Rams Playoff Hopes Dashed
Final Game Against Cardinals Sunday
December 26, 2019
Now that the Los Angeles Rams have failed to qualify for the 2019 NFL Playoff picture, head coach Sean McVay stressed that it is important for the team to beat the Arizona Cardinals this Sunday to finish the season with an above .500 record. The Rams will need the win their final game ever at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in order to end on a high note with a 9-7 record.
"We're going to compete to the best of our ability to try to finish out with a winning record," said McVay on Sunday following the 34-31 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday that sealed the Rams' fate this season. "That is something that I said to the team today and I think it's important for us. We know the challenge because Arizona is a tough football team."
The Rams will have to weigh a chance of beating the Cardinals to maintaining a relatively healthy team leading into the off-season. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey suffered a banged up knee against the Niners but continued to play. Rookie running back Darrell Henderson tweaked his right ankle on his second carry of the game. He will be placed on the IR (injured reserve list) and undergo a procedure to clean it up later this week.
"He had a high ankle sprain. It's unstable, so he'll need to get surgery... I don't think it'll be anything too long that will force him to miss a bunch of time," said McVay about Henderson. As for Ramsey: "We want to be as smart as possible. He tweaked it, he felt it... As we're continuing to gather information, I'll have a little bit more for you as the week progresses," Ramsey.
"You're always pushing through some bumps and bruises at this point, but if it is something where they are going to have it fixed or you're putting them at further risk for injury, we would definitely take that into consideration and we wouldn't want to expose guys for that."
The team rebounded and played one of their best games of the year against the 49ers at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara. Yet, the game was emblematic of the Rams' entire season. They took the early lead, dominated the first half but somehow trailed at halftime when quarterback Jared Goff's pick-six interception with a minute remaining gave the Niners a sudden 24-21 lead.
A 22-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Cooper Kupp helped the Rams regain the lead, 28-24, in the third quarter. After the 49ers drove 91 yards in a mere six plays in the fourth quarter to retake the lead, 31-28, Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein nailed a 52-yard field goal to seemingly send the game into overtime with 2:36 on the clock. But the Rams defense failed to contain the 49ers final drive twice on 3rd-and-16 situations.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo completed an 18-yard pass to Kendrick Bourne at the 49er 37-yard line surrounded by three defenders with 1:50 remaining in regulation. Three plays later, Rams rookie safety Taylor Rapp, failed to cover the middle of the field as Garoppolo completed a deep 46-yard pass to Emmanuel Sanders at the Rams 23 yard line. Kicker Robbie Gould converted the 33-yard game-winning field goal as time ran out.
"It's all been disappointing," said McVay, comparing the defeat to the last season's Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots. "I really think what both those games represented, in different manners, was the finality of the season last year, and then yesterday, represented the finality of our opportunity to have some games past the 16 that we're guaranteed. They both hurt a lot, but every single loss does."
All three phases of the Rams performed well at times but ultimately shared a responsibility in the loss. The defense sacked Garappolo six times, which usually spells victory. Dante Fowler led with 2.5 sacks, Aaron Donald had 1.5 sacks while Samson Ebukam and Morgan Fox had one each. But they allowed the 49ers two scoring drives in the fourth quarter.
The special teams got some clutch punts by Johnny Hekker but also a couple of poor short punts allowed San Francisco excellent field position. Zuerlein kicked the 52-yarder to tie the score late but also missed a 52-yard field goal on the Rams opening drive of the third quarter. The biggest special team gaffe was allowing an 81-yard kickoff return by Richie James immediately after the Rams' 75-yard opening drive resulted in a 10-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Brandin Cooks.
Goff had one of his better performances of the season but continued to shoot himself in the foot with the interception by linebacker Fred Warner and almost another interception that was dropped. He completed 27-46 yards for 323 yards but it was the fourth loss in six games this season when Goff attempts over 40 passes. He has 19 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions going into the last week of the season.
Running back Todd Gurley rushed for only 48 yards on 15 carries but ran for two touchdowns. Wide receiver Robert Woods caught eight passes for 117 yards while tight end Tyler Higbee had his fourth consecutive 100-plus yard reception game with nine catches for 104 yards. The Rams outgained the Niners in total yards, 395-334, but only had 72 total rushing yards. The team won five of the six games this season when rushing for over 100 yards.
The Rams manhandled the Cardinals 34-7 in Week 13 at Arizona in their first matchup between the NFC West foes. The defense was able to disrupt quarterback Kyler Murray and the Cards offense, holding them to 198 total yards. The Rams offense gained 549 total yards as Goff threw for 424 yards and two touchdowns. Gurley rushed for 95 yards and scored two touchdowns at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.
"My focus is on finishing this season out the right way. Once we get to that point where the season is finished, there will be a lot of good self-refection," said McVay. There will be a lot of good evaluation, for everybody, and for us to be able to look at what we can do to be better and hopefully avoid these types of seasons, as we move forward, and as we learn, as we grow together."