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Armando Salguero: Odell Beckham Jr. Rams Debut A Dud As Matt Stafford Also Struggles

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It was a great night for the San Francisco 49ers and all the skeptics.

It was great for the 49ers because they beat the Los Angeles Rams 31-10 to record their fifth consecutive victory over their NFC West division rivals.

And it was a great time for the doubters because in one three-hour span, the Rams fed them tons of fodder for their unbelief and some punch lines for their jokes.

Examples?

The knock on quarterback Matt Stafford has been he’s not a big stage player, and the question remains whether he can become one with the Rams after posting a 0-3 postseason record with the Detroit Lions.

Well, Stafford threw two interceptions for the second time in as many nationally telecast games Monday night and couldn’t recover enough to be more of a part of his team’s solution than one of its problems.

Another?

The narrative about receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is he’s a quarterback killer and a team chemistry buster and it never ends well with him. The proof people use is Beckham Jr. complained about not getting the ball enough and was a diva with the New York Giants, so they traded him to Cleveland, where he was critical of quarterback Baker Mayfield — albeit through his father — and that led the Browns to cut him last week amid much media attention.

That’s not all with Beckham Jr. because his reputation also includes the idea he needs to be fed the ball so much it actually hampers an offense, and he also hurts his quarterback when he fails to run the right routes or when he simply gives up on some routes because he’s not fully engaged.

Yeah, well, that’s exactly how it looked on the Rams’ first series when Stafford threw him the first pass of the game — a modest 5 yard completion — and two plays later, tried to find the receiver deep down the field.

Except Stafford threw to the numbers, expecting Beckham to be there, but OBJ cut toward the sideline and kind of slowed there. The pass was intercepted by Jimmie Ward.

The joke is that Stafford suddenly understood what Mayfield experienced the past couple of years with Beckham Jr. as a teammate.

One more from the skeptics?

The Rams talk a big game but don’t necessarily deliver results to match the bravado. They openly declared themselves “all in” in chasing a Super Bowl championship this season.

And no one’s arguing they’re not genuinely trying to accomplish that because they traded for Stafford to replace Jared Goff. Then they traded for star pass rusher Von Miller at the NFL trade deadline and signed Beckham as a free agent after he wore out his welcome with the Browns.

So Hollywood’s team has been collecting stars.

But this team is lately playing more like a flop than a blockbuster, delivering consecutive losses to Tennessee and then San Francisco.

And despite those apparent humbling experiences, the Rams continue promising that great success is just around the corner — like after their bye week which they begin now.

“We weren’t good enough,” coach Sean McVay said, “but we’ll look inwardly. We’re going to figure this thing out, and we’re going to come back friggin’ swinging, I promise you that, these last seven games of the regular season.”

Alrighty, then.

“There will be some things in the background that I’m going to make sure that I’m doing to be able to have some solutions when we come back and attack this thing in the right way in these last seven games,” McVay added.

If McVay is going to figure out the problems, he’s picked the right time because there seem to be big ones and at least he gets extra days during the bye to do it.

Start with Beckham, Jr. He’s been on the team since Friday. He really doesn’t know the offense nor should he yet, admittedly.

So now’s the time to start learning.

“I’m happy to be here and just over the bye week get into the playbook and really try and learn every single thing possible,” Beckham Jr. said.

“I’ll be here. I’ll be working out. I had a baby hiatus myself with everything that was going on [in Cleveland, where he was told to stay away from practice]. Emotionally, it was a lot. So now I get to get back in the lab, get to work, get through the playbook.”

Stafford said “a week of rest will be nice” during the bye, but chances aren’t good he’s going to get that full week to himself. At some point, he needs to start developing chemistry with OBJ.

“Yeah, I think we’ll figure that out,” Stafford said. “Think there’ll probably be some time we can probably spend together to try to get him up to speed as fast as we possibly can. This is something that took me some time. It takes a lot of people time to learn this offense.

“I thought he did a great job of coming in and executing the tightened down game plan we had for him. I imagine that role will continue to expand with the more he can handle.”

Beckham Jr. played 15 snaps in his Rams debut. He caught 2 of 3 targets for 18 yards.

But there are some things Beckham Jr. learning the offense and Stafford learning his new receiver will not do for the Rams.

It won’t, for example, replace receiver Robert Woods, who suffered a season-ending ACL injury the same day Beckham Jr. arrived on the team.

Woods was in many ways the most dangerous receiver on the Rams, and Cooper Kupp benefited from his presence.

It will be interesting to see whether Beckham Jr. can fill that void and do it quickly.

“Robert’s a very important player,” McVay said. “It certainly didn’t help not to have him. But I don’t want to use that as an excuse. We certainly didn’t play well enough. We didn’t make enough plays. Our best players didn’t play up to their standards.

“And that’s something we’ll all look at one another. Let’s first and foremost look at ourselves, what can we do better within the framework of our roles, and then let’s move forward with a resilient mindset. And that’s exactly what we’ll do.”

The skeptics and cynics will probably be watching.

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero has covered the NFL since 1990 for the Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald and ESPN. He was a 2016 Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 columnist. He is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector and AP All-Pro team voter.

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