Los Angeles Rams: 10 Takeaways From 35-32 Controversial Loss To The Bills

by Jake Ellenbogen

The Los Angeles Rams couldn’t have started a game worse. However, despite being down 28-3 to the Buffalo Bills in Western New York, the Rams came storming back much like last year’s Rams did against the Buccaneers but this time, this team took the lead. After scoring 29 unanswered points, the Rams took a 32-28 lead over the Bills until disaster struck. On the final drive, Josh Allen converted two third and long plays to set up one of the worst calls you will see all year long. After that, the Bills cashed in on the controversial penalty that was thrown on Darious Williams to practically give the game back to Buffalo in the final seconds. Here are my takeaways from a game that wasn’t for the faint of heart.

1. There was a ton of contact on the fourth-down play but it was on both CB Darious Williams and WR Gabriel Davis and shouldn’t have been called anything more than off-setting penalties.

I do not care who likes it, agrees with, or respects it but my thoughts after this game will not change. The Rams were blatantly robbed. The final fourth down play of the game was a bad throw by Josh Allen and fell harmlessly to the turf. That’s it, the Rams should have won right then and there. However, once again, the officiating this year decided to stick their nose into a game and decide the outcome. Darious Williams made contact with Gabriel Davis just like Gabriel Davis made contact with Darious Williams. If there is contact on both sides like that you cannot throw the flag on one party. If you threw a flag on both that’s one thing. I would have had zero problems with the Bills getting another shot on fourth down. My issue was calling that pass interference on Williams and gifting the Bills the easiest opportunity to win the game by giving them a fresh set of downs.

You can talk all about how the Rams failed to pull away but why are we constantly using the excuse of “don’t put yourself in position to have a referee cost you the game” as if these two teams aren’t Super Bowl-caliber and are guaranteed to play games down to the wire. It’s been bizarre how many Rams fans I’ve seen that refuse to hold the officiating accountable and instead blame the Rams for the rest of the game. It doesn’t take away the fact they gifted Buffalo with a call that gave the Rams very little opportunity to protect their lead after stopping the Bills on fourth down anyway.

To have such an instant classic end in such a debacle is what we call a damn shame. Like I said if the Bills got another shot on fourth down, fine. If the Bills win the game on their play fine, but to see the officials alter the outcome is what leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Don’t believe me thinking this call was bad? I’m not the only one…

Yeah, I rest my case…

2. When it mattered most Jared Goff outdueled Josh Allen.

The talk all week coming into this game was Jared Goff vs. Josh Allen. I think Allen’s game embodies what Allen is as a player. He’s flashy, he’s explosive and he can give you the numbers but he is not as reliable as Goff. I watched Goff bounce back from an interception in the first half and look calm, cool, and collected the rest of the way. Without Goff, the Rams don’t score 29 unanswered points on the Bills. Allen looked great in the first half but looked pretty average in the second half. He’s a good young quarterback but you cannot deny how rattled he got in the fourth quarter. Allen’s two turnovers brought the Rams back in the game and while he finished with the better stats than Goff, I would say Goff looked way more comfortable in crunch time.

Also, if you are going to use Josh Allen’s interception as an excuse for why the Bills defense gave up 29 unanswered points, I don’t know what to tell you. Was it an interception? No. Was there still offensive pass interference? Yes. Let’s be honest, if Tyler Kroft doesn’t shove Troy Hill in the back, he probably picks it off anyway. Also, let’s be honest, Allen deserved to get picked for throwing such an ill-advised throw.

3. Darrell Henderson is the Rams best running back and it doesn’t appear to be close at the moment.

Wow, it’s almost as if I had Darrell Henderson as my number one running back in the 2019 NFL Draft or something. Well, there’s a reason and a method for my madness. As good as Joshua Jacobs was, I felt like Henderson was the better back. I think after the last two weeks it’s time to stop judging backs by their height. Henderson was a third-round pick the Rams traded for last year and went from future starter to “change-of-pace” after the Cam Akers selection. Henderson showed you today he’s not all speed and wiggle, Henderson has some power as well. His 20 carries for 114 yards and a touchdown kept the Rams comeback train rolling. Oddly enough, the only thing that stopped Henderson was coach Sean McVay when he decided to take him out or switch to the passing attack that wasn’t working as well as Henderson was on the ground.

With Cam Akers out, Henderson has turned this running back by committee approach into a bell-cow role for himself. There’s no cap on what Henderson can become in this league but if he gets enough carries this man could end up being a top 10 back by the end of the season. One thing you can take away after this, the Rams have a very good running game that runs on anyone after proving it against the Bills.

4. Samson Ebukam has to be benched starting next week for potentially Terrell Lewis and/or Jachai Polite.

I’ve honestly had it with Samson Ebukam, he’s rated as the 80th edge defender per Pro Football Focus and that’s before the grading of this game. Ebukam has been a total liability on the edge. Leonard Floyd is 56th, so not much better but Floyd has made a serious impact as a run defender whereas Ebukam hasn’t done much of anything to note. It’s beyond puzzling at this point how Jachai Polite is not getting playing time over Ebukam. The coaches apparently love Ebukam’s speed but it doesn’t mean much when he can’t finish the play. He had a few missed tackles today and he had about two coming into this game. The biggest issue with this team is edge pressure, I’ve been saying that since day one of this season. However, it’s worse than I could have imagined.

When you have Aaron Donald taking on double teams, there is no excuse for outside edge rushers starting on an NFL team to not be able to win their one-on-one matchups. Fans were saying Dante Fowler‘s job was easy last year and going to a length that would suggest replacing him with anyone would prove it. Well, we are through three games and I’ll tell you, there’s not one pass rusher off the edge this year for the Rams that has looked anywhere near as good as Dante Fowler did. I don’t like beating a dead horse and I don’t like trashing players but this is getting ridiculous. I have been wondering for a while if Ebukam is just an inside linebacker playing out of position, we will never know.

5. Red Zone woes return for Sean McVay but nowhere near as drastic as Brandon Staley’s Red Zone woes on defense.

Sean McVay’s offense stalled out a few times but the most painful was when the Rams had to settle for a 30-yard field goal before the half instead of going for the touchdown. That’s, however, nothing compared to Staley’s defense who gave up all five attempts in the red zone by the Bills and all five of them were Josh Allen touchdowns. Not once, not twice, not three times but four times the Rams defense left a receiver wide open in the end zone for the Bills. Lapses in coverage always happen week to week but the Rams looked lost in the first half and their red zone defense was pitiful. They have seemingly no answer in the first half for the Bills red zone offense.

6. My positioning hasn’t changed. I don’t believe in developmental starting kickers. No one, not even Samuel Sloman is worth losing a game for.

Samuel Sloman missed a 53-yard field goal to kick off the game which ultimately was a backbreaker for the Rams after the team drove down the field to put their kicker in position to add three points to the board. However, wind or not, Sloman missed the field goal and thus gifted the Bills excellent field position which didn’t last long before they punched it into the end zone.

I know it’s early but I haven’t seen anything that would lead me to believe Samuel Sloman was the best choice at kicker for the Rams. The biggest thing here is that Lirim Hajrullahu and Austin MacGinnis are ready and waiting for their call. The Rams lost by a field goal difference, the same field goal Sloman could have hit early in the game.

7. Jordan Fuller is a 6th-Round Rookie that has been a gem for the Rams and everyone just found out how important he is on the field following his injury that kept him out of the rest of the game.

Jordan Fuller left the game early on in with a shoulder injury. Once Fuller came off the field and Taylor Rapp came on, I found myself instantly worried about the coverage skill drop-off. Fuller has been one of the best pure tacklers on the Rams and a playmaker. Unfortunately for Fuller, the injury might keep him out an extended amount of time since he was unable to come back to the field in a game that the Rams needed him in.

You can look at it multiple ways but let’s look at the positive here. Jordan Fuller is a valuable asset as a sixth-rounder and in the third game of his rookie season. That’s the beauty of this and it speaks volumes that the Rams made the right move snagging him when they did.

8. Aaron Donald is the best player in football but when he gets in that zone he got in during the fourth quarter, he’s as valuable as anyone on the field.

Josh Allen had no idea what was hitting him in the fourth quarter after the majority of the game the Bills offensive line had kept Aaron Donald in check. However, Donald started penetrating through the gap and creating absolute havoc on Allen which included two sacks and one forced fumble in which he recovered himself. That added pressure by Donald pumped the defense up and led to players like Leonard Floyd, Greg Gaines, Morgan Fox, and Justin Hollins to start penetrating the pocket. Donald’s spark igniting the Rams’ defense to go from protecting the game to attacking it.

On the final drive, Donald did just about all he possibly could to ruin Allen’s life and his effort as an interior pass rusher was a big reason the Rams were able to come back from 25 points and take the lead. You can talk analytics and now Donald may not be worth more than one replacement win in the season, but that’s where I stop you. Analytics simply cannot quantify what Donald does to teams on the field physically and mentally.

Before Donald started to break through the offensive line, Allen felt like he was on top of the world and the confidence was through the roof. Of course, after, Allen started to fall apart and get rattled. That is the mental aspect of what it truly means to have Aaron Donald on your defensive front.

9. This team has the heart of a lion and even though they were completely screwed out of winning this game, this game is going to help them moving forward this year.

Look, I’m not a big moral victory guy. As a matter of fact, it’s the NFL and the league is full of adults so I think it can sound ridiculous. However, the Rams showed themselves, their fans, and the rest of the league that they can come back and put themselves in a position to win any game. This game was 28-3 and the Rams stormed back. It was similar to last year’s game versus the Buccaneers that the team went down 21-0 to start but were unable to complete the comeback when Goff was strip-sacked by Ndamukong Suh. However, this was different because the Rams in this game did complete the comeback and ended up taking the lead.

The Rams played complimentary football on both sides, Goff rallied back from an interception, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds, and Darrell Henderson really helped carry the offense with him. Then, the Rams got the contributions from Donald, Fox, Floyd, and of course the interception by John Johnson III. Not to mention the coaching staff that didn’t shy away from playing their style of football. McVay refused to go into panic mode even down 25 and still continued to run the ball with Henderson because it was working. The heart this team showed is going to go a long way.

I personally don’t think this game breaks the Rams at all, I don’t think the Rams needed to win this game and I think that the Rams will take more from this because of it being a loss than a win. Wins tend to cover-up the underlying issues of what went on and the overall results, that’s what will happen to the Bills now. The Bills escaped with a 35-32 win, the team won’t take it as seriously because they won but they blew a 25-point lead, were a no-call away from losing, turned the ball over twice, couldn’t stop the run, and allowed Goff and the Rams to take whatever they wanted in the second half. For the people saying the Rams should have not put themselves in the rough position in the first place, you can actually make the argument the Rams roaring effort in the second half outweighed what the Bills did in the first.

All I know is that the 2020 Los Angeles Rams are different, they displayed the ability to come back from 25 and that is going to give them the confidence to stay in any game. Plus, I really don’t see this happening again. I don’t see the Rams being down that much again this year. I think the back-to-back east coast trips without being able to stay back-to-back weeks on the east coast due to COVID, hurt them. McVay won’t make that excuse but I’ll make it for him. Back-to-back cross-country road trips are just brutal and it likely was the reason for the Rams dull start to the game that put them in that position anyway.

10. The Rams have plenty to get cleaned up but they are a Super Bowl contender and I feel really bad for the buzzsaw the 0-3 New York Giants are about to run into.

This team proved a lot in the last three weeks but coming into the year I don’t care the way the teams look now, playing the Cowboys, Eagles, and Bills in the first three games of the year was tough. The Rams basically showed everyone they have heart, they have talent and they still have players that need to come back from an injury that should only make them better. Cam Akers didn’t play in this one, Terrell Lewis and A’Shawn Robinson are on the non-football injury list. I mean just wait until Lewis and Robinson are back and what that will do to the Rams run defense.

What is going to be scary is when the New York Giants who couldn’t stop Nick Mullens, come to SoFi Stadium and play a very pissed off Rams squad that is equipped to beat anyone. The last time these teams faced off, I was there at Metlife Stadium and the Rams put together an absolute drubbing of the Giants by a score of 51-17. I don’t think it’s crazy to think that could be the case this year as well. The Giants through three games are being outscored 79-38. The Rams are fifth in the league in scoring and have the potential to absolutely blow out the Giants.

After a two-week road trip to the east coast, the Rams get to come back home and angry about the outcome of the Bills game, I just don’t see any way this game doesn’t end up in a blowout. Daniel Jones has a 69.2 passer rating, four interceptions to two touchdowns, and is the Giants leading rusher now that Saquon Barkley is out for the year. Also, if you want to talk about a way to give this Rams defensive pass rush some confidence, look no further than the turnstile offensive line they will get to go up against this weekend.

Andrew Thomas and Cameron Fleming are 62nd and 67th respectively out of 70 tackles in football per Pro Football Focus. Kevin Zeitler and Will Hernandez are 36th and 61st respectively out of 71 guards and center Nick Gates is rated the 29th best center out of 34. This offensive line is atrocious and the Rams should have no problem dominating them all game long.

Oh and in case you forgot, this is what the Rams did to the Giants three years ago…

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Andy Morin
Andy Morin
1 year ago

The outrageously bad officiating at the end was a make up call for the just as outrageous interception call that lead to a Rams TD and ultimately swung the momentum

Victor Pelayo
Victor Pelayo
1 year ago

The problem I.ve seen in the Rams the last couple of years is that the defense seems to let off the gas in comebacks and play not to lose a game rather than ramping up pressure.

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