At the end of the game, the LA Rams defeated the Cleveland Browns by a significant margin, and the Rams improved to a .500 record at 6-6 with just five games remaining on the schedule. But the box score made no mention of LA Rams veteran RB Royce Freeman, except for the fact that he rushed once for no gain.
That seemed hard to believe. The Rams clearly need to mete out carries to RB Kyren Williams, as there are five more games to play. Beyond that, the Rams offense is becoming more and more physical, which trends the Rams to get their biggest rusher involved in the offense.
One carry for zero yards is just going to cut it. So, what happened?
Freeman chipped at Garrett
A series of offensive plays with RB Royce Freeman in the backfield occured early in the second quarter. On first down, the Rams attempted to run the football, but Freeman was gang tackled at the line of scrimmage for no gain. But the play was designed to set up the next play, a long pass to wide receiver Tutu Atwell. On the play, Stafford hustled back to the pocket, but the pressure of OLB Myles Garrett force Stafford to slide to his right and toss a short yardage pass to Rams WR Cooper Kupp.
While the rest of this article may be speculation, I notated the play to give myself a point of reference for this article. And lo and behold, that appearance was the last that Freeman made in a game that was custom-designed for his powerful style of running.
On the play in question, Garrett rushed Stafford, but was met by Royce Freeman on his way to the quarterback. Instead of blocking Garrett fully, Freeman chipped at him in the belief that Stafford needed a safety valve. But Garrett's pressure forced Stafford to roll to his right, essentially eliminating Freeman as a viable target for Stafford on the play.
Even the television broadcast booth noticed and described Garrett's faux pas, and detailed the error fully. It was their commentary that added the details of the Rams having Atwell open deep on the play, but Stafford not having the time to get toss the pass deep downfield.
The Rams wanted more points on the scoreboard
Did that play trigger LA Rams HC Sean McVay to sit RB Royce Freeman the rest of the way? It most certainly seemed to do exactly that. We know that LA Rams HC Sean McVay is a stickler for running backs, tight ends, and wide receivers to block if they do not have the football in their hands. And a mental miscue on a play during a three-point game would be enough to push McVay to sit a player.
Of course, it could simply be a matter of coincidence. The Rams ran 25 times, and 21 of those carries were handled by RB Kyren Williams. who piled up 88 rushing yards in a game in which every yard mattered for the Rams offense.
On the other hand, it could simply be the fact that McVay gets frustrated on running plays of no gain or lost yardage. RB Royce Freeman's lone carry was for no gain, a result that in past scenarios has been called 'a useless play,' by Rams HC Sean Mcvay himself.
Still, when all of the evidence is lined up, the optics of the whiffed pass block by Freeman is the play that I pick out of the lineup of possible causes. I recall thinking to myself as soon as the commentators described Freeman as chipping the guy as wondering if he would see any more action on the afternoon.
The LA Rams did end up winning the game, convincingly. But unless the Rams find a way to get RB Royce Freeman consistently involved in this offense for the remaining five games, you have to wonder how long can RB Kyren Williams keep up this pace?