on
As bad as the Rams offense was, the same can be said about the Bucs offense. L.A. sacked Brady four times and held Tampa Bay to just three field goals before the final drive, punting it six times.
The Bucs were driving to score the go-ahead touchdown late in the game before the Rams defense came up with a big fourth-down stop in the red zone.
Their jobs should’ve been done there. The Rams got the ball back with less than two minutes left and needed just one first down to ice the game, which they obviously didn’t get.
Ultimately, Brady got one final chance, needing to drive his team down the field 60 yards to score a touchdown with just 44 seconds left.
The Rams defense shouldn’t have been in this spot, but they were, needing to get one final stop. And they couldn’t do it.
Raheem Morris had the Rams in a soft zone and Brady picked them apart, finding receivers open on the sidelines time and time again to work his way down the field.
He eventually found tight end Cade Otton for the game-winning touchdown with nine seconds left, sticking a dagger in the hearts of Rams fans everywhere.
The blame here still goes to the offense in my opinion, but the Rams’ defense had one final chance to close it out and escape with a win and were unable to do so.
Now at 3-5, the Rams are staring a lost season right in the face during their “win-now” era. That is not what anyone envisioned or hoped for but it’s the truth and the Rams have no one to blame but themselves after that Tampa Bay game.