MMR: Los Angeles Rams Need To Find Identity After Titans Loss

by Blaine Grisak
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The Los Angeles Rams have lost two games season by a combined 29 points. Their average losing margin of 14.5 points is the seventh highest in the NFL. After a second loss that wasn’t ever really close, the Rams have some tough questions that they need to ask themselves. The first being, “Who are they?”

Through eight weeks the Rams have been a team that has beaten up on bad to average teams. The Chicago Bears rank 26th in overall team DVOA. Despite making the postseason last year, the Bears are a mess. The Colts currently rank 10th in DVOA, but sit at 4-5 without an impressive win to their name.

Three of the other Rams wins are against the New York Giants, Houston Texans, and Detroit Lions. All three teams are without a doubt three of the bottom-10 teams in the NFL.

Yes, the Rams beat the Seattle Seahawks, but the final quarter and a half of that game was with Russell Wilson. Similar to the Titans game, the offense also scored just three first half points. The difference was that the Rams didn’t have the costly turnovers.

Through eight weeks, the Rams have one impressive win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Even in that win, it was the first time in Tom Brady’s career that he lost after throwing 400 yards and no interceptions.

‘The Rams have played three games this season against teams with a winning record. As it stands, they are 1-2 in those games. It’s not even that the Rams have lost those games. It’s how they’ve lost. Against the Cardinals, they looked lost on defense, allowing 200 yards on the ground. On Sunday Night against the Titans, Stafford’s two interceptions were only the beginning of the problems on offense.

Right now, the Rams need to decide who they are. Are they contenders or pretenders? Is this a team that beats up on the league’s bad and average or are they a team that can compete and win against the league’s best?

Not that the Vegas odds ever truly mean anything, but the Rams were 7.5 point favorites against the Tennessee Titans. They lost by 12 at home to a team that was without their best player.

The Rams need to figure this out quick, because the schedule doesn’t get any easier. On Monday Night Football, the Rams will play the San Francisco 49ers. It’s a team that they’ve lost four straight games against. After the bye is when it really gets challenging.

Coming out of the bye, the Rams will play the Green Bay Packers who have just one loss in Week 1 with Aaron Rodgers under center. Two weeks later, they’ll get a rematch against the Cardinals from earlier this season. That game against the Cardinals begins a brutal stretch to end the season.

The Rams will play the Cardinals in Week 14, then host Seattle before traveling to Minnesota and Baltimore in back-to-back weeks. Finally, they’ll end the season against the 49ers at SoFi.

Do the Rams want the number one seed and a first round bye or are they content with the five seed, a wild card, and likely not having a home playoff game?

Are the Rams a team that’s going to be able to beat Green Bay and Arizona or will they lose to them in the same fashion that they have other elite teams through the first nine weeks?

“We’ve got to play cleaner football,” said Sean Mcvay. “I didn’t do a good enough job for this team. I’m looking forward to seeing what we learn from our response.”

The Rams need to figure out who they are and fast. If they don’t, they can kiss any chance of the NFC West and top seed in the NFC goodbye.

Three Word Game Review: Very Disappointing Performance

The Los Angeles Rams had won four in a row since losing to the Arizona Cardinals. However, three of those wins were against the Detroit Lions, New York Giants, and Houston Texans. With that said, the offense felt like it was gaining chemistry in those games.

Fast forward to Sunday night and the offense was stagnant, off the mark, and simply having an off-night. The Rams traded for Matthew Stafford because Jared Goff was losing games. The Rams were winning game in spite of Goff, not because of him. Stafford and McVay’s offense was a big reason for Sunday Night’s loss.

The Turning Point: Matthew Stafford’s Pick Six

Matthew Stafford threw one interception that led to a Titans touchdown. One was fine. On the very first play of the next drive, he got baited into another that went directly for six points. The Rams went from leading 3-0 to trailing 14-3 in a matter of 26 seconds.

The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue has talked about Stafford’s performance after critical errors. According to Rodrigue, from 2011 to 2020, out of all quarterbacks who threw at least 50 interceptions, they found that no quarterback performed better than Stafford on passing plays after an interception.

That was not the case on Sunday as Stafford threw two interceptions back-to-back. The Rams asa  team will look to bounce back next week and not turn one loss into two.

Three Down

1. Brian Allen

Brian Allen had his worst game of the season after performing admirably through the first eight weeks. Pro Football Focus credited him with two sacks and four pressures with a pass blocking grade of 38.4 which ranked inside the bottom-15 among all offensive linemen in Week 9.

2. Darious Williams

Darious Williams had his first game back on Sunday. He allowed three receptions on three targets and had a missed tackle on Julio Jones that led directly to a fourth down conversion. Williams played well last season, but he hasn’t been the same in 2021. He has yet to record an interception and is allowing a passer rating of 87.9 which is 24 points higher than last season.

3. Matthew Stafford

After playing at a historical level through eight weeks, a regression down to the mean was likely going to happen at some point. After losses to Arizona and now Tennessee, the old narratives will start creeping back in. Can Stafford win the big one, etc.?

Stafford needs to play better, but he wouldn’t be the first MVP to lay an egg at some point during the season. Still, he must be better. In the first half of losses this season, Stafford is 20-37 with one touchdown to three interceptions. That’s not good enough.

Five Overreactions

1. Matthew Stafford has hit his ceiling

Stafford has been very good through eight weeks. At this point, that is the norm. Now, if he puts together a string of these types of performances against San Francisco, Green Bay, Arizona, and Baltimore? At that point it’s time to get worried. Still, if Tyler Higbee’s left foot is in bounds, I’m not 100% sure the Rams don’t come back.

2. Sean McVay has lost his touch

In the two losses this season, the gameplan seemed to get away from McVay after things snowball and turn into avalanche. That was the case again against the Titans. The Rams coach failed to adjust soon enough and by the time he did, it was too late. The Rams ran 11 personnel 100% of the time. That’s fine given the personnel on offense. However, it’s getting stubborn with plan a and not moving quick enough to plan b that’s concerning.

3. Rams went all-in too soon

The national media is obsesses with draft picks. That’s why when the Los Angeles Rams start losing on national television, Les Snead’s strategy of trading draft picks usually gets called into question. Von Miller wouldn’t have helped much on Sunday night. However, the Rams are still 7-2 and one of the top-5 teams in the NFL. They have every reason to be all-in.

4. Rams can’t beat good teams

The Tennessee Titans are one of the most overlooked teams in the NFL despite having wins over the Bills and Chiefs. Still, the Rams absolutely could have won that game. The Rams also lost by double digits to the Cardinals – a team with one loss this season. The Rams till can hang their hat on a big win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Let’s focus on the games that matter in December and January.

What needs to be remembered is that in both losses, things went sideways fast. If the Rams can remain composed in these moments later in the year, maybe they get different results.

5. Jared Goff wins that game

After beating the Detroit Lions, you would think the Stafford-Goff comparison’s would be over. Not the case. We saw Goff struggle in the same situations that Stafford struggled in on Sunday, but to a worse extent. The Titans were bringing pressure up the middle and throwing in disguises which always caused Goff problems. The Rams lost. Matthew Stafford was the quarterback. Let’s leave it at that.

Five Takeaways

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Defense Did Enough To Win

The Los Angeles 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.

4. 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.

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.

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.

5. 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.

Looking Ahead

The Los Angeles Rams will play the San Francisco 49ers next week. The 49ers are 3-5 and have lost four of their last five games after starting 2-0. Kyle Shanahan is on the hot seat and the offense looks like a discombobulated mess. The defense is also giving up big plays to a Colt McCoy led Cardinals offense.

The roster construction just doesn’t add up and make sense and the result is a below average football team. The 49ers have lost eight straight at home, the second-longest streak in franchise history. Their last win at home came last season against the Rams.

There is reason to be concern. Division games on the road are never easy. With that said, the Rams will be looking to bounce back after losing to the Titans and are the much better football team. If they take care of  business, thee Rams should win on Monday Night Football.

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