The Los Angeles Rams suffered a heart breaking loss at home to the San Francisco 49ers. They lost 27-24 in overtime after being up 17-0 in the second quarter. Here are five takeaways from the game as the Rams now turn their focus onto the NFL playoffs.
1. The Los Angeles Rams Lost The Physicality Battle
In the first half, the Los Angeles Rams were looking to beat San Francisco at their own game. They wanted to physically impose their will on the 49ers. The Rams were playing tough defense and grinding out long drives on offense. After going up 17-0, the plan seemed to be working.
However, the Rams could not maintain that style of play throughout the whole game. In the second half, this game turned into much of what we have seen in the past. San Francisco physically dominated the Rams at the line of scrimmage, and owned time of possession.
The Rams gave up 135 yards on the ground. 125 of those yards came in the second half. Elijah Mitchell recorded 21 carries for 85 yards and Deebo Samuel sprinkled in 8 carries for 45 yards and a score. It set up a clean pocket for Jimmy Garoppolo for most of the game.
On offense, the front five were completely dominated in the second half. Stafford was sacked five times, and stepped out of many others. There were zero running lanes for Sony Michel and Cam Akers. With the combination of sacks and tackles for loss, Stafford and the Rams were faced with third and long very often.
They were able to overcome some of those situations due to some magnificent throws by Stafford, but that style of play simply won’t win games in the playoffs. If Los Angeles wants to go on a run, they’re gonna have to toughen up and physically dominate teams.
2. Stafford Played Well Enough To Win
In the first half, Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford had one of the best halves of his career. He started off the game hot, going 11/11. He then went 15/16, for 153 yards and two touchdown passes to close out the half. At one point, he had more touchdown passes than incompletions.
After Sony Michel carried the ball 10 times for only two yards, it was clear that Stafford put the Rams on his back on the way to a 17-0 lead. Where the naysayers come in, will be the two interceptions. The first came on a 3rd–and-7 in the third quarter on a deep shot intended for Ben Skowronek.
With no one else open, Stafford tried to make a play for his team. This flipped the field, essentially making this a punt. How did Stafford respond to this? A beautiful potential game winning drive in the 4th quarter, ending with an excellent touchdown dime to Cooper Kupp.
Stafford’s only bad throw of the game, came on the deep shot in overtime intended for Beckham. The ball was slightly underthrown, allowing the the defensive back to make a play on the football. The media will blame this loss on Stafford, when in actuality the Rams blew the lead with bad tackling on defense.
3. Questionable Play Calling In Crucial Moments
Far too often, it seems like Sean McVay and the Los Angeles Rams are simply playing not to lose. Facing a lot of criticism for his conservative play calling in some crucial moments, Sean McVay continued that trend on Sunday. In the first half up 17-0, the Rams faced a 3rd-and-1 with 45 seconds to go on the game clock.
Instead of opting for a run or play action pass, the Rams went empty set with only a five man protection. This led to a sack, a punt, and a drive that resulted in three points for San Francisco.
Late in the 4th quarter, Los Angeles put together a beautiful scoring drive, finishing with a touchdown to Cooper Kupp. After getting a stop on defense, the offense only needed a first down to put the game away. After only averaging two yards per carry the entire day, McVay opted for three straight running plays. These runs netted a gain of one yard, punting the ball back to the 49ers on 4th-and-9.
These type of calls won’t cut it in the playoffs.
4. Rams Need More From the Offensive Line, and Running Game.
In the last five weeks, the Los Angeles Rams have done a very good job of pounding the football. Sunday, that was not the case. The Rams ran the ball a total of 27 times, only netting 64 yards. The offensive line got physically abused in the run game.
This put the entire game on the shoulders of Matthew Stafford, against a very tough defense. That was not a good way to go into the playoffs. The Rams need to be able to grind out yards on the ground, and keep third downs manageable for the offense. With Michel playing so well in the second half of the season, he should continue to get a bulk of the carries. However, with Cam Akers becoming healthier and getting more comfortable, the Rams will look to him for a spark as well.
5. Despite the Tough Loss, All is Not Lost for the Los Angeles Rams.
The fact of the matter is that the 49ers have the formula to beat the Los Angeles Rams. They have done so for three consecutive years now, dominating this matchup. The NFC West in about matchups. The Rams swept the Seahawks, the 49ers swept the Rams, and the Seahawks swept the 49ers.
Despite that, there is still hope for this Rams team in the 2022 playoffs. In the first half, Matthew Stafford played his best ball in three weeks. He started the game off a hot 11 for 11, making some beautiful throws all game long that gave the Rams a chance to win.
Cooper Kupp is still in the midst of a historic season, finishing just 18 yards shy of the single season record. Cam Akers just got his feet wet this week, but he looks to be a major contributor in the pos season. On defense, the Rams did show flashes of being an extremely physical group. Was this an extremely tough loss? Yes. Do the Rams still have the makings of a team who can make a Super Bowl run? Yes.
The Los Angeles Rams will have just a little more time to get prepared for the playoffs. They will play in the first ever Wild Card Monday, hosting the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football.