New Coach But Same Rams In Loss


December 22, 2016

The post-Jeff Fisher era began with a whimper. The Los Angeles Rams under John Fassel's first game as interim head coach lost for the ninth time in the last ten games.

The Seattle Seahawks clinched the NFC West Division as the visiting Rams were held to a mere field goal in the 24-3 loss on Thursday Night Football.

"Obviously, there was probably, same old story... some missed opportunities, whether it's throwing the ball, catching the ball, faking the punt, getting the goal-line stop, the interception where we just missed it," said Fassel, also the Rams' highly-regarded special teams coordinator.

The 4-10 Rams continued to repeat a pattern that keeps producing losses. The offense was nonexistent while their imposing defense and top-ranked special teams feigned to offer hope. The formula worked for awhile as they only trailed 10-3 by halftime.

Seattle scored to take a 7-0 lead early in the secnd quarter when quarterback Russell Wilson hit wide receiver Luke Willson for an eight-yard touchdown. Steve Hauschka kicked a 48-yard field goal on their next drive. Kicker Greg Zuerlein connected on a 36-yard field goal just before half for the Rams' only score of the game.


A one-yard pass from Wilson to Doug Baldwin secured the victory midway through the third quarter. Self-evident was the 17-3 insurmountable lead. Seconds into the fourth quarter Wilson threw a 57-yard bomb to Tyler Lockett for the game's final score.

The Rams' offense sputtered and consistently misfired for the fifth straight game under rookie quarterback Jared Goff. Dropped passes, three-and-outs, constant pressure in the backfield, misguided passes and ineffective running were the norm.

Once again it seemed like Johnny Hekker's punting was the team's only highlight. Hekker nailed four punts for a 50-yard average including a 66-yarder.

Things got worse when the Rams actually mounted a drive in the fourth quarter. Goff took a game-ending hit from Seahawk cornerback Richard Sherman while scrambling and fumbling the ball out of bounds at the Seattle two-yard line.

But an offensive holding penalty moved the ball back to the Seattle 20. Goff was removed from the game and placed under concussion protocol. Case Keenum, the Rams' starting quarterback for the first nine games this season, replaced Goff. The offense remained listless for the final two possessions.

Fassel: "A medical timeout was initiated last night, from upstairs, by the NFL. They got him out of the game. He was assessed and he is currently in the concussion protocol. We saw him today and he seems sharp, but he'll go through the protocol over the next nine days."

Following Monday's practice Fassel updated: "He was out there today. He's still in the concussion protocol, but he was involved in all the meetings this morning. It's really day-to-day, when the trainers feel that he's cleared his concussion protocol testing."

Prudence will take dictate Goff's playing status for this Saturday's Christmas Eve home game against the San Francisco 49ers. Secnd-year quarterback Sean Mannion is likely to see his first action of the season. Mannion displayed moments of leadership and execution in the preseason but has occupied the third slot on the quarterback depth chart.

"We've talked about both (QBs) Case (Keenum) and Sean (Mannion). We'd love to get Sean some reps in the situation like last week... Case has performed well when required, but it would be good for the team to get a look at Sean and see what he can do if pressed into service by necessity," said Fassel.

The Rams have two games remaining in the season to make an assessment of their current roster. It's obvious there are going to be wholesale changes. The receivers and offensive linemen have a right to be nervous about their roster security.

NFC West rival San Francisco (1-13) visits the L.A. Coliseum in even worse shape than the Rams. Ironically, the 49ers' only victory of the season was their 28-0 Monday Night shutout of the Rams at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara.

The 49ers certainly expected a different result with head coach Chip Kelly when they signed him to a three-year contract 11 months ago.

Quarterback Colin Kaeperick, who replaced Blaine Gabbert in Week 6 as the 49ers' starter, ranks 38th in QB rating compared to Goff at number 60 and Keenum at 50th.

Carlos Hyde leads the 49ers in rushing with a credible 950 yards in 204 attempts. Jeremy Kerley leads the receivers with 43 receptions for 544 yards.

Fassel: "I definitely remember the first game, it's one we haven't forgotten. But when we look at both rosters right now the rosters are totally different. San Fran has had a huge share of injuries, as well as we have the last couple of weeks, so I think that's the biggest thing.

"We'll have some new guys likely promoted from our practice squad that will hopefully give us a little bit of juice, because they know that they're going to be evaluated for future employment... There's a lot to play for."

And to all... a good night.


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