The LA Rams will come out of this better than ever
By Bret Stuter
As the 2019 NFL season concluded for the LA Rams, the questions over the teams came in waves. For the first time since head coach Sean McVay had arrived to lead the team, the Rams failed to make the NFL playoffs. The failure that so many had predicted for the Rams since hiring the youngest NFL head coach in history seemed to finally be coming to pass. And the myriad of critics who seemed silly in those initial predictions of doom-and-gloom made certain not to miss the opportunity.
The LA Rams fell from 13-3 and a Super Bowl appearance to 9-7. But why stop there? National media jumped on this one-time shot to declare that the Rams would get their comeuppance. Predictions began to pour into the national NFL discussions. The gentler ones declared the Rams would be last in the NFC West, and finish no better than 8-8. The less kind predictions predicted the Rams to fall to a 6-10 or worse season.
What actually happened? The LA Rams finished 10-6, were the sixth-seeded NFL team, and advanced further in the NFL playoffs than any other NFC West team.
Uncertain future, but LA Rams have a predictable outcome
Those same forces and uncertainties are marching upon the LA Rams for 2021. The Arizona Cardinals just added J.J. Watt to their defensive line. The San Francisco 49ers are getting healthy again. The Seattle Seahawks won the NFC West handily in 2020. But it’s the same story each year. The LA Rams compete in one of the toughest NFL divisions, so of course each year their rival will seem formidable.
But let’s be realistic. One thing that was truly missing from the LA Rams team in 2020 was that comeback win. That big snatching-of-victory-from-the-jaws-of-defeat win suddenly gives the team such an emotional boost that it carries forward to the future. The Rams almost did so against the Buffalo Bills. The Rams didn’t quite make it back either time against the San Francisco 49ers. They also fell short against the New York Jets.
In fact, the only true loss in 2020 was the second contest against the Seahawks, where the Rams offense never really got on track. So much for the Rams demise, eh? The team was in nearly every game they played.
The Rams have not had a losing season under head coach Sean McVay. Don’t look for that to happen anytime soon either. But here’s where it starts to get good. You see, in all of the comparisons between what the Rams had and quarterback and what the Rams will have at quarterback, one small bit of information did not get shared by many analysts. But our analyst Jay Blucher found a gold nugget.
In his Consumer Report feature, Blucher uncovered the fact that Matthew Stafford is gifted at comebacks. In fact, he was one of the most successful quarterbacks at doing so in 2020, locking in four game-winning drives last year. For comparison purposes, that is the same number of game-winning drives that former quarterback Jared Goff managed in 2018, the LA Rams Super Bowl season. Since that time, Goff has mustered just three similar drives in his next two seasons.
There may be uncertainty in the LA Rams’ future. But we know that the Rams offense will be buoyed by a second-year running back named Cam Akers, the passing arm of Matthew Stafford, and the return of TE Tyler Higbee, and wide receivers Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. And with Stafford’s arm, the Rams may discover just how deep of a threat WR Van Jefferson can be. For that matter, the Rams will likely test defenses with TE Brycen Hopkins as well.
Nothing is certain in the NFL. But the LA Rams live life on the edge of disaster and do well. We know that the Rams started with a good defense in 2020 and ended the season with the best in the NFL.
Now it’s time for the offense to get a little attention.