The Los Angeles Rams lost their first game of the 2021 season, 37-20, to the Arizona Cardinals. It was a forgettable performance to say the least. Let’s quickly get through these 10 takeaways.
1. Sean McVay Made Some Puzzling Decisions
Sean McVay was out-coached on Sunday. The Rams played a great first quarter and then Kliff Klingsbury went into attack mode. The Cardinals scored touchdown after touchdown. After the Sony Michel fumble, McVay never seemed to be able to get a grasp on the game.
It started in the second quarter. Darrell Henderson rushed for over 50 yards in the first quarter alone. On the first play of the third drive, McVay calls a handoff to Michel who fumbles the ball and turns it over.
Trailing 21-10 right before the half, the Los Angeles Rams had fourth down at the four yard line. McVay opted to kick a field goal. Later in the game, trailing by 14, McVay opted to kick a field goal on 4th-and-4 from the 27 yard line and Matt Gay missed. Down by 21 late in the game, Stafford appeared to cross the goal line. The referees rule him short and McVay opted not to challenge it.
The fourth down decisions are puzzling. The first one is not as egregious because it makes it a one-score game. However, the Cardinals just marched down the field and answered with a field goal before the half. The other decisions though don’t make a lot of sense. What good does a field goal do down by 14 while the Cardinals are scoring touchdowns at will? What do you have to lose by challenging a potential touchdown when you’re down by 21?
2. Matthew Stafford Has a Letdown Game
Matthew Stafford was off on Sunday. He took an ill-advised risk by throwing an interception deep to DeSean Jackson that gave the Cardinals momentum that they never relinquished. Instead of being up 10-0 or 6-0 an in control, the Cardinals got the ball and scored a touchdown.
Stafford wasn’t as sharp as he has been in the first three weeks. Still, he had a passer rating of 89.5. When Jared Goff had a passer rating of 89.5 or better, the Rams were 32-3. Stafford had a QBR of 50.2. When Goff had a QBR of 50.2 or better, the Rams were 31-6.
Stafford played more to the level of Goff on Sunday and it cost the Rams. Still, it should have been enough. The defense allowing over 200 yards on the ground and touchdowns at will didn’t help the offense in the slightest.
3. Where is Robert Woods?
Robert Woods has been non-existent in the Los Angeles Rams offense over the first four weeks. At this point it is both worrisome and surprising. Woods did have a crucial third-down grab on the touchdown drive, but he had just four receptions for 48 yards. He’s gone over 50 yards just once this season.
Either Woods has lost a step or he simply doesn’t have rapport with Stafford. Either way, for the offense to hit it’s full potential, Woods needs to get involved and make plays. What makes the Rams offense so lethal is that it’s not just Cooper Kupp who can beat you. You have to account for Woods as well. Right now, it is just Cooper Kupp.
4. Darrell Henderson Ran Well and Could’ve Had a Career Day
Sunday will be a “what could have been” game for Darrell Henderson. He had over 50 yards in the first quarter and finished with 14 carries for 89 yards. Had the game been close, it’s hard to see how he doesn’t go for over 150 yards on the ground and potentially finds the end zone once or twice.
Had you not known that Henderson was coming off of an injury, you would not have been able to tell. Henderson ran strong and picked up big chunk after big chunk. If Sunday showed anything, it’s that Henderson can play a big role in the offense when given the opportunity.
5. Rough Day For the Defense
The Los Angeles Rams defense had a rough day to say the least. After forcing a three-and-out on the opening drive, the Cardinals scored touchdowns on three straight possessions. If the Rams are able to get even a field goal or two on those drives, it’s a much different game.
Still, James Connor and Chase Edmonds combined for 170 rushing yards. Three Cardinals receivers had more than 50 yards. It was a very uncharacteristic performance. The Rams defense allowed 24 points one time this season, and it happened in garbage time last week. They allowed that in the first half against the Cardinals.
On two of the three touchdown drives in the first half, the Rams had 3rd-and-6 and 3rd-and-16. Get stops on those two plays, it’s a different ball game. Sunday felt like an anomaly. They’ll have to be much better moving forward.
6. Los Angeles Rams Missed Justin Hollins
It’s amazing how much the Rams missed Justin Hollins. Terrell Lewis and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo had big shoes to fill and there was clearly a gap. Kyler Murray escaped left a few times and broke contain. The Cardinals attacked that left side and had success. It might not have changed the result, but the Rams missed Hollins’ effect on the defense.
The Rams are without Hollins for the next 8-10 weeks. They’ll need a lot more from Lewis and Okoronkwo in the meantime. It’s one game against a very good opponent, but they need more out of those two players. Next man up!
7. David Long Disappoints
The Los Angeles Rams let Troy Hill go in the offseason to Cleveland. However, Long has been a disappointment outside of one play on the opening possession against the Bears on a ball that was tipped by Justin Hollins. He allowed a big play to AJ Green that went for a touchdown and got beat several times by DeAndre Hopkins and Green.
It seems like David Long’s time with the Rams is up. It’s unlikely that they bring him back after the year. After drafting Robert Rochell, it might be time to play him and get him some reps. Rochell came into the league with really good ball skills and had a key pass breakup against the Bears in Week 1.
8. Too Many Mistakes To Overcome
Against some teams, the Rams might have been able to overcome their mistakes on Sunday. However, it was just one thing after another after the Stafford interception. Most teams might not march 90-yards down the field on an interception that acted as a punt. Most teams might not go 3-for-5 in the red zone and score three first half touchdowns. It’s likely that most teams don’t have a quarterback that can convert a 3rd-and-16 with his legs.
The Rams traded field goals for touchdowns and simply made too many errors against ta good Cardinals team. They’ll need to show that they can respond on Thursday against the Seahawks.
9. This Loss is on Everybody
If you hadn’t gotten the point up to this point, this loss is on everybody. Sean McVay didn’t coach well. Matthew Stafford didn’t play well. Cooper Kupp had uncharacteristic drops. The defense allowed 24 first half points which tied their most allowed in a game this season.
At the end of the day, fans can point fingers. Some games that might be the case. However, after a 37-20 loss that should have been 37-13, it’s on more than just one player or unit.
10. The Cardinals are a Good Team
Also, if you didn’t know it before yesterday, the Arizona Cardinals are a good football team. It’s possible that they are the best in the league through four weeks. This isn’t your same old Cardinals that are a lock to finish third or fourth in the NFC West. Kyler Murray is playing at a MVP level. The defense is young, but they make plays.
The NFC West is going to be a dogfight. The Los Angeles Rams start the division race 0-1, but a win on Thursday against the Seahawks will get the Rams back on track and in the right direction.