When it comes the Los Angeles Rams, you could say there’s a history when it comes to pass interference. During the 2018 NFC Championship game, Nickel Robey-Coleman made contant with New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith late in the fourth quarter. No call.
A flag would have essentially guaranteed a trip to the Super Bowl for the Saints. Instead, they went up three and Jared Goff marched the Rams down the field and tied it. In overtime, Drew Brees threw an interception and again, Goff put the Rams in field goal range and Greg Zuerlein sent Los Angeles to the Super Bowl.
In Week 1, the Dallas Cowboys were looking to tie the game on their final drive. Dak Prescott took a shot to Michael Gallup and connected. A flag was thrown, but instead of defensive pass interference, offensive pass interference was called (correctly) negating the big play.
Sunday afternoon didn’t go without its share of controversy either. Early in the second half with the Buffalo Bills leading, 28-3, John Johnson came away with an interception of Josh Allen. Replay showed that due to simultaneous possession, the Bills should have kept the ball. Instead the Rams got the football and scored the first of 29 consecutive points.
In the waning moments on 4th-and-9, Josh Allen threw a pass in the direction of Gabriel Davis. The pass sailed apst Davis, completing the greatest comeback in Los Angeles Rams history. Instead, a flag was thrown for defensive pass interference. The official came to the conclusion that Darious Williams, the hero against the Philadelphia Eagles, had contacted Davis.
The call led to a new set of downs for the Bills and they immediately scored a touchdown to take a 35-32 lead with 15 seconds remaining.
It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to understand that the call changed the game.
Replay would show that Davis arguably initiated contact with Williams. The two players were equally making contact with each other. The ball thrown by Allen wasn’t catchable which would have negated pass interference anyway.
For the Rams to lose because of a call after climbing back from a 28-3 deficit hurts. It’s one thing if the Rams hadn’t come back to take the lead or that the game winning play was made. However, that’s not the case. Los Angeles showed resilience but the win was simply taken away from them. Did the Rams lose because of the call? No. We’ll get to the rest later. However, that call directly impacted the result of the game and the Rams lose because the call was made.
There’s a big difference when it comes to the call on Sunday and the calls in both the NFC Championship game and Week 1 against Dallas. Those teams both had opportunities to win the game after the calls were made.
If Sean Payton runs the ball instead of calling a pass, Jared Goff has 38 less seconds to lead the Rams down the field for a game-tying field goal. Even still, the Saints won the coin toss and got the ball first in overtime. Since the NFL overtime rules were changed in 2011, there have been eight games that have gone to overtime. Five of those ended on first drive touchdowns. In the NFL, 52.7 of teams that win the coin toss in overtime, go on to win the game.
Poor coaching decisions late and a missed block in overtime lost the Saints the game. Not a defensive pass interference no call.
In Week 1, the Dallas Cowboys still had an opportunity to go down and kick a field goal. Even then, there’s no guarantee that Zuerlein makes the field goal. There were plays to be made and time to make them after the call.
Fast forward to Week 3.
You can even bring uo the missed interception call earlier in the game. At that point, the Bills were still leading 28-3.
The winning play was made by Los Angeles. The Rams had the game won and the refs took it away from them. The calls are more important than others. A holding call in the first quarter isn’t as cruical as a holding call in the fourth quarter of a 28-24 football game.
The call put the ball on the three yard line and nearly guaranteed a Bills win. The Rams had a 75% chance to win the game prior to the pass interference. After the call, the Bills had a 75% chance to win the game via Lee Sharpe.
Obviously, if a penalty is committed a call should be made whether or not it’s at the end of the game. However, in this instance, there was no blatant infraction committed, and both players were equally physical with each other.
At the end of the day, the Rams need to make a stop on 3rd-and-22 and not dig themselves into a 28-3 hole. A split on the east coast in which both games had early starts, isn’t bad. However, the Rams fought back and took the lead. They did enough to win the game and they made the winning play. Unfortunately, it was taken away from them.
In the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Los Angeles Rams took a running back out of Memphis, Darrell Henderson. It was a questionable pick at the time, but both Jake and I had him as our top running back in the draft.
He had vision, he had speed, and he was a good pass catcher. His only knock was that he played at Memphis. Hendersonw was a perfect fit in the Rams zone scheme. It’s what he ran with the Tigers and averaged 8.9 yards per carry in each of his last two years.
It’s crazy to think about. When it comes to Jared Goff’s 2019 season, fans always seem to give him the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the offensive line.
Henderson, and even Todd Gurley last year to an extent, didn’t get that same benefit. The former Memphis star was a rookie last year and played behind both Gurley and Brown. All he needed was an opportunity. When he got more than a handful of carries, he went 6 for 39 against the 49ers, 11 for 31 against a stout Falcons defense, and 11 for 49 against the Bengals.
Even with just a small sample size behind one of the worst offensive lines in football, it was assumed that Henderson was a bust and that he wouldn’t be able to carry the load post-Gurley.
When it comes to running backs, an offensive line is almost more important than it is for a quarterback. Run-blocking is easier on an offensive line and if they aren’t opening holes, there’s nowehere to run. That’s how Le’Veon Bell went from star in Pittsburgh to not relevant with the New York Jets. It’s how CJ Anderson was able to come in off the street and run wild for the Rams in 2018.
Darrell Henderson finally got his opportunity and Sunday and he took full advantage. For almost three quarters of the game he was the Rams’ best offensive player. After coming in against the Eagles and rushing for 81 yards on 12 carries, Henderson finished with 114 yards on 20 carries.
In fact, Darrell Henderson’s 114 yards were the most out of all the running backs selected in the 2019 NFL Draft. That’s a class that included Josh Jacobs, David Montgomery, Miles Sanders, and Devin Singletary.
Despite Henderson not ever having a true opportunity to showcase his talent, the Rams drafted Cam Akers out of Florida State in the second round in April. Akers hurt his rib which is why Henderson has gotten the amount of carries that he has the last two weeks.
It might be an unfair judgement after just two successful games from Henderson, however, after his last two games it’s hard not to question the Akers pick. Henderson looks like he can carry the load. AJ Epenesa or Josh Uche would’ve been better picks at that spot. It’s hard to get over taking a RB that high after having Henderson while players like James Robinson are having success going undrafted.
Moving forward, the Rams are still most likely going to go running back by committee, but it’ll be interesting to see how McVay divides up the carries once Akers does return.
No Pressure on Allen
The Los Angeles Rams went into halftime trailing 21-3. After a failed 4th-and-4 conversion, the Bills marched down the field and scored a touchdown to make it 28-3. The defense didn’t look good for the first three and a half quarters and there was one big difference.
In the first half the Rams didn’t record a single sack, tackle for loss, or quarterback hit on Josh Allen. Not a single one. The pass rush was invisible.
All we heard last season was how Dante Fowler’s 12 sacks were much due to the fact that Aaron Donald was giving him a lot of opportunity. That case cannot be denied. Samson Ebukam proved in 2018 before the Rams traded for Fowler and he’s shown now, that he’s simply not a good pass rusher.
It’s hard to blame the Rams for not bringing back Fowler. They were limited to what they could do because of the cap. However, they had seen the Ebukam experiment before and it wasn’t pretty.
The Rams ended with four sacks on Josh Allen. Two of which were from Aaron Donald, one from Leonard Floyd and one from Morgan Fox. Floyd isn’t a pass rusher, he’s there to implement Staley’s philosophy and play sound in the run game. Both of which he’s done to this point.
Through three games, the Rams haven’t gotten a single sack from an edge rusher outside of Floyd. Pro Football Reference has yet to credit Ebukam, Obo Okoronkwo, and the handful of other edge rushers with a single quarterback hit.
This is officially a problem.
As we saw in the first half on Sunday, the Rams can’t let a good quarterback like Josh Allen just sit in the pocket and throw at will. It took a defensive player of the year type performance in the second half to change that. It can’t be all up to Donald. When he’s taking on double and sometimes triple teams, other guys need to step up.
Heading into this week, according to ESPN’s pass-rush win-rate (how often a pass-rusher is able to beat his block within 2.5 seconds), the Rams ranked 30th in the NFL. That’s a bottom-three pass rush. It came back to bite them on Sunday.
It was nice to see Justin Hollins apply some pressure late in the game and force a facemask penalty on Allen. The Rams will also get the opportunity to play Terrell Lewis next week if he’s healthy as he’ll be able to come off of IR. We’ll have to wait and see if that provides the pass rush any sort of spark, but it’s the stagnant pass rush outside of Donald that we’re saying that forced the Rams to trade for Fowler in the first place.
A Reason For Optimism
The Rams are 2-1 and should arguably be 3-0. Sunday’s result was obviously disappointing, but there is a lot of be optimistic about. This year’s 2-1 looks a lot better than last year’s 3-0. The Rams barely edged past a bad Browns team in Week 3 last season. This year we saw a team fight back from 28-3 and make the play to win the game.
Looking at the schedule before the season, most fans would have taken a split on the east coast trip. Back-to-back games on the east coast was always going to be tough. Back-to-back games on the east coast with early starts made things even tougher. It didn’t help that the Rams had to travel all the way back to Los Angeles and weren’t able to stay east as orginally planned.
At the end of the day, through three games, most fans would have taken 2-1 given who the opponents were. Coming up, the Rams will play the 0-3 New York Giants back in Los Angeles, 1-2 Washington on the road, and then back home to play the injured San Francisco 49ers.
Those are three very winnable games. Afterwards the Rams play the worst 3-0 team in the league in the Chicago Bears and then the 1-2 Miami Dolphins before the bye. 7-1 or 6-2 at the break is realistic. If the Rams can stay healthy on not let Sunday’s loss affect them moving forward, this is a team with a real chance to make some noise in the coming weeks.
1. Jared Goff played his best game of the season. Through the first two games, Sean McVay had cooked the food, set the table, and laid out all the cutlery required. All Jared Goff had to do to make the Los Angeles Rams’ offense click was to eat what’s on his plate without making a mess. On Sunday, Sean McDermott took the table cloth and ripped it off of the table. Goff was forced to become a drop back passer without all of the play action and screens and outside of three plays, he was very good.
He had back-to-back plays on the first drive that he’d probably like back. Instead of throwing the ball away on a rollout, he ran out of bounds for negative yards. On the ensuing play he took a sack to set up a 53-yard miss by Samuel Sloman. The interception was also a forced ball. Outside of that though, Goff played well.
2. Speaking of Sloman, fans have seen enough of the experiment. The Rams unironically lost by three points. Who knows if it would have mattered in the end, but the early miss changed momentum, gave the Bills great field position and they went on to score 28 of the next 31 points. Also on the special teams front and experiments, it’s time to end the Cooper Kupp experiment on punt returns. The Rams trotted Raymond Calais on kick returns on Sunday, maybe we’ll see him on punt returns eventually. It’s just obvious that Kupp doesn’t look comfortable.
3. Samson Ebukam and Tayor Rapp both had rough games on defense. Rapp was forced to play more in coverage because Jordan Fuller got hurt and the Rams paid. Meanwhile, Ebukam got his ankles consistently broken by Allen and it’s clear he just can’t get pressure on the quarterback. It’s time to try something different.
4. Something that isn’t getting enough attention is that the Bills returned both Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano on Sunday. Without them, the Bills were struggling to cover the tight end and middle of the field. Higbee was held to two catche for 40 yards.
5. McVay made two calls on fourth down that are being questioned. The first is calling for the field goal. Yes, it was a windy day in Buffalo. However, this is the NFL and you expect your kicker to make that. You don’t punt at the 35 yard line. McVay also went for it on 4th-and-4 to start the second half and failed. Down 21-3, McVay is looking for a spark. It was a good call to go for it, however, I wasn’t a fan of the play call. Rolling Goff out took away half of the field.
“No, obviously not (pass interference). He’s playing defensive back, he’s playing hands-on, he’s checking him. As he gets into his route, the receiver initiates the contact. The quarterback is literally just throwing the ball in the area. It wasn’t even a catchable ball.” – Robert Woods
Woods commented on the controversial call. He’s exactly right. He also said that you can’t leave the game up to the officials which he’s also right about.
“I saw a resilient group. I saw a team that stayed connected when you go down 28 to three against a really good football team. They just kept battling. They kept swinging.” – Sean McVay
McVay was proud of his players and their ability to respond and come all the way back against the Bills. It’s clear he things that this is a special group.
“No matter what the situation is, what the game is, who we’re playing, this is a good team. We’re on the road. They had a good offense, a good defense, they’re well coached, and we came all the way back and were in the position to win that at the end. I think there’s a lot to be said for that, but at the same time, we would love to have closed this one out and be 3-0, but we’re 2-1 and move on to the Giants this weekend.”- Jared Goff
This is an important statement by Goff. He gives the Bills credit and the Rams credit for coming back, but they’re on to the Giants. As disappointing as it was, they can’t dwell on this loss. In 1989, the Rams lost a tough game to the Bills only to lose three more in a row after that. They can’t let that happen.\
Numbers to Know
0 – The number of punts by Johnny Hekker. The Rams didn’t punt a single time on Sunday. Most of the time when that happens, you’re going to win.
27 – Carries by Rams running backs. Trailing 28-3, it would have been very easy to get away from the run game. McVay stuck with it and it paid off.
? – It’ll be interesting when this number finally comes out, but the Rams had missed tackles all over the place on defense. This isn’t a number that Micah Kiser is going to be pleased with.
Around the Horn
Game Ball – For a second straight week, Darrell Henderson gets my game ball. For much of the game, he was the best player on offense. He got his first 100-yard game in his first career start. We’ll see what this means moving forward.
Impressive Rookie – Fuller barely played and Jefferson didn’t record a catch. Is was a forgettable day for the rookies.
Play of the Game – It’s easy to look back at “The Call”. However, 3rd-and-22 comes to mind as well. That’s just a conversion that you can’t allow. That’s my play of the game. You can also look back on the Rams’ 97-yard scoring drive. The Rams converted third downs of eleven and 8 yards, one of which came after a 1st-and-20. The offense showed a lot of reslience.
The Good – As a whole, this is the best that the Rams wide receivers have looked this season. Cooper Kupp broke 100 yards and Robert Woods took a two yard catch for a touchdown. Those two really stepped up as the Bills locked down the middle of the field.
The Bad – Going down 28-3 is never good. It’s hard to climb out of that let alone against a good football team. The Rams looked sluggish for the first 35 minutes of the game. That can’t happen moving forward.
The Ugly – Between missed tackles, five allowed touchdowns, and no pass rush, the Rams defense did not look good. Even a slightly better effort from that group results in a win. Staley is still just in his third game, but he needs to have that group ready to play from down one in the first quarter. Not down one in the third quarter.
Every week, I will answer mailbag questions. Be sure to send your questions to @bgrisakDTR on Twitter. Our lone question comes from
What’s the thoughts on Raymond Calais taking over at k/r and p/r moving forward or was he active because of Akers ?
— SunocoSideThomas (@team4Gutta) September 28, 2020
Calais was active because of the Akers injury, but it will be interesting to see how the Rams approach this moving foward. He was a late signing, so he may have been getting up to speed as well. It would be nice to see him returning both kicks and punts though.
I’ve somewhat already done this, but next week the Rams return home to play the New York Giants. The Rams will have a great chance to go 3-0 against the NFC East. The Giants are 0-3 and haven’t looked very good. They’re without Saquon Barkley which is obviously a huge hit. The Rams obviously can’t look past the Giants, but it’ll be a great chance to regroup and get back and track.
The Pick: Rams 44, Giants 16