Rams Nearing End of Season
Loss to Dallas Cowboys Make Playoff Hope Fade
December 19, 2019
Slim and... with a sliver of a chance to make the 2019 NFL Playoffs, the inconsistent Los Angeles Rams will take on the suddenly challenged but playoff-bound San Francisco 49ers this Saturday at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara. After a disappointing 44-21 blowout loss to the Dallas Cowboys this past Sunday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, the Rams need a miracle to hit the postseason.
"We didn't play nearly good enough, didn't coach good enough and these are things we just got to figure out," said Rams head coach Sean McVay following Sunday's loss that put them two games out of the final NFC Wild Card slot with two games to play. "We haven't been consistent enough as a football team really throughout this season."
The 8-6 Rams' loss allowed their NFC West divisional rivals, 49ers and Seattle Seahawks (both with 11-3 records) to qualify for this year's Playoffs. It also kept the equally inconsistent Cowboys in the driver's seat for securing the NFC East title. The Cowboys need to beat the Philadelphia Eagles this Sunday to qualify. The Minnesota Vikings are the only team the Rams can catch... but odds are not good.
The 10-4 Vikings would have to lose both of their final two games and the Rams need to beat the 49ers this Saturday and the Arizona Cardinals next Sunday. The Vikings could possibly lose this weekend as they are hosting the 11-3 Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football. They then host the 7-7 Chicago Bears in the last game of the season, another potentially tough divisional matchup.
The 49ers had the best record in the NFL through Week 12 with a 10-1 record. They are now tied with the Seahawks, Packers and New Orleans Saints for the best record at 11-3. They barely lost to the 12-2 Baltimore Ravens in Week 13 but faltered at home against the very mediocre 5-9 Atlanta Falcons 29-22 on Sunday. With the NFC top seed up for grabs, the Rams should expect the Niners to be completely ready and focused.
"I think their defense, you take away a couple games this year, the Baltimore game and stuff or maybe Tampa where it statistically got out of hand, you take away a couple of those games and they're without a doubt a top-five defense," said 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan on Tuesday's conference call.
"Their offense, they've always been able to throw the ball they've got their run game going here over the last month, too. That's why I think if they can find a way to get into the playoffs, they're going to be as scary as any team."
The 49ers gave the Rams a good beating in their first matchup of the season on October 13 at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum. The 20-7 score didn't accurately tell the story as the Rams were never in the game after halftime. Quarterback Jared Goff had his worst game of the season, passing for only 78 yards total while being sacked four times for minus-30 yards. It was the team's third consecutive loss of the season, and they've been struggling to get back into the playoff picture ever since.
Goff said at the time: "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."
"It wasn't good from start to finish. We had been starting fast and we wanted to make that emphasis this week." Said Goff sharing similar sentiments after the loss to the Cowboys. "It's on all eleven. It starts with everyone and we just need to be better."
The Rams record this season with Goff attempting 40 or more passes is a dismal 1-4. Against the Cowboys he threw 51 times and completed only 33. He also threw his career season-high 15th interception compared to only 17 touchdown passes, by far his worst scoring output in the past three seasons under McVay. He has only had three games this season without an interception or a fumble, all against poor teams with a losing record.
On Monday McVay commented on a thumb injury Goff sustained when throwing his interception against Dallas late in second quarter, a costly mistake that virtually put the game on ice for the Cowboys: "He came down on, I think it was (Andrew) Whitworth's helmet. You could see his thumb comes down on it right when he was finishing that throw... He was able to kind of get through it and fortunately, today he woke up and was feeling better."
Another recipe for failure was the inability to get running back Todd Gurley significantly involved. Even though he scored two touchdowns, he rushed only 11 times for 20 yards total and caught three passes of 18 yards. It was the fourth lowest rushing attempt total in a game by Gurley this season. The other three games also resulted in a loss. In the Rams' last three victories Gurley rushed 25, 19 and 23 times respectively, averaging 90 yards per game.
The Cowboys rolled up big numbers with their running game as Ezekiel Elliott set the pace with touchdowns and 117 yards rushing on 24 carries. Backup running back Tony Pollard actually gained more yards with 131 on only 12 carries and one touchdown. Quarterback Dak Prescott had a pretty flawless game, completing 15 of 23 passes for 212 yards and two touchdown passes.
"We just didn't play good football. When you miss tackles then that hurts you... When you don't play good in this league, you tend to lose and we lost pretty bad," said defensive tackle Aaron Donald, cuttin to the chase in describing the loss. "I think we played horrible. When you play horrible you get beat on. You get beat pretty bad and we got embarrassed today."
It's going to take a complete effort by all three phases to beat the 49ers this Saturday. "They mix the pass and the run well, very well. They make it look like either/or. You never know what's coming," said defensive end Michael Brockers, spelling out what the 49ers are going to bring.
"Man, they just do a heck of a job making everything look pass and run. It kind of reminds you of our offense in the same spectrum where they try to marry things off the run and pass to get the passing game open to run the ball so it loosens the defense up... Our plan was to win out, so we didn't get that done yesterday. But we still have two more games to go out there and win. That's what we plan to do."