Rams hope to get back on track after bye week

Bye Week couldn’t have come any sooner for the Los Angeles Rams. Likely, it should have arrived two weeks earlier. Following consecutive losses to teams they were favored to beat by more than a touchdown, the 7-3 Rams will have an entire week of soul searching to think about their sudden misfortunes, after having started off the season in brilliant fashion with a 7-1 record.

The brunt of the responsibility falls mainly on the shoulders of head coach Sean McVay and quarterback Matthew Stafford. The 31-10 Monday Football Night loss to the rival San Francisco 49ers last Monday compounded the 28-16 loss the previous week to the Tennessee Titans. In both games McVay’s offense has sputtered and Stafford has performed like a quarterback who had just joined his current new team in the past two weeks.

“Put us behind the ball early against a good team like that, that’s not the way you want to play those guys from behind early on,” said Stafford, who for the second consecutive game threw two early interceptions that led to the opposition scoring 14 unanswered points. “Just too aggressive throwing it down the field. Shouldn’t have done it. Second one, I’m throwing that ball to Higgs (Tyler Higbee, tight end) every time.

McVay, who has now lost five consecutive games to 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, his friend and former staff member at Washington. “I don't know how to do anything else when our back is against the wall than just to come out and fight and really just work hard and try to be solution oriented. What I mean by that is we're going to look at the things that we need to be able to correct.”

Likely, the excitement and drama surrounding the Rams acquisition and signing of two marquis players, linebacker and edge rusher Von Miller and wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. had an effect on the Rams overall performance against the Niners. Both players made their debut in the game, with Beckham’s role immediately under the microscope with the loss of team captain and wide receiver, Robert Woods, who is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury.

“I was excited. I felt like I was ready for the moment. I felt like I’ve been through so much,” said Beckham, Jr., who caught a 5-yard sideline pass on Rams’ first scrimmage play of the game. In limited action, he caught two of three targets for 18 yards, lined up for 15 plays or 27% of the L.A.’s offensive plays. “It just wasn’t our night, all three phases of the game. They ran the ball well, they stopped us on offense, and they just beat us.”

Von Miller saw his first action with the Rams after rehabbing an ankle injury for the past two weeks since they traded for him. Miller played 45 snaps or 66% of the defensive plays and enjoyed his return to the field. “I’m excited to be a part of this team. I’m excited to be a part of this rush. There was one early and me and A.D. (Aaron Donald) ran a little test or u-game… They still got the first down but it got me excited to be a part of this team and to be a part of this defense.”

“Having Odell on this team is great. It’s my buddy on and off the football team. We continue to gel and I continue to gel. Losing is definitely not fun, but playing today was fun. Going out there and feeling myself moving around and be quick and have some great rushes.”

The Rams appeared to be right back in the game when tight end Tyler Higbee caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Stafford not even two minutes into the second quarter. For Higbee, it was partial redemption for being responsible for the 49ers second score, a 27-yard interception return for touchdown by safety Jimmy Ward that gave them a 14-0 lead. Higbee allowed a short sideline pass slip out and into the hands of Ward, who waltzed into the endzone.

Ward also intercepted Stafford’s deep pass intended for Beckham, Jr. on the opening drive of the game at the Niner 7-yard line. That prompted 49er quarterback Jimmy Garappolo to direct a 93-yard, 19-play drive that consumed 11 minutes and three seconds, and ended with tight end George Kittle catching an 8-yard touchdown pass. That drive set the tone and the Niners never looked back.

The second half was all San Francisco as Deebo Samuel scored two touchdowns, including a 40-yard scoring reception early in the fourth quarter to slam the door shut. The Rams had no answer for Samuel, who rushed five times for 36 yards (including an 8-yard touchdown run to give the 49ers a 21-7 halftime lead) and caught all five targeted passes for 97 yards.

They also couldn’t stop running back Elijah Mitchell, who gained 91 yards on 27 carries, helping the Niners to control the ball for two-thirds of the game time. One bright spot for the Rams was the continuing solid work from kicker Matt Gay, who had a 37-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter. Gay has converted 18 of 19 field goals this season and is 29 of 30 in extra-point attempt kicks.

“We are seven and three, we've got seven games left,” said McVay. “They never end the season after 10 games, but we do have to fix some of these things with some urgency. Guys have to play better. But I think the first thing that I always want people to do in our organization is to look inward within the framework of your role.”

Bye Week should give the Rams the time they’ll need to prepare for the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Sunday, November 28. “I think Von did a nice job. You could see him kind of feeling his way around, and he made some plays, and you could definitely feel his presence,” said McVay.

“I think for Odell to even be able to get out there and line up is a real credit to him. We didn't even have one full speed practice with him. So, these next 12 days will be really important to get him implemented, get him up to speed, and figure out a plan of attack to maximize our offensive players, and to play better than the way that we have these last couple of weeks. That's where my focus and concentration will be over the next few days.”

Beckham, Jr said. “Anybody can handle the ups, but what do you do when you’re down. Right now I don’t see heads down in the locker room. They just outplayed us today. You just give yourself the 24-hour, 48-hour rule and you keep pushing, and you come into work prepared. Got a bye week. Get some rest. Lick your wounds and you keep it moving.”


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