Rams No Longer Enjoying Home-Field Advantage
October 17, 2019
Who's House? Certainly not the Rams House. For second consecutive game the Los Angeles Rams were completely outshined at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. This past Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers further exposed the Rams, 20-7, two weeks after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers treated Los Angeles like a rag doll on the United Airlines Field turf, 55-40.
For the first time in the Sean McVay era, the Rams have lost three consecutive games and look like a team that doesn't know how to win. The offense that terrorized opposing NFL defenses for the past two seasons has suddenly lost its sails. The team is getting outcoached and outplayed on both sides of the ball.
"It's my job to make sure that we continue to work as hard as we can to look inward, find the solutions, and just get better," said McVay, trying to put a positive spin on his team's recent form. "There is nothing we can do about this performance other than learn from it."
Without a healthy running back in Todd Gurley, the Rams offense is rudderless. Ironically, it took a turn for the worse in last season's NFL game of the year, a 54-51 Monday Night barn-burning win over Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. Gurley injured his ankle in that game and only rushed 12 times.
Two weeks later he rushed for 28 yards on 11 carries in a 15-6 loss to the Chicago Bears. The next week he injured his knee in a home loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, running only 12 times for 48 yards. He returned to have a productive playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys. Gurley was a non-factor and saw very limited action against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII.
This season Gurley is averaging career lows at 54.0 yards per game rushing and 13.6 yards per catch receiving. He still leads the team in rushing with 64 carries for 270 yards and five touchdowns. His backup, Malcolm Brown is averaging 4.2 yards per carry and 25.7 rushing yards per game. The reduced running attack has led to relying on quarterback Jared Goff to carry the offensive load. The transition hasn't been kind to Goff or the team.
Against the 49ers, Goff had his worse game ever under McVay. He completed 13 of 24 passes for an anemic 78 yards. He was sacked four times for 30 yards, meaning his net total passing yardage was 48 yards. He continues to fumble the ball at an alarming rate. His fumble on the very first play of the second half was the turning point, allowing the Niners to take the lead, 14-7. The Rams offense never recovered.
"There's not one answer to it, there's not one thing that needs to pick it up," said Goff. "It's everyone, it's myself included and I just need to be better and execute better. I think we're practicing hard, I think we're playing hard. I think it just comes down to in-game execution."
"We're killing ourselves with early down efficiency," Mcvay said. "When you're not efficient in the early downs or you have penalties that set yourself back, you want to get into a rhythm, you've got to get plays off."
The offense has been diminished by a compromised front line. Last season when the Rams ranked as the sixth-best offensive line in the league.
This season, they rank as the worst front line after veterans Roger Saffold and John Sullivan were replaced by Joseph Noteboom and Brian Allen in the off-season. The line has further regressed now as Noteboom tore his ACL and MCL against the 49ers, effectively ending his season.
To compound matters, the Rams have suffered a rash of recent injuries. This week the team announced that cornerback Aqib Talib will be on injured reserve for eight weeks. Safety John Johnson III was forced out of the 49ers game with a shoulder injury. Linebacker Clay Matthews is out for at least a month with a broken jaw suffered in the previous Thursday night loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
McVay on the injury lowdown: "Aqib Talib on IR, he had the fractured ribs... Joe Noteboom, he got his ACL and his MCL. He's going to have surgery and he'll obviously be out for the rest of the year. John Johnson is going to get his shoulder evaluated and Malcolm Brown also injured his ankle yesterday and he'll be day-to-day on that. "(Todd Gurley) He's making good progress. He's day-to-day right now and we're hopeful to be able to get him back for Atlanta."
The Rams (3-3) are currently mired in third place in the NFC West behind the 49ers (5-0) and the Seahawks (5-1) with no relief in site. They travel to play a dismal Atlanta Falcons squad this Sunday The 1-5 Falcons are coming off a disparaging 34-33 defeat to the Arizona Cardinals. A loss to the Falcons will likely spell certain disaster for the Rams playoff chances, an unlikely scenario only four weeks ago when the team was undefeated at 3-0.