By Greg Beacham/AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) – The brightest side of the Los Angeles Rams’ latest blowout loss is they don’t have to play the San Francisco 49ers again this season.
Almost everything else coming out of Los Angeles’ 31-14 home defeat Sunday was pretty dark, and it all cast serious doubt on the Rams’ talent, offensive game-planning and overall fitness to defend their Super Bowl title.
The Rams were comprehensively outplayed on both sides of the ball by the 49ers, a .500 team that has recorded two of its four victories this season against Los Angeles. Christian McCaffrey embarrassed the team that failed to get him in the trade market, while the running backs in horned helmets were just as ineffective as nearly everybody else.
Not much about these Rams (3-4) suggests they’re a team that should be going all-in at the trade deadline this week to make yet another splashy acquisition for another run at championship contention.
General manager Les Snead reportedly has been active in discussions about the likes of McCaffrey and Carolina edge rusher Brian Burns, but the one-sided nature of the Rams’ four defeats has given no indication this team is capable of contending with the NFL’s best.
“This is one of those deals where you have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror, get up and respond the right way,” coach Sean McVay said. “We’ve said that a handful of times this year, but I’m not afraid to continue to get up here, put everything that we have as players, as coaches, out there to try to be able to get the result that we want.”
Most of this ineptitude sits squarely on McVay and his offense. Los Angeles got 163 of its paltry 223 yards Sunday on two drives in the first half, and every other drive was a different shade of awful.
McVay’s reputation as an offensive mastermind hasn’t stood up to the challenges of having a subpar offensive line and a pronounced lack of talent at running back and receiver. All-Pro Cooper Kupp has been the sole effective skill-position player for Matthew Stafford, but they haven’t been able to carry this unimpressive roster.
The Rams have never been at .500 or worse this late in McVay’s six seasons, yet the veteran players less than nine months removed from a Super Bowl victory also realize nothing is decided yet.
“The biggest thing is just keeping everybody on the right track,” defensive tackle Greg Gaines said Monday. “This is a huge season, long season. We’ve only lost four games, and we can still turn things around. We still have plenty of time, plenty of games left. It’s just getting everybody to put that stuff behind us and keep moving forward. If we start winning from here on out, we can go to the Super Bowl again. We’ve still got plenty of time.”
Stafford and Allen Robinson are finally starting to build a relationship. Robinson had a season-high five catches for the second straight game, including a pair of big third-down conversion grabs on solid throws from Stafford, who appears to be trusting the Rams’ big offseason addition more. Stafford had a solid game overall against San Francisco’s formidable defense, making several strong throws and not turning the ball over despite two sacks and five QB hits.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The Rams’ complete lack of a running game is the biggest factor in the offense’s incompetence. Los Angeles sits 31st in the league with 68.4 yards rushing per game. Its most productive rusher, Darrell Henderson, is 54th in the NFL with just 197 yards. Undrafted free-agent rookie Ronnie Rivers, who was released by two teams in August, was the Rams’ leading rusher Sunday with eight carries for 21 yards.
Edge rusher Leonard Floyd had his best game of the season, sacking Jimmy Garoppolo twice and collecting three QB hits and nine tackles. The Rams have clearly needed more production from their pass rush, and Floyd finally got tangible results with the trade deadline looming.
TE Tyler Higbee had a rough game after fighting through a neck stinger in the first quarter. He struggled in pass protection, and he made an awful drop on a third-down pass that could have kept the Rams in the game. … S Taylor Rapp also had a dismal game filled with missed tackles and blown assignments.
Kupp was optimistic his late-game right ankle injury wasn’t serious, but any absence by the Rams’ best offensive player could be a nightmare … Gaines said his right shoulder is feeling much better after it limited him for the first six weeks.
30th – The overall rank of the Rams’ offense, which is managing just 297.4 yards and scoring 16.9 points per game.
A long trip to face struggling Tampa Bay, the only team with a worse rushing offense than the Rams. This rematch of a postseason thriller is a golden opportunity to get back on track for Los Angeles, which has long been an excellent road team under McVay.