Oh boy, these Rams …

Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

“I’M BACK” (Ramblin Fan contributor Tareq Rafiq returns to write after a nine-month hiatus)

Feels good to be back at Ramblin’ Fan.

The LA Rams clinched the NFC West and have ended the 2021 NFL Season as the fourth seed in the NFC.  They will host the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football, but the Rams could’ve made their path to a Super Bowl championship much much harder.

The Rams lost to the San Francisco 49ers, which also gave their division foe a playoff berth. With such a frustrating game that we just witnessed, here are some notes about the loss that I painstakingly made through the contest.

The Rams were nearly perfect in the first half. The team was up 17-0 and were so very close to facing the New Orleans Saints in the opening round of the NFL Playoffs, as the second-seed hosts the seventh-seed matchup.  Had that score held to the end of the game, it would also mean that the 49ers would not be in the playoffs.

Three points was all the 49ers needed

But the LA Rams gave up a field goal to the 49ers before the half ended, and then came out flat in the second half.  Unfortunately, the San Francisco 49ers’ coaching staff made the necessary halftime adjustments, and as has happened too often in the past, they bullied the Rams.

The Rams’ defense with all its stars, never seemed to stand up well enough to do their job in the second half of the game. Minus the Jalen Ramsey interception, the defense failed to stop the run, and then in turn was riddled repeatedly by sore-thumbed quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. The team fell into some bad habits of missing tackles, failing to get any pressure on the quarterback (minus the Von Miller sack), and stopping the run.

The Rams’ offensive Line seemed completely overmatched and was getting absolutely obliterated. Right tackle Rob Havenstein was particularly poor, as he allowed his man, Arik Armstead to get to quarterback Matthew Stafford for 2.5 quarterback sacks.

Rams abandoned the running game in the second half

Of course, head coach Sean McVay did not call the right plays when the momentum was shifting. He called an empty backfield with third down and short yardage, which led to a devastating sack on Stafford. That sack ended a drive, forced the Rams to punt, and allowed the 49ers to drive and score a field goal. That three points would tie the game, and eventually be the margin of victory.

Throughout the second half, it seemed as though the LA Rams panicked once more. The offense seemed to be confused, failing to line up in the right formations. Quarterback Matthew Stafford, nearly perfect in the first half, had a terrible second half. Without the lone touchdown drive, it seemed as though the offense was a group of college kids trying out for an NFL team.

No running attempts were really attempted throughout the second half, allowing the 49ers pass rush to pin their ears back and feast. It was almost as though HC Sean McVay’s play calls were on-par with his Superbowl performance. He didn’t adjust and his mentor got the best of him again. He didn’t help his offensive Line with quick passes, motion, jet sweeps, or anything until much late in the second half. He needs to stop being so drop back pass-happy when things begin to go south.

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The second half proved LA Rams play-calling far too predictable

The Rams offense took the field six times in the second half. They performed as follows:

1st possession – 2 runs (4 yards), 1 pass (incomplete), punt
2nd possession – 3 passes (sacked for six-yard loss, incomplete, interception)
3rd possession – 6 passes (4 passes incomplete), 1 pass 24 yards, 1 sack for a 10-yard loss, punt
4th possession – 6 runs (37 yards), 3 passes (40 yards), TD
5th possession – 3 runs (5 yards), punt *
6th possession – 2 passes, 1 pass 12 yards, 1 sack -3 yards

* Rams led by 7 points, and 49ers defense knew Rams wanted to run and use up the game clock.

The Rams were up 17-0 and sitting pretty, looking like the team that could run the table and cap off the year with enough momentum to land a Super Bowl victory. It looked like the little brother finally stepped up and beat the older brother, but everything flipped in the second half and the offense became the same ole panicked pass-the-football-at-all-costs mindset.

It wasn’t until the Rams ran that the offense settled down and scored its only touchdown in the entire second half. This is a problem that needs to be solved immediately. McVay called exclusive passes in two series, Stafford forced more throws, and guess what happened? More interceptions. These Rams are simply not good enough on offense to broadcast passing plays and hope the offensive line can hold.

The Rams offense only works optimally with play-action. Why must we continue to lobby the team to do it?

Questions that linger:

The same questions that we’ve faced all season, have not been answered yet.

Why can’t the Rams play 60 solid minutes of football?

Why doesn’t HC Sean McVay adjust his play-calling or give up the playcalling to his OC?

Why does quarterback Matthew Stafford keep forcing throws?

Why do the LA Rams stop trusting the running game, even when it works, and go all passing that eventually leads to quarterback sacks and interceptions?

And now for two new questions:

Are the LA Rams considering replacing Raheem Morris now that either recently fired Vic Fangio or Brian Flores is available?

The Arizona Cardinals take on the LA Rams in the Wildcard Round currently scheduled for Monday Night Football. Can the LA Rams shake off that loss in time to start a new postseason winning streak?

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