When it rains it pours. A day after the Los Angeles Rams got bounced from the postseason, it was announced that defensive coordinator Brandon Staley would take the head coaching job for the Los Angeles Chargers, leaving behind his superlative unit. That’s the way things go in the NFL. One moment you’re with one ballclub. In another instance, you’re swapping out caps, playbooks and polo shirts.
A week ago, the Rams were high in celebrating beating the Seattle Seahawks in their opening playoff round matchup. A week later not so much. This time around was a much quieter and subdued tone from Los Angeles players. Within 24 hours, Rams head coach Sean McVay lost the architect of his defense and saw his team’s playoff bubble popped in a non-fashionable way to the Green Bay Packers.
A day after the Packers beat the Rams 32-18, McVay said he would be evaluating and looking at every aspect of his team.
“Every single year entails a bunch of change, whether it be good or bad,” McVay said. “We’re in the evaluation mode right now. I do think the best way to make those sound decisions and then the competitive decisions that I think are necessary for you to really press the envelope from all angles, is to really take a step back, then give yourself a chance to really look at it with a good perspective, the right perspective, and then be able to make decisions whether it’s free agents, starters and different things like that as we move forward. But the competition, the environment, the atmosphere – I talked with a couple of players about that. Everybody’s earning their spots.”
After missing the playoffs for the 2019 season, the Rams made the postseason for the third time in four seasons under McVay. Despite this success, including going to the Super Bowl following the 2018 NFL season, there have been some visible reminders that the Rams still have some ways to go in order to BE THAT TEAM. McVay has one half of the team pointed in the right direction.
That would be the Rams’ defense. When it comes to the other side of the ball, McVay the Rams are a work in progress. Even though running back Cam Akens and wide receiver Van Jefferson blossomed into pertinent stars, the Rams offense was bogged down with too much inconsistency. This red flag showed up in the Rams’ humbling exit out of the playoffs.
“As you go back, you evaluate and you make sound decisions that are outside the framework of the immediate emotions that you still feel because it is so fresh,” McVay said. “I think that’s the first order of business, is to be able to do that and every decision that we make, and that I make, is what I truly believe is in the best interest of the Rams and sometimes that doesn’t always accommodate everybody’s happiness and that’s part of what this job entails. I think our guys know that that’s where I’m coming from.”
The formula that the Rams used to beat the Seahawks in an NFC Wildcard game didn’t work out too well against the Packers in a playoff divisional contest. Against Seattle, the Rams used their top-ranked defense to harass and beat up Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense on their way to a road victory.
Throw in the mix a big rushing day by rookie running back Akers, and the Rams didn’t have to worry too much about dispatching their NFC West rivals from the postseason. And they managed to pull off this win without their regular season starting quarterback Jared Goff being at full strength.
Goff was supposed to be a bystander for the game after having surgery on his right thumb.
In the meantime, backup John Wolford would have to lead the Rams through at CenturyLink Field. That idea went up in smoke when Wolford got knocked out of the game. Goff, still not at full strength, did just enough to help the Rams escape with a 30-20 win.
Goff was going to have to do more in order for the Rams to beat the Packers. Going up against Aaron Rodgers, the presumed regular season MVP, and the talented Green Bay offense would require a whole more than a stitch and a band-aid and a spirited, rah-rah pep speech by Rams head coach Sean McVay.
Goff had an efficient afternoon, completing 21 of 27 passes for 174 yards a touchdown. Those numbers are not going to get it done.
If you’re competing against Rodgers, even if you’re backed up by the No. 1 overall defense in the NFL, those numbers won’t cut the mustard if you’re trying to beat the man at Lambeau Field. That would be like wishing upon a star. The Rams wished. However, their dream of advancing to the NFC Conference Championship was tossed out of the window, thanks to the Packers’ win.
Rodgers played largely unfettered, completing 23 of 36 passes for 296 yards and a pair of touchdowns. While the highly-touted Rams secondary was getting scorched by Rodgers, the Packers were also doing serious work rushing the football as well. Green Bay rushed for 188 yards during the game.
In total, the Rams defense gave up nearly 500 yards (484 yards) to the Packers. That’s not a good showing by any stretch of the imagination. For the Rams, who ranked No. 1 in passing defense and No. 3 in rushing defense, the game was more than a little embarrassing. The Packers went at the core of the identity of the Rams and basically made a mockery of those units.
The Rams finished the season at 11-7. It’s a good guess that McVay wants to make whatever moves he has to in order to see the Rams improve next season.
“First of all, the finality of everything is so sudden,” McVay said. “I think for us right now, the first thing that we’re going to do is kind of catch our breath, let the dust settle, get away and really evaluate everything. Whether it’s free agents as we move forward, I think it’s important that we continue to establish a high level of competition at all spots and continue to do a better job of looking inward.
“I always want to try to be self-reflective, but whether it’s coaches or players, everything that we do, we want to continue to try to evaluate, reflect, do it at a higher level and try to find ways to continue to be relevant,” McVay added.