(News4usonline) – In half of the six defeats they accumulated in the first part of the season, the Los Angeles Rams lost by a one-score margin. A fourth game, a 23-14 defeat to reigning NFC Conference champions Philadelphia Eagles, was by less than two touchdowns.
Outside of their matchup against the Dallas Cowboys, which now seems like an abbreviation, the Rams have played button-up, play-it-by-the-vest football. The Rams are wholly different as a team compared to last season’s version which ended up with a 5-12 record. After nine weeks of the regular season, the Rams have posted a 3-6 record.
That’s nothing to shout about, but when you manage to get past the numbers and all the statistics, you’ll find a Rams team that fights for every possession, a squad that plays with a lot of grit and ruggedness.
With his team having a bye week in Week 10, Rams head coach Sean McVay said all those close games that his team has played are encouraging pointers for the remainder of the season.
“I think there’s been a lot of signs throughout the first nine games that you can believe that that can be done relative to the way that I know we’re capable of playing offensively,” McVay said during a video conference call with reporters. “I am encouraged. I want to see us continue to play more consistently as a team. That’s the no (expletive) statement I guess, if you will, but I am encouraged by that and I’m looking forward to this second half of the season and getting some of those guys back, and let’s go see where we can take this thing.”
The second half of the season will be a telling one for McVay and the Rams. More than anything the final eight games of the season will be a guide to where the Rams are in the present. That starts with players being healthy and being available to contribute.
“I think number one is getting guys back healthy and then just being able to consistently play better across the board,” McVay remarked. “I think when we get a lot of these guys back, I think that’ll immediately offer an opportunity for us to play more consistently like we’ve seen us do in certain stretches.”
Having a consistent rushing attack will go a long way in creating more fluidity within the Rams’ offense. In the nine games that they played in the first half, as a team, the Rams rushed for 100 yards or more just three times.
McVay sees running the football consistently as an important aspect of the continuity of the offense in the second of the season.
“I think it always is,” McVay said. “I think anytime that you’re a good offense and you look at any of the games that we’ve played where we’ve played well this year, the consistent theme is we’ve run the ball well as well, or we’ve at least been able to get attempts off. I guess Seattle is kind of the outlier. I don’t know that we ran the ball efficiently, but we were able to get runs off and I think that contributed to some positive outcomes as it relates to just the overall offensive production. But it’s going to be key and critical.”
Another critical component to the team’s success for the next eight games is getting wide receiver Cooper Kupp back in sync again. After sitting out the first four games of the season, Kupp has struggled since he’s been back.
In four of the five games that Kupp has played, the Rams have lost those games. In those four games, Kupp has totaled two catches for 48 yards against Green Bay, four receptions for 21 yards against Dallas, two catches for 29 yards against Pittsburgh, and eight catches for 118 yards against Philadelphia.
Kupp’s injury, then subsequent absence from playing on gameday combined with quarterback Matthew Stafford’s thumb injury, is a good reason for Kupp’s underperforming play.
I think that’s a big part,” said McVay. “You look at it, we haven’t had Matthew for six quarters. So yesterday, makes a big catch on the third down and long, and then catch catches an in-breaker. He had two catches, but the production that we had offensively was so minimal that it’s hard to even talk about that. You look at the Dallas game and you look at the Pittsburgh game and a lot of situations, they’re doubling him in some of those known passing situations. Very similar to what started to happen in even in the latter parts of ‘21, if he’s getting attention then it opens up opportunities for other people. We want to continue to do a good job of being able to help him shine, put him in the right spots.”
With all of that going on, McVay has gotten the Rams to play respectable football. There’s a lot of positives McVay and his team can take going into the second half of the season. Defensively, rookies Byron Young and Kobie Turner have not played like it’s their first year playing professional football.
Both Young and Turner have turned into great compliments next to Aaron Donald on the defensive line. With a little bit more seasoning under their belts, Young and Turner will be next to unstoppable in the very near future. When that happens, all those double and triple teams that Donald gets will evaporate.
“I think those guys have done a really nice job,” McVay said in a press conference at the team’s practice facility on Nov. 3. “I’ve been really pleased with the intent that they have every single day. I think when you look at it, one of the most important things to measure, especially as you’re looking at rookies that are gaining a lot of experience, are they getting better? Are they continuing to improve? Are they coachable? Are they accountable? Is that showing up with, maybe not show up on the stat sheets, but the production within the framework of the defensive call and the intent where some of their play ops arise.”
Top photo credit: 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
Dennis has covered and written about politics, crime, social justice, sports, and entertainment. Dennis currently covers the NFL, MLB, NBA, NCAA, and Olympic sports. Dennis is the editor of News4usonline.com and serves as the publisher of the Compton Bulletin newspaper. He earned a journalism degree from Howard University.