Rams face Jacksonville after three straight losses
December 2, 2021
Three consecutive losses and counting. The mid-season tailspin continues for the Los Angeles Rams as the Green Bay Packers capitalized on three turnovers to win comfortably, 36-28, last Sunday on a late, cold afternoon at Lambeau field. The losing streak has put a serious dent into the Rams hopes of having any homefield advantage when the NFL Playoffs begin in January. And for the first time all season, doubts are being raised about the team even making the Playoffs.
The Rams (7-4) will get their first shot at recovering this Sunday when the very challenged 2-win Jacksonville Jaguars visit SoFi Stadium starting at 1:05 p.m. Los Angeles has already opened as a heavy favorite to beat the Jags, but that was also the case in two of the three previous losses, as well as being a 2-point favorite against the Packers. Understandably, a simple win would do wonders for the reeling Rams at this point.
In what has turned into an alarming trend, the Rams fell behind early by double digits for fourth time in the last five games. Of those four games, their only recovery was against the winless Detroit LionS and that required a late interception to seal the victory. The last three losses resulted with little doubt once the Rams fell behind. Quarterback Matthew Stafford is taking a lot of the heat for those losses for turning the ball over at least twice a game, with most leading to touchdowns by the opposition.
"I wish I could have held onto the ball on the first one," responded Stafford, referring to a strip fumble that gave the ball to the Packers at the Rams 6-yard line early in the first quarter. Three plays later Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers bootlegged to the right for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead, which they never relinquished for the entire game.
"On the second one, Rasul (Douglas, Packers cornerback) made a nice play. Just can't have them. You can't come into Lambeau, have three turnovers in minus territory and expect to play the game you want to play." Douglas made the interception and returned it for a 33-yard touchdown late in the third quarter, leaving the Rams with a 36-17 deficit and more frustration.
"It's not a good mood. I can say that," said Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey when asked about the mood in the locker room after the loss. "Things don't go our way sometimes and the offense turns the ball over, then we have to find a way to get the turnovers. We have to find a way to even the score. It's frustrating because we're not doing that right now."
Stafford: "Got to stay on the field a little bit more. Our defense is out there too much. We can be better on third downs in that regard. Too many times we were three plays-and-out and putting our defense in a tough spot."
Another disturbing trend concerns ball control and possession. In the previous loss to the San Francisco 49ers, the Rams only possessed the ball for 20 minutes and 57 seconds while rushing the ball only 10 times for 52 yards. They actually got worse in possession time against the Packers as the Rams had the ball for only 20 minutes and 20 seconds. They doubled the number of rushes to 20 but only ran for a total of 68 yards.
"We have to be better about sustaining drives, but there are some explosive plays. I just want to see more efficient ball control where we're moving and coming away with points," said McVay. "We've got to stop with some of these self-inflicted wounds. And that's going to continue to be a focus and concentration for us and expect to start to see some results. And that's what we got to be able to see."
The Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9) are led by first-year head coach Urban Meyer rookie and quarterback Trevor Lawrence, this season's top selection in the NFL Draft. Yet somehow, they have been able to win two games, the first one, 21-20 against the Miami Dolphins. The latest one occurred four weeks ago against the Buffalo Bills, a low-scoring 9-6 victory when the Bills were leading the AFC East with a 6-2 record. A Jaguar victory against the Rams struggling in their current form would no longer be considered a shocker.
Currently Lawrence ranks as the fourth lowest in starting quarterback ratings at 72.3. That compares to Stafford who has dropped down to a 105.2 rating due to his recent poor performances, but still fourth among the highest rated starting quarterbacks. James Robinson leads Jaguar running backs with 654 total yards and seven rushing touchdowns. Marvin Jones leads the Jaquar receivers with 46 catches for 529 total yards and three touchdown receptions.
"There are still six games left. For us, the only thing we can do is to get ourselves back into alignment and have a good week of preparation and try to get back on track against the Jaguars," said McVay.
The Rams schedule gets a lot more challenging after the Jaguar game. They can get back into the NFC West race the following week when they visit the Division-leading Arizona Cardinals for Monday Night Football on December 13. They return home to host the Seattle Seahawks on December 19 before hitting the road again for two games, at the Minnesota Vikings on December 26, and at the Baltimore Ravens on January 2. The Rams end the regular season at home in SoFi against the 49ers on January 9.
"That's a lot of football," said McVay. "And this story isn't written yet. We got the pen and we've got to make sure to do a good job of controlling what we can control. We're going through a little bit of adversity right now, but a lot of teams when you look at the totality of the season, it is something you have to be focused on."
Jalen Ramsey poignantly wrapped it up: "We have guys that are way too good for us to be losing games like this. We just got to get it right. Everything has to be better. But we're not playing that good right now. We got to correct our stuff."