Rams Lose Final Game of Season to Cards
January 19, 2017
File it away as a mercy killing. The pain and misery of the 2016 season finally came to an end for the Los Angeles Rams as they were summarily trounced by the Arizona Cardinals, 44-6, on New Year's Day 2017 in the L.A. Coliseum.
"Our goal was to start out 2017 with a win and a little bit better vibe. Clearly that didn't happen... as far as the actual offense, defense and special teams just didn't get it done," said interim head coach John Fassel, winless in his three games at the helm following Jeff Fisher's dismissal after Game 13.
"It hurts bad. It hurts. I was expecting to win. ... today, we just weren't good enough. Offensively, again, we just couldn't get anything going. That just puts us in a hole and it's hard for us to come back when we don't have a lead. It hurts."
Like a broken record, the offense struggled and the team lost their final seven games with rookie quarterback Jared Goff. The Rams gained a total of 123 net yards for the game; 71 passing and 52 rushing. They averaged 262.7 yards per game in yardage gained. That's 40 yards lower than the next worst team in the NFL. Not surprisingly, the Rams finished the season at 4-12.
"They (Arizona) were doing a good job up front. They were bringing it. Obviously, they had nothing to lose just like us, so they were going to bring a lot of pressure. We kind of expected that and we wanted to pick it up better than we did," said Goff.
Quarterback Carson Palmer drove the Cards 75 yards at the start off the game to set up kicker Chandler Catanzaro's 32-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead. But the Rams offense never got out of first gear. 3-and-out with a Johnny Hekker punt seemed the norm throughout the rest of the day. Interestingly, there were some scattered boo's but most L.A. fans were resigned to the lack of entertainment on any level.
Ram linebacker Alec Ogletree was already moving forward: "It sucks to lose like this, definitely don't want to go out the way we did. It's what happened today. We have to get some things fixed around here and get ready for the next season. The end of this season is over with, there's nothing we can do about it. Now it's time to get started for the next season."
Palmer threw a short 4-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Ross midway through the second-quarter for a 13-0 lead and the game. Greg Zuerlein kicked a 37-yard field goal minutes later made it 13-3. Following a blocked bunt that gave the Rams the ball at the Card 19-yard line, Zuerlein added a
36-yard field goal to cut the lead to a touchdown.
Unfortunately, an unnecessary roughness penalty on Ram cornerback Trumaine Johnson allowed Catanzaro to kick a 47-yard field goal as time ran out in the first half for a reassuring16-6 lead. There was the inevitable doubt in the crowd. They started pouring out of the exits by the end of the third-quarter with the score, 30-6. Two fourth-quarter Cardinal touchdowns were played to a sparse crowd as the sun faded in the west.
The inability to get running back Todd Gurley going for even a single game the entire season was one of the team's major failures. Gurley gained 40 yards on 14 carries and scored six touchdowns. He gained 885 yards on 278 carries for the season, averaging a dismal 3.2 yards-per-carry. In 2015, his rookie season, he gained 1,016 yards on 229 carries,10 touchdowns and a 4.8 yards-per-carry.
Gurley: "Obviously, as an offense, we know what we needed to do. But, we just stuck together as a family, and that's what we break it down on. At the end of the day, we might not have had the season we wanted, but I love every single one of these guys in here, and they bring it every week."
The team has two phases it can feel very good about: defense and special teams. Except for a few, the defense kept the Rams alive in every single game this year. They were responsible for preserving each of the team's four wins. The record-setting punting of Johhny Hekker, the kicking of Greg Zuerlein and the coverage teams have the Rams ranking near the top of the league's special teams.
Fassel, notably the Rams special teams coach: "... except for maybe that three-game winning streak early in the season, I think the positive thing you take from it is, there are some pros in the locker room that, as bad as things got... prepared, practiced, and gave it their all to perform."
Trumaine Johnson: "Building chemistry with my teammates. Like I said, I've been with guys for four or five years. Going to work every day, there's still laughter in the building. Building chemistry with my teammates and just being around them."
Guard Rodger Saffold: "It just seems like it's just a bunch of missed opportunities. We had two touchdowns, and we missed those huge plays, huge turns of momentum. The turnovers. It just constantly happened..."
Tavon Austin to the fans: "I want to say from my heart, I apologize for the things that happened this year. We thought it was going to be a better year, but it wasn't. Like I said, the tables will be turned around, and we will be on top one day."
Safety T.J. McDonald: "Something has to change, something has to change – a lot. A lot has to change... In this business, you want to move on, but at this point, where we are right now, we just want to move on, flush it and get to this organization to where it needs to be."
Goff, on a season silver-lining: "I'm not sure there is much. Maybe that we have a change coming that is going to be positive and is going to bring a lot of positive energy and something we're all excited for and something we're excited to get going with. We want to put this behind us as quickly as possible and want people to understand that this is not what we're about and the standard will be set higher."
That higher standard will be tested when the Rams hire their next head coach. Developing Quarterback Goff is the team's obvious top priority. Addressing the much-maligned offensive line as well as their subpar receivers runs a very close second. Enabling Gurley to regain the form he had last season is not far behind. Getting the most out of Austin's offensive potential can't be disregarded either.
The list goes on and on. Regardless, the ultimate measure of a successful return to Southern California will be determined in 2019 when the Rams begin playing at their new stadium complex in Inglewood.
This inaugural season at the Coliseum was a bust for the players. For the fans the emotions ran everywhere from promising to earth-shattering. For the city... well, having Rams football back in Los Angeles is priceless.