The 2022 NFL season is already taking its toll on LA Rams head coach Sean McVay. The LA Rams are 2-2 and tied with all of the other teams in the NFC West Division with the same 2-2 record. But Week 4 was the perfect storm of opportunity for this Rams team that could have made a huge step forward to returning to the NFL Playoffs at the end of this season.
But much like their loss to the Arizona Cardinals early in the 2021 NFL season, the Rams lost to the San Francisco 49ers and in the process have dug a hole for themselves already for the playoff picture.
The Rams are tied with the 49ers at 2-2. But in all tiebreaker scenarios, the Rams are behind the 49ers. In head-to-head competition, the Rams are now 0-1 to the 49ers. In NFC West Division competition, the 49ers are 2-0, while the LA Rams are 1-1. In the NFC Conference competition, both teams are now 2-1.
Win, and the LA Rams would set themselves up for a tremendous lead in the NFC West, and be within striking distance to make a play for the top-seed spot in the NFC come playoffs. Right now, the LA Rams have a lot of work to do.
Frustration follows after failed opportunities
And you can see it after the LA Rams suffered their seventh consecutive loss to the San Francisco 49ers. If you don’t see that frustration, you can find it by reading between the lines in LA Rams head coach Sean McVay’s post-game comments:
He has reason to be frustrated. The offensive line has been beaten to a pulp in just four games. The Rams have not scored a passing touchdown in two games. The Rams are the NFL’s 26th-ranked Red Zone offense, scoring touchdowns in just 46.15 percent of the offensive opportunities after four games.
49ers force Rams to default to passing
The offense has, without question, defaulted to passing when they fall behind the San Francisco 49ers, even if it’s just by a small amount of point. In games where the LA Rams are losing, you can almost guess it just by checking out the passing attempts. That has been noticeable whenever the Rams and San Francisco 49ers clash.
Game 1 Game 2
Year Runs Passes W/L Runs Passes W/L
2017 32 28 W 28 34 L
2018 36 24 W 42 29 W
2019 22 24 L 24 46 L
2020 19 38 L 28 31 L
2021 10 42 L 27 32 L
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME 29 45 W
2022 18 48 L
In close games, the Rams may distribute their offensive plays far more evenly. In wins, the Rams stuck with running the football, even when the ground game was deemed ineffective. For example, the Rams rushed 29 times in the NFC Championship Game for the win, even though the ground game averaged just 2.4 yards per run.
In their Monday Night Football game, the Rams only ran 18 times. That is despite the fact that the Rams were within one score until quarterback Matthew Stafford threw a late pick-six. In fact, the Rams were averaging 3.2 yards per run and were rushing quite effectively behind right guard Alaric Jackson.
The 49ers win because, quite predictably, they know what’s coming out of the LA Rams offense days before the game is played. Look at the table above and let me know if you can detect the pattern.
The Rams were in the game in Week 4, trailing by no more than eight points until there was just 6:24 remaining on the game clock. If you ask Matthew Stafford to throw nearly 50 passes in a game, you should be prepared for a pick-six. The 49ers defense understands that.
But it does not appear as though the LA Rams do.