Inconsistent Rams Need Bye Week
November 5, 2020
Where's the consistency and dynamic offense that Sean McVay brought to the Los Angeles in his first two years as head coach? That's what Rams fans are asking two seasons later. After a very dispiriting performance in their 28-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins, the Rams fortunately have a Bye Week and two weeks to get their offense and special teams acts together.
Feasting on an early weak schedule, the 5-3 Rams now face an uphill battle in the second half of the season that features five games against the NFC West, the strongest Division in the NFL. Quarterback Jared Goff will need to step it up if the Rams expect to make it to the 2020 Playoffs. That needs to start on November 15 when Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks come to town, and November 23 for Monday Night Football with Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at SoFi Stadium.
"They did a good job of applying some pressure. That's kind of how they're built and we did not respond quickly enough or well enough. And that starts with me and I got to be better," responded Goff. "This is going to hurt. This is one that we missed an opportunity here... Our defense played really well and gave us all the opportunities we needed."
Contrary to the scoreboard, the statistics heavily favored the Rams. Their defense allowed only 145 total yards to the Miami offense and rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, making his first-ever NFL start. Tagovailoa completed 12 of 22 passes for 93 yards and one interception. Almost expectedly, he was sacked by defensive tackle Aaron Donald, forcing a fumble on his second play from scrimmage. Linebacker Leonard Floyd recovered the ball at the Miami 15-yard line, setting the Rams first score.
Wide receiver Robert Woods swept around the left end for a four-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead. Everything after that went south for the Goff and the offense. He was intercepted by Christian Wilkins late in the first quarter, setting up a 41-yard scoring drive by the Dolphins. On Miami's next possession, Rams safety Taylor Rapp forced a fumble that was recovered by cornerback Troy Hill at the Dolphin 7-yard line.
But Goff was sacked by defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah and fumbled, which allowed linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel to return the ball 78 yards for a touchdown. Johnny Hekker punted the ball to the Miami 12-yard line on the next possession, but it was returned for an 88-yard touchdown by Jakeem Grant. Goff was intercepted by Eric Rowe on the next possession with the Rams deep in Miami territory.
To complete matters, Goff fumbled on the Rams next possession, which was recovered and returned to the one-yard line, setting up another easy Dolphin touchdown. The Rams have 12 turnovers in the first eight games this season, including six interceptions and four fumbles by Goff. His yards passed per attempt (11.5) and by game (268.1) are down from the past two seasons.
Offensively it's been up and down," said McVay. "It was such a weird game where there's a lot of positives on some of the early downs and really what it boiled down to was our inability to be able to consistently handle when they were bringing some of their zero-pressures."
9-year Ram defensive tackle Michael Brockers remained confident: "I have a lot of confidence in Jared and Coach to get those things fixed. And if they see it again, I best believe they'll go and chop it up, for sure. I've never seen it before where a team just zero-pressures you every play. It was tough."
Facts are facts: The Rams were third in league scoring, averaging 28.9 points per game in 2017, McVay's first season with the team. In 2018, the team's Super Bowl season, they were second in the league in scoring, averaging 30.8 points. Last season, the Rams were 10th in scoring average with 24.6. This season, they rank 21st, averaging 24.1 points per game. While the league is collectively increasing in scoring, the Rams are moving in the opposite direction.
However, the defense has been the class of the league in terms of total yards allowed. The Rams lead the league, allowing only 291.9 yards per game. Last season, the team was ranked 14th with 339.6 per game. Interestingly, they have allowed 276.2 yards per game on the road this season but only have a 2-3 record to show for it. Undefeated at SoFi Stadium in three games, they have yielded 318 yards per game.
"Just getting off the field. Being great on first and second down. Putting them in passing situations and getting off the field was the biggest thing... and try to get the ball back to our offense," said Brockers. "When it starts like that, we just want to keep it going, keep it rolling. With the game going as it did with turnovers and stuff like that, they (Miami) just played it safe towards the end, kept running the ball, chew the clock down..."
The Rams special teams, aside from punter Johnny Hekker had a rough game against the Dolphins. Kicker Kai Forbath, signed just two weeks ago, badly shanked a 48-yard field goal attempt wide low and left in the late minutes as the Rams had a chance to move within one score of the lead. His second extra-point attempt just squeaked through. This came during the week the team released rookie kicker Sam Sloman for not being reliable enough.
The Rams allowed long time team kicker Greg Zuerlein, to sign as a free-agent with the Dallas Cowboys in the off season. So far that decision has come back to haunt them, and they have also shrunk their field goal attempt distance. Sloman attempted and missed one 50+ yard field goal this entire season. Last season, Zuerlein converted five of seven 50+ yard attempts, was four of six in 2018 and was successful on six of seven 50+ yard field goal attempts in 2017.
"I thought (special) teams has been steadily improving. Unfortunately, yesterday I thought we took a step in the wrong direction," said McVay. "Against Jakeem Grant, a really dangerous returner... we didn't do that. It's a great challenge for us to really be able to focus on coming off of the bye, but it's kind of where I see us right now."
Brockers: "You definitely have to find yourself. It's good to have a Bye Week. Coaches can assess. The team can assess. Who are we going to be moving forward. I think that's the biggest thing. Understanding who we are right now... We can't do anything about this loss. It's over. We just have to look forward."