5 ways LA Rams failed to deliver for QB Matthew Stafford in 2021

Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /
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LA Rams News Matthew Stafford
Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /

Durable tight ends

While the LA Rams have had lots of success with their tight ends in the past, the 2021 season was rather unusual for the team. The LA Rams lost backup tight end, Johnny Mundt, to injury and then had to white knuckle the rest of the year as starting tight end Tyler Higbee fought through injuries and positive COVID-19 test results.

The LA Rams lost Higbee for Weeks 14 and 15, a two-week period where the team was facing NFC West rivals. The LA Rams ended up defeating the Arizona Cardinals by the score of 30-23 and followed that up with a victory over the Seattle Seahawks the following week by a score of 20-10. For those games, the Rams turned to backup tight end Kendall Blanton and used Brycen Hopkins for 12-personnel packages.

That shift from TE1 to TE3 and TE4 during the season forced the Rams’ offense, and QB Matthew Stafford, to adapt to the new offensive game plan. As a result, the Rams were far more involved in three and four WR formations. Normally, that would not pose a problem. The just-arrived WR Odell Beckham Jr. was not quite up to speed just yet.

The result was that Stafford had to visually locate his receivers, as he could not trust them to be where the play design called for them to be.  Stafford would complete 74.6 percent of his passes in that two-game stretch. But waiting for his receivers to get open would allow the defenses to record seven quarterback sacks in that two-game period.

Matters got even worse in Super Bowl LVI when the LA Rams were down to just Brycen Hopkins after Kendall Blanton injured his shoulder early against the Cincinnati Bengals. As a result, the Rams’ offense, which had also lost WR Odell Beckham Jr. to an ACL injury, was forced to line up Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson, Ben Skowronek, and Brycen Hopkins against the Bengals’ defense. The LA Rams won the game by pure heroics of WR Cooper Kupp and QB Matthew Stafford.