The Los Angeles Rams lost their second game of the season on Sunday Night Football to the Tennessee Titans. It wasn’t a good performance by any means and there will be a lot for this team to fix. With that said, here are this week’s 10 takeaways.
1. Matthew Stafford Wasn’t Good Enough
I’ll be the first to praise him when he does well, but to do that, I also need to be the first to criticize after a poor performance. There were times over the last two seasons that the Los Angeles Rams simply lost games because of Jared Goff. Last year’s games against the Dolphins, 49ers, Jets, and Seahawks come to mind. Matthew Stafford was a very big reason that the Rams lost on Sunday Night.
At the end of the day, the quarterback needs to put the offense in the best position to succeed. On Sunday Night, Stafford essentially spotted the Titans 14 points. It was by far his worst performance as a Ram and it put the team in a hole that they couldn’t climb out of.
Stafford threw two interceptions in the span of 26 seconds. Both of those resulted in 14 Titans points. The Rams have fallen into big deficits twice this season. In those games, Stafford is a combined 20-37 for 207 yards in the opening half. That’s not going to beat the good teams.
2. Titans Had a Better Gameplan
It’s very possible that Rams fans simply underestimated the Titans. There’s a reason that team beat the Seahawks on the road, came back against the Buffalo Bills, and blew out the Kansas City Chiefs. Even without Derrick Henry, they are a well-coached football team.
On Sunday night, they simply had the better gameplan and executed that gameplan to near perfection. The pass rushing stunts confused the Rams offensive line and on the back end, the Titans took away the crossers that the Rams typically revolve their offense around. Because of that, Stafford took some coverage sacks and the interior of the offensive line got beat consistently.
3. Rams Got Dominated in the Trenches
Matthew Stafford was his 11 times and took five sacks. The Los Angeles Rams quarterback had been sacked seven times all season. To put it simply, 42% of Stafford’s sacks this season came on Sunday night. He was under fire all evening, particularly by Jeffery Simmons who had three sacks.
It’s tough to get much going offensively when the quarterback is constantly under pressure. Some of those were on Stafford, but the interior of the offensive line in Brian Allen, Austin Corbett, and David Edwards did him no favors. It’s nights like last night that make it even more puzzling that the Rams took a 150-lb wide receiver who’s currently on injured reserve over Creed Humphrey.
4. Too Many Mental Mistakes
The Los Angeles Rams made way too many mental mistakes on Sunday night. The Rams had 11 penalties for 115 yards. Tyler Higbee stepped out of bounds on his touchdown catch that would have put the Rams back in the game. Matthew Stafford misread and got baited into his second interception. These are simply mistakes that you can’t make against good teams.
The Rams are talented enough to overcome those mistakes against a team like the Detroit Lions. The Titans are too good to go down 21-3 while constantly shooting yourself in the foot. On the 4th-and-goal from the one, every player but Aaron Donald bit on the play fake. The Rams need to be more disciplined and that starts with coaching.
5. Sean McVay Needs To Adjust Faster
There are some who are upset with McVay’s run game tendencies. The fact of the matter is, after the Rams went down 14-3, McVay came out with back-to-back running plays. Early in the game, Henderson bounced a run outside for five yards. That play got called back due to a hold on Jefferson. That turned a 2nd-and-5 into a 1st-and-15. The Rams punted. You’re not going to win in the NFL if you continue to run on first and second down trailing 21-3.
Some had issues with McVay sticking in empty for too long. However, Matthew Stafford has been one of the best quarterbacks from an empty set all set. Some have issues with the Rams running 100% of their snaps from 11 personnel. However, the Rams are a heavy 11 personnel team and lost their blocking tight end for the season. It’l likely that Woods, Kupp, and Jefferson are better blockers than Kendall Blanton and Jacob Harris.
Still, the Los Angeles Rams offense had a different feel in the second half when they finally started moving the ball. McVay got Stafford out of the pocket and forced the Titans defensive line to move side to side instead of simply up the field. That adjustment needs to come in the second quarter instead of the second half.
6. Defense Did Enough To Win
The Rams defense played an outstanding game and well enough to win. It’s a shame they weren’t rewarded for their performance. The Titans offense was held to under 200 total yards of offense. The Titans scored 28 points, but had one legitimate scoring drive. Stafford handed the Titans 14 points and then late in the game, they had a drive that aided due to poor officiating.
If the Rams defense can play like they did on Sunday night, this team will win a lot of football games in the second half of the season. Jalen Ramsey played like the best cornerback in the league. Dont’e Deayon continues to make plays off the practice squad. While the defense has given up yards in the past, they were pretty lock down against the Titans.
7. Rams Need To Figure Out Their Identity
The Los Angeles Rams need to figure out who they are. Right now, they are a team that has beat up on a lot of bad/average teams and lost two of their three games against good teams. Yes, they beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 3. However, they have gotten blown out twice now against the Arizona Cardinals and Tennessee Titans.
This is a team that needs to figure out who they are and quickly. The second-half schedule will do them no favors with matchups against Green Bay, Arizona, and Baltimore looming. At the very least, the Rams need to win two of those three games.
Right now, the Rams are 7-2, but they have some issues on offense that they need to figure out with the Week 10 bye looming.
8. NFL Officiating Needs to Be Better
No, the Rams didn’t lose because of the officiating. However, the Rams had 12 penalties to the Titans’ four. Tennessee didn’t have their first penalty until the 10:31 mark of the third quarter. Additionally, the Rams are the least penalized team in the NFL, averaging 3.9 penalties per game. They had three times that number on Sunday night.
It doesn’t stop there.
Tyler Higbee’s foot may have been out.
Ok yeah he's extremely out pic.twitter.com/8yP7BuyOof
— Computer Cowboy (@benbbaldwin) November 8, 2021
However, some angles showed his foot in, like the first two, while the last one shows that his foot was maybe out. When the review process takes as long as it did there, there’s an issue and the call should probably stand.
No place for this type of brutality in our game. Hard to believe Ryan Tannehill is still in the game after this one. pic.twitter.com/yCziqkVvro
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) November 8, 2021
This call on Aaron Donald took place on third down. The Titans ended up scoring a touchdown when the drive should have been stopped at midfield. Donald is not late, he does not hit Tannehill in the head or neck area. This simply is not roughing the passer.
While the Rams didn’t lose because of the officiating, they were not given a chance to get back in the game because of it.
9. The Rams Didn’t Quit
While the Los Angeles Rams weren’t in the game after the second quarter, they never quit. It would have been easy for them to go belly-up and say everything is not going our way tonight. Instead, this was a team that kept fighting. Additionally, they know the mistakes they made and where they need to get better. Those will get fixed.
There are games like 2019 against Baltimore where it felt like the team stopped trying. That was not the case against the Titans. The Rams kept driving and while they scored their only touchdown with 24 seconds remaining, it shows the spirit they had to keep fighting. There are no such thing as moral victories. The Rams are too good of a team to have moral victories. However, this is the type of team that you want representing the city.
10. The Los Angeles Rams Are Fine
At the end of the day, the Los Angeles Rams are fine. A loss against an AFC opponent is not the end of the world. Matthew Stafford was playing at a MVP level through eight weeks. Until this becomes the norm against Green Bay, Arizona, and Baltimore in the second half of the season, for now, it’s the exception.
In 1999, the St. Louis Rams trailed the Titans 21-0 at halftime in an eventual loss. That team almost completed a comeback. This team trailed 21-3 at halftime and a few plays here and there and they would have gotten close as well.
The Rams are 7-2 and every single fan would have taken 7-2 to start the year. Several analysts had 6-3 or even 5-4 for the Rams at this point in the season. They’ll need to bounce back next week against the 49ers, but if they take care of business, this team should be 8-2 heading into the bye week.