Defending Super Bowl Champion Rams Not Looking Like Repeat Candidates

The defending champions Los Angeles Rams wanted to “run it back” this season in defense of last season’s Lombardi Trophy.

But rather than run it back this team now merely looks run down.

The evidence was on display Monday night when the Rams looked nothing at the close of this season’s first month like they looked in that final championship game last season. These Rams have been a middling defensive team and poor offensively, ranking 29th in scoring, 30th in rushing and 28th in passing before last night’s meeting against the San Francisco 49ers.

And then things got worse.

The Rams lost for the seventh consecutive time in the regular season to the 49ers, this one a convincing 24-9 whipping that was complete in every way and exposed the Rams on every level.

Frustration For The Rams

It was so bad for Los Angeles that the best moment of the night for them came when linebacker Bobby Wagner tackled a protester carrying a pink smoke bomb onto the field near the Rams sideline.

“I saw Bobby Wagner take somebody out, which is, I thought, kind of cool to see,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan joked afterward.

“I was frustrated,” Wagner said, “so I took it out on him.”

Yeah, Shanahan was in a good mood and Wagner wasn’t. Rightly so because the Niners evened their record at 2-2 and now everyone in the NFC West is tied with a .500 record after four games.

The difference is some teams, like the 49ers, seem to be improving.

And then there’s the Rams.

What Led Rams To Convincing Loss

“The story of the night from an offensive perspective was just self inflicted wounds,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “Just above the neck errors where we’re not doing the things we’re capable of and I expect us to be better than that.

“Defensively, we continue to battle. We gave ourselves a chance. We can tackle better. Credit them for making the plays. But overall we didn’t do enough to be able to win the football game.”

Put another way, if it could go wrong for the Rams, it did exactly that.

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 21: Wide receiver Deebo Samuel #19 of the San Francisco 49ers carries the ball against the defense of the Los Angeles Rams during the game at Levi’s Stadium on December 21, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

There was the Deebo Samuel touchdown on a receiver screen in which the Rams missed an interception, missed a tackle, had someone faked out of their jock strap, then missed another tackle as Samuel scored from 52 yards out.

Then there were the offensive misfires that included quarterback Matt Stafford finding only Cooper Kupp consistently. Kupp was targeted 19 times and caught 14 passes for 122 yards, which is great for his individual statistics.

But the Rams don’t have much else. The entire rest of the team accounted for 132 receiving yards.

And no one got in the end zone.

L.A. receiver Allen Robinson, signed to a $46.5 million contract in the offseason, caught 2 passes for 7 yards. He has 9 catches for 95 yards in four games.

“It’s been a struggle overall,” McVay said.

Rams Have Bad Calls And Execution

That’s how it looked when 49ers safety Talanoa Hufanga intercepted a wide receiver screen to bust the game open.

The Rams threw that screen against man coverage which is a horrible play call against that look. It’s the second time in two years a 49ers player intercepts a receiver screen against the Rams after Jimmie Ward did it last year.

“It was like deja vu,” McVay said. “But we’ve got to have better clarity for our guys understanding the different things and it’s very frustrating.”

Stafford, by the way, doesn’t look right. He had elbow surgery in the offseason and the club managed his recovery throughout training camp, but something seems amiss.

Obviously that’s speculation but if the quarterback is playing hurt he’s not likely to get better behind a makeshift offensive line that gave up 7 sacks against the 49ers.

“A lot of it was guys that we’re counting on didn’t do the things they’re supposed to do and so clearly that makes me think I’ve got to do a better job and we’ve got to do a better job as an offensive staff providing clarity to our players for as many [missed assignments] as what occurred today,” McVay said.

“There were opportunities we’re capable of making and we didn’t do it. And it’s coaches and players in this together.”

And Then There Was The Sideline Shenanigans

Yeah, the Rams didn’t look very together when defensive players Takk McKinley and Justin Hollins went after each other on the sideline.

“I think it’s just emotions running high,” McVay said. “We got it figured out. Those are things that when you want to be able to win and have a different result, different feelings than that, things can run high. We’ve got to keep those at a minimum. Those things can’t occur. But it seemed we got it cleaned up pretty quickly.”

The Rams are fortunate it’s early in the season because if all these issues were showing themselves later, their postseason chances would seem slim.

“However you want to cut it, we have to be better collectively, coaches and players, and there’s no other way around it and there’s no other way I know how to fix it than go back to work,” McVay said. “Everybody needs to be able to look inward.”

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

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