The LA Rams just learned that the NFL is not the NFC East, and they have lots of work to do
As long as the LA Rams played teams from the NFC East, everything was rosy. After all, that division is just 5-17-1 after six weeks of football, and three of those wins came at the expense of other NFC East teams. So that’s the bad news. The Rams puffed up on beating soft teams and forgot how to scratch and claw to get a win. In the end, the Rams were upended in a game against the 49ers with over a dozen plays that, if they turned out differently, could have turned this loss into a victory.
No, this season is not over by a long shot. Yes, there were plenty of things to draw optimism from despite the unattractive loss by the LA Rams on the road against the San Francisco 49ers. Just like the other loss to the Bills, the Rams allowed the 49ers to get out to a strong lead, only to cobble a late-game rally that made it respectable.
Back to class
The Rams defense proved that they are vulnerable to a strong running game combined with a passing game that attacks them horizontally, not vertically. The 49ers simply ran screens and quick outs against the Rams perimeter. When the Rams stretched wide, the 49ers ran it up the middle. The Rams once more were plagued with poor tackling, bad angles, and what very much appeared to be a case of the jitters in this one. But the defense did regroup at halftime once more, allowing just three points to the 49ers in the second half.
But the Rams offense truly seemed comatose at times. Quarterback Jared Goff threw nine times to wide receiver Cooper Kupp, completing just three for 11 yards. Goff threw ten times to wide receiver Robert Woods, completing just four for 29 yards and a touchdown. That is 19 plays to wide receiver for 40 yards and a touchdown. Why didn’t the Rams run more plays on offense? Simply stated, they didn’t adapt quickly enough to what worked.
Where must the Rams work harder?
The first and easiest place to start is the defense. The Rams defense played well enough to win this one, yes. The trouble is that the Rams seem to stick to the same defensive plan until halftime before adjustments are made. It was clear that the 49ers were going short passes to soften up the defense and build confidence for their struggling quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Had the Rams adjusted more quickly, the game may have stayed within reach.
As far as a kicker? The LA Rams will continue to flirt with losses with a kicker who cannot boot an extra point, cannot kick a 40+ yard field goal, and whose only claim to fame is kickoffs into the endzone.
The offense needs more work. The Rams had an opportunity to run the ball, go with two tight ends and lean heavily into the 12-personnel package. Instead, the Rams insisted that Goff would find Woods or Kupp eventually, and on this night in this game, he never really did. This was the game where the Rams needed to go physical, load up the offensive line and just bowl the 49ers off the ball. By games end, the Rams rushed as a team just 19 times for 113 yards for an average of over 5.9 yards for each carry. Why didn’t the Rams rush more than 19 times?
This loss was early enough that the Rams can still regroup and play strong to the bye week. Even if they can enter the bye at 6-2, the Rams are in excellent shape for the playoffs. It won’t be easy. The Rams must now play a very good Chicago Bears team at home, then travel once more across the country to take on the Miami Dolphins in Miami. The Bears are 5-1 and lead the NFC North. The Dolphins are 3-3 and are in second place in the AFC East.
Did the LA Rams learn their lesson from this loss? Hopefully yes. In any case, the team will need to regroup quickly. They can beat up on lousy NFL teams any longer.