Rams and McVay eye a season turnaround

Sean McVay has never finished a season with a losing record as the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams. He’s been to two Super Bowls. He’s won one. That standard of success is now being tested this season. Last season ended with McVay and the Rams taking a victory lap while winning Super Bowl LVI

Things are quite different this year. At least through the first nine games of the regular season. The Rams are mired in a three-game losing streak. Their record on the season is an unexpected 3-6 mark. The team is just coming off a game in which they lost to an Arizona Cardinals team they had beaten earlier in the season. 

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Van Jefferson (12) in a 2021 game against the Detroit Lions. File Photo/ Credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline

The Rams are at the point in the season that they need a turnaround. How do they make that happen?  Even McVay, a man of all positive vibes and a supreme optimist,  is not sure how his ballclub can flip their season around. 

“Well, I don’t know exactly what those answers are,” McVay remarked Sunday in his postgame comments following his team’s 27-17 defeat to the Cardinals. “But it’s in a lot of instances, some of the things that we’ve talked about, being able to capitalize on momentum, being able to make some of the plays when they’re there to be had. Continuity has been a challenge for us, but every team deals with it. 

“It’s not a good movie and I’m a part of it right now,” McVay added. “We got to be able to figure out how to make it better, how to improve. How do we play better, more complimentary football? Whatever that means in terms of the results, we just got to be able to have a better product out there, start to see some improvement.”

Adding to those woes, McVay has seen some of his top players, including wide receiver Cooper Kupp and quarterback Matthew Stafford, get clipped by injuries this season. It feels like McVay and the Rams have been playing uphill just trying to get some solid footing to what they’re playing for since the beginning of the season.  

Since the Arizona defeat, McVay has talked about his team being tested in ways they would have never imagined. It’s easy to put the onus on the inconsistent play of the Rams this season on their Super Bowl triumph against the Cincinnati Bengals as a super hangover. 

McVay is not willing to go that far in his assessment on how his team has played.  

“No, here’s what I would say,” McVay said. “In all seriousness, no doubt it’s been a unique thing and this is where we’re at and you’ve got to be able to handle it. I said it over and over again to you guys, you’re being tested in ways that you maybe haven’t been otherwise, and a lot of different things have come up that maybe hadn’t in the previous five seasons. 

“I think what you do want to do is make sure that you don’t ever press the panic button, but you’re also having the necessary agility and adaptability that’s necessary for these circumstances. What I think is important for us is to really truly focus on our process and where do we need to make those tweaks.”

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) looks to give his team a spark for the rest of the season. File photo/News4usonline
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) looks to give his team a spark for the rest of the season. File photo/News4usonline

One of those tweaks is getting Stafford back into the lineup. After missing the Arizona game because he was in concussion protocol, McVay fully anticipates his starting quarterback returning this week without any hiccups or restrictions put on him. 

“Yeah, as long as… no question. That would be obviously the doctors and then making sure that everybody, himself, family, everybody, feels good about it,” McVay said. “But that’s always been the priority is the person, the safety, and the health. But if he is fully cleared and he and his family feel good about that, then I know he’s chopping at the bit to be out there with his guys.”

Having Stafford will surely reinvigorate an offense that has struggled to be consistent in move the chains and putting points on the board. Running the football (68 yards per game) has also been a challenge for the Rams this season.

Sooner or later, though, with playmakers Allen Robinson II and Van Jefferson as well as tight end Tyler Higbee providing moving targets for Stafford, the Rams offensive production should pick up, with or without Kupp. 

That’s easier said than done. Kupp was the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year last season. Replacing his production (145 catches, 1,947 yards and 16 touchdowns) won’t be easy. However, McVay is confident that his other wide receivers can step in and provide a spark to the offense. 

“It’s going to give a lot of guys an opportunity to be able to step up,” he quipped. “Anytime that you lose a player like that, you never replace him. But what it does provide is an opportunity for us to learn about a lot of other guys from that receiver room and really our offense in general. So, you have to look at it through that lens. But Cooper, we all know what a special player (and) person he is and that’s a big loss without a doubt but it will provide opportunities for a lot of other guys to be able to get chances that they wouldn’t get otherwise.”

Featured Image Caption: Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay on the sidelines watching his team play the Carolina Panthers at SoFi Stadium on Nov. 16, 2022. Photo courtesy of News4usonline