Los Angeles Rams: 10 Takeaways From 24-16 Depressing Loss vs. San Francisco 49ers

by Jake Ellenbogen
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The Los Angeles Rams had the tall task of traveling back to the east coast for the third time in four weeks and they certainly were up for the challenge. The Rams capped off their fourth win with a lot of positives to take away. As always, I give you my 10 takeaways from Sunday’s game.

1. The Rams weren’t themselves in this one and did not deserve to win this game

It seemed like no matter how this game went it wasn’t going the Rams way. Where to start? Jared Goff had his worst game of the year with time in the pocket and just flat-out missed open wide receivers. The running back group was carried by Darrell Henderson who had great success on the ground but wasn’t given the rock more than 14 times. Cooper Kupp struggled with two uncharacteristic drops in key situations that he ultimately catches the majority of the time. The defensive front seven got no pressure on Jimmy Garoppolo which included star defensive lineman Aaron Donald who was shut down the whole game. Not to mention the Rams allowed the 49ers to be on the field much longer than them and control the clock. It wasn’t your stereotypical Rams game, they weren’t themselves and despite having a chance to potentially tie the game at the end with just one more stop on third-down, the scoreboard didn’t indicate how bad they truly looked.

2. Brandon Staley’s defense generated zero pressure on Jimmy Garoppolo which begs the question. Do the Rams need to look outside this organization for a legit pass rusher off the edge?

According to our friend Sosa Kremenjas over at Pro Football Focus, he confirmed the Rams outside pass rush generated zero pressures on the night and was stymied all game long. That means no one did much of anything. This is a concern, it’s been a concern for a while now but the Rams hid it by winning big or just bailing out the pass rush with an Aaron Donald splash play, great play by the secondary or just a great offensive explosion. Well, now that the Rams lost, it sure stands out a lot more. This begs the question, do the Rams need to look outside this organization for a legit pass rusher off the edge? My answer? Yes. They do. You drafted Terrell Lewis in the third round who played in his second game, you drafted Samson Ebukam in 2017, you picked up Jachai Polite who was drafted on day two of the 2019 draft, you picked up Justin Hollins off of waivers and you signed Leonard Floyd to a big-money one-year deal. What I’ve seen is upside and potential out of Polite, Lewis and Hollins as Ogbonnia Okoronkwo is injured at the moment. Now, for the others? I’ve seen liabilities, Ebukam has been a huge one to this point and Floyd while fantastic against the run, he has very little consistency has a pass rusher.

Who should the Rams look to add to the organization if they need pass-rushing help? Here’s a list.

  1. Ryan Kerrigan, Washington Football Team – familiarity with Rams LB coach Joe Barry, Washington’s season in jeopardy and Kerrigan is behind Chase Young and Montez Sweat in snaps thus far
  2. Jaylon Ferguson, Baltimore Ravens – former 2019 3rd-round pick that is getting out-snapped by Matt Judon, Pernell McPhee, Tyus Bowser and Jihad Ward
  3. Dawuane Smoot, Jacksonville Jaguars – former 2017 3rd-round pick that is having a very solid year so far but the Jaguars at 1-5 could look to move some players and pile on picks
  4. Ryan Anderson, Washington Football Team – former 2017 2nd-round pick that is getting out-snapped by Chase Young, Ryan Kerrigan, Montez Sweat and again Washington’s season is in jeopardy
  5. Cameron Wake, Free Agent – veteran pass rusher that is free to sign, generated 31 pressures last year and three sacks
  6. Vic Beasley Jr., Tennessee Titans – former 2015 1st-round pick that is getting out-snapped by Harold Landry, Jadeveon Clowney and Jack Crawford
  7. Trent Murphy, Buffalo Bills – familiarity with LB coach Barry, veteran pass rusher that is getting out-snapped by Jerry Hughes, Mario Addison and the Bills likely want to start giving 2nd-round rookie AJ Epenesa his snaps moving forward
  8. Takkarist McKinley, Atlanta Falcons – former 2017 1st-round pick that is getting out-snapped by Dante Fowler, Steven Means, Charles Harris and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, could use a fresh change of scenery
  9. Dorance Armstrong, Dallas Cowboys – former 2018 4th-round pick that is getting out-snapped by DeMarcus Lawrence, Aldon Smith and Everson Griffen
  10. Jacob Martin, Houston Texans – former 2018 6th-round pick that is getting out-snapped by JJ Watt, Whitney Mercilus and Brennan Scarlett, at 1-5 they could be looking to deal some players
  11. Derek Rivers, New England Patriots – former 2017 3rd-round pick that is getting out-snapped by Chase Winovich, John Simon, Shalique Calhoun

Personally, going into writing this list I expected Ryan Kerrigan to be the best and perfect fit as well as Cameron Wake. However, if the Rams could work their magic and make a trade like the one they made for Dante Fowler by acquiring a player with talent, upside, and a former high pick, that might be where I go. If it was up to me, I would highly consider going after Dawuane Smoot of the Jacksonville Jaguars and taking advantage of that Jaguars trade connection the Rams have had to this point with Jalen Ramsey and Dante Fowler. I would also love to add Jaylon Ferguson who is someone the Rams showed a ton of interest in throughout the pre-draft process and someone I was very high on in the draft.

3. Sean McVay was outcoached AGAIN by Kyle Shanahan.

When Kyle Shanahan has had Jimmy Garoppolo healthy enough to play he is 4-0 against Sean McVay’s Rams. Sunday Night Football was just no different this time around as Shanahan worked around his quarterback’s high ankle sprain and made things very easy on him. The whole game it was dinks and dunks, quick slants, screens and end-around’s which is pretty much what the Rams normally do. This absolutely destroyed the Rams early on as the 49ers went up 21-6. Shanahan’s team just was one step ahead of McVay’s seemingly all game long. The Niners controlled the clock and had the ball 15 more minutes than the Rams which really put them in a bad spot. McVay blew two timeouts in the third-quarter which ultimately hurt the Rams chances of coming back in the fourth. The biggest thing about this battle? Shanahan game-planned around shutting down Aaron Donald and it worked completely. After Donald blew up the game and took it over last week, this week he had no answer and was unable to impact this game much at all. Score four for Shanahan and zero for McVay. These two will meet later in the year in a game that could very well have playoff implications. Eventually, one would imagine McVay has to beat Shanahan head-to-head soon.

4. Jared Goff and Cooper Kupp held the offense back.

Two drops. Two huge drops from Cooper Kupp were the difference between likely a win and a loss. The uncharacteristic end zone drop from Kupp though was the biggest thing. Despite Goff making two throws and not completing them because of Kupp’s struggles, you can’t let him off the hook after he had a rather pedestrian outing last night despite having the running game established and the protection to boot. He did try to rally his team back and the touchdown to Josh Reynolds was a good look but ultimately not winning the football game was a black eye on a pretty poor performance.

5. Darrell Henderson should get 20-plus touches a game, he truly might be the Rams best offensive player this year.

Darrell Henderson is third in the league in PFF overall grade for a running back. He’s had a very good season and had another great game against the 49ers. It started off as a game that looked like Fred Warner would single-handedly stifle the run but Henderson kept pounding and banging his way for first-downs. Henderson finished with 14 carries that went for 88 yards in an 8-point loss. Why they only gave the ball to Henderson 14 times is beyond me and quite honestly is getting old. We know Henderson is legit, he’s proven that but the play-calling and game management wasn’t last night and likely cost the Rams the game. Henderson scored a touchdown but it was called back because of a holding penalty and then the Rams decided to run a toss play for some reason even though Henderson had his way running in between the tackles. What’s even worse is that at the goal line the Rams bailed on running with Henderson and decided to pass which led to an interception.

6. The crazy travel schedule for the Rams might have had something to do with how off the Rams seemed all night.

The Rams have had to go from Los Angeles, CA to Philadelphia, PA to Los Angeles, CA to Buffalo, NY to Los Angeles, CA to Landover, MD to Los Angeles, CA to San Francisco, CA. I get it, that had to have been nuts for this team and the traveling definitely could have played a role in the Rams not entirely showing up against their rival on Sunday Night Football. It’s one thing when players who aren’t consistent show inconsistency but it’s another when players you can normally count on 95% of the time are complete liabilities in their roles. That’s what happened in this one and that leads me to believe some of it or a lot of it had to do with their travel schedule that has forced this team to get used to playing all over the place and adapting to the time zone changes.

7. Sam Sloman needs to go. He’s not only the worst starter on the Rams right now but he might be the worst in the history of this franchise.

Sam Sloman wasn’t my first choice (that was Lirim Hajrullahu) or second choice (that was Austin MacGinnis) but he made the Rams and the coaches always know best right? Well, about that. Sloman has missed three extra points and two field goals. His season-long is a 42-yard field goal and his missed extra points make it that much harder for the Rams if they have to come back due to the fact they then need a two-point conversion to tie the game up. Sloman’s missed field goal in Buffalo loomed large as the team lost the game by three to the Bills and in this one, it didn’t end up being a huge issue because the Rams didn’t get the ball back to tie it up but if they did, Sloman’s missed extra point would have forced them to go for two.

So far in 2020 through six weeks Sloman ranked 23rd in field goal percentage, 30th in extra point percentage, 31st in season-long field goal, and 22nd in points scored. The Rams spent a seventh-round pick on this guy while Rodrigo Blankenship, the undrafted rookie free agent out of Georgia is first in the league in points scored for the Indianapolis Colts. Oh, what could have been…

8. Unlike last week where this team could have won by a lot more. This week the story was that the Rams could have lost by a lot more.

I’m truly shocked the Rams only gave up 24 points in this game and maybe that’s a credit to the way the defense battled and kept themselves in this one or maybe it’s due to the lack of explosion in this 49ers team. While the Niners did go for 390 yards, 24 first downs and dominated the game, this team left plenty of points on the board. It looked as if Raheem Mostert was going to hit 200 yards of total offense in this game but the Rams held him to just 3.8 yards per carry until he was sidelined with an injury. This defense looked like they were going to get destroyed all night and while the linebackers appeared to be a total weakness, they only gave up 122 yards on 37 carries which means they held the Niners to just 3.3 yards per carry on the ground.

This defense at the end of the day looked soft in the first half giving up 21 points but in the second half they only gave up 3 points and really held the Niners in check. I still think it was silly to not play Troy Reeder at all after last week’s performance, I do think Kenny Young looked like a sheer liability, I do think that while Micah Kiser is solid, he’s ultimately an average starter with a little flash here and there and I do think as mentioned above, the Rams pass rush is an issue that makes everyone’s job a lot harder on the defensive side of the ball.

9. I hate these uniforms. Get rid of them. The Rams are legitimately 0-2 in them and 4-0 in anything else.

The Rams lost both games to the Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers with these uniforms on. I don’t think they look terrible but I do feel like they don’t play as well in them. Sorry, get rid of them and bring on the yellow pants.

10. The Rams have gone from Top 5 team that should be considered a Super Bowl contender to having every win they’ve accumulated questioned. Are the Rams more than a team that bullies the worst of the worst? (4-0 in the NFC East; 0-2 vs. everyone else)

It’s a great question to ask at this point. It may seem unfair but it’s absolutely fair, it doesn’t matter if you start out well, if you can only beat the bad teams but can’t beat the good ones especially when one of them is a team with 18 players on their injured reserve list, I don’t know what to say. I do think with that being said this was an anomaly type of game. I want to point out that this defense has not looked like the same hardnose attacking defense when Jordan Fuller doesn’t play. I also want to point out that this team only lost by 8 despite only getting two total pressures on the quarterback, having a struggling offense that couldn’t stay on the field and not generating a turnover. The Rams may have to prove themselves this upcoming week when they take on the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football but I do think they are up for that challenge and I do think that ultimately, this Rams team is one of the best in the NFC and if this was them being “exposed” this was far from that and more about them playing a desperate team that also happened to be their division rival. The thing I’m worried the most about is long term. Can Sean McVay beat Kyle Shanahan?

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