Yesterday’s game in the Caesars Superdome was the epitome of how the 2022 season has gone for the LA Rams. For every positive, there are two negatives. For every small victory, there are two more big hurdles. An unfortunate season continued yesterday as the Rams fell to the Saints 27-20 in New Orleans.
Early on in the game provided much hope for improvement. A WR Cooper Kupp-less Rams offense was moving the football and running it particularly well. The Rams went up 14-10 at halftime and it started to look like a game the Rams were going to win. However, this one just proved to be another excruciating loss in an extremely disappointing season for the defending Super Bowl champs.
Here are my biggest takeaways from the game.
1. Rams QB Matthew Stafford was BALLING… until he was limping
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (concussion) made his return Sunday against the Saints, and boy was he on his game. Stafford came in without his top target in Rams WR Cooper Kupp, but was still incredibly efficient. He spread the ball out to seven different receivers, clearly feeling comfortable in the pocket. The Rams’ 10th offensive line combination in as many games did a good job of keeping him upright for most of the first half, allowing Stafford to go through his progressions.
The Rams were running the ball efficiently, allowing Stafford to be more effective at play action. In the first quarter, Matthew Stafford unleashed a beautiful play-action deep ball down the left sideline to Rams second-year WR Tutu Atwell, who brought it in for a 62-yard score.
Stafford also engineered an excellent two-minute drive right before halftime, a series in which he went 8/9 with a touchdown. The slant pass to Rams WR Allen Robinson put the Rams up 14-10 before halftime. Shortly after the start of the 3rd quarter, Matthew Stafford was 11/18 for 159 yards and two touchdowns. Unfortunately, this is where his day would end.
The Rams QB took a sack on their first drive of the third quarter, taking a hit to the head from Saints LB Demario Davis. He was then sent to the blue tent and eventually the locker room to be evaluated for yet another concussion, the same game he just returned.
With the Rams’ offensive line deteriorating at a rapid pace and Kupp likely not playing again in the regular season, you have to wonder if the Rams will consider shutting down Stafford as well. Putting him behind a makeshift offensive line and risking his health, even more, is something the team seriously needs to think about at 3-7.
If the Rams have plans of improving in 2023, they may want to preserve their quarterback to ensure he makes it there.
2. Rams’ secondary leaves much to be desired
Many fans have been calling for Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris to be fired at the season’s end, and this article is not agreeing with that bunch. After all, the Rams do still boast the league’s sixth-ranked defense. However, Morris must do a better job of calling to the strengths of his defense on situational downs.
For the second straight week, the Rams have been shredded by essentially a backup quarterback. Saints QB Andy Dalton finished the day 21/26 with 260 yards and three touchdowns. It also looked extremely easy. Although they did a good job of minimizing the run, the Rams’ defense did an awful job against the pass on Sunday.
To be fair, you cannot expect a defense to be lights out every week. However, the Saints weren’t just going with the flow, they were punching the Rams’ defense right in the mouth. Too many times do we see the Rams’ defenders play 5-8 yards off of receivers, especially on third downs, allowing them to eat up chunk yardage over the middle.
Rams CB Jalen Ramsey allowed two touchdowns on Sunday and didn’t look particularly good all day. The latter touchdown by Saints WR Chris Olave was the dagger and saw Ramsey and Rams S Taylor Rapp get completely burned on a simple cover-2 concept. It wasn’t obvious who exactly was at fault, but both Rapp and Ramsey seemed completely out of position.
Sunday’s performance is one the defense would like to put behind them, but the Rams should seriously consider playing their younger players in the secondary. Taylor Rapp will not be a Ram past this year, so why not see what you have in Rams rookie safety Russ Yeast? With Rams DB Troy Hill becoming an unrestricted free agent after this season, is it too early to see what they have in Rams rookie DB Cobie Durant?
Outside of Jalen Ramsey, everything has to be on the table for the Rams’ secondary for the remainder of the season.
3. Did the Rams finally find the run game?
Early on in Sunday’s game, it was obvious that the Rams were trying to establish the run. Effectively so, they had their best rushing output of the season. The Rams rushed for a total of 148 yards on the day, being able to consistently pound the football even after Matthew Stafford’s injury.
Rams RB Cam Akers was the leading rusher in the game with 14 carries for 61 yards, having easily his best game of the season. Rams rookie RB Kyren Williams also pitched in with 7 carries and 36 yards while seeing his most playing time of the year. Add in 39 yards on 5 attempts from Rams backup QB Bryce Perkins and you’ve got a pretty solid day on the ground.
What changed? First, it was Rams HC Sean McVay’s commitment to running the football. The Rams got the ball to their backs early and often, even converting on 3rd and 4th downs by running the football. Cam Akers mentioned early in the year that the Rams’ RBs have to get enough touches to get in a rhythm, which was a correct assessment. It was obvious that the backs were in a groove and seeing things very clearly.
You also have to think that the offensive line rolled out this week may have been the best lineup of the season. With Rams’ guards, Oday Aboushi and Matt Skura, inserted into the lineup this week, there was an added level of intensity and aggressiveness among the line. Rams LT Ty Nsekhe was playing pretty well too before his injury.
LA Rans RB Kyren Williams is someone the Rams are surely trying to get more comfortable with week by week. He saw his highest snap count this week, and seemingly took the role of Rams RB Darrell Henderson who only had two carries.
The run game is something to keep an eye on to see if it is something the Rams can start to lean on during their down season.