Oct 22, 2020
- Covered Rams for two years for Los Angeles Times
- Previously covered the Falcons
- Has covered the NBA and college football and basketball
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Missed tackles. Dropped passes. False starts. Errant kicks.
The Los Angeles Rams’ second loss of the season, a 24-16 clunker against the San Francisco 49ers, featured every miscue.
“We had a lot of uncharacteristic things, we had a lot of our players that we count on not come through in some situations that they typically do,” Rams coach Sean McVay said, while also shouldering some of the blame. “It’s a great learning opportunity for us.”
The Rams are 4-2 overall and 0-1 in the NFC West, far from any need to panic, but they must quickly fix issues that plagued them against their division rival before they take on the Chicago Bears (5-1) at SoFi Stadium on Monday Night Football.
The offense, which entered Week 6 averaging 27.2 points per game, must return to establishing its dominance on the ground behind a trio of healthy running backs, Darrell Henderson, Cam Akers and Malcolm Brown, while quarterback Jared Goff and wide receiver Cooper Kupp must renew their connection through the air.
“It was just some uncharacteristic stuff for me,” said Goff, who passed for a season-low 198 yards and had a pass intercepted in the end zone against the 49ers. “Missing guys open there early. It’s something that I’ve never done in my life and don’t expect to ever repeat.”
However, even when on target, Goff’s receivers performed few favors. Kupp, who has caught 31 passes for 374 yards and two touchdowns, found himself turned around on a throw over the middle, then later dropped a pass in the end zone.
Even veteran Andrew Whitworth stumbled into multiple mistakes, as the sturdy left tackle twice was penalized for false starts.
“It’s one of those things that you’ve had a couple games where your execution is not as good as it should be,” said Whitworth, also referring to a Week 3 loss to the Buffalo Bills. “Just all the little details, and for some reason sometimes, you’re just off.”
The defense, which has been sporadically struck by tackling issues this season, must solve the problem for good while finding a way to pressure Bears quarterback Nick Foles after they were unable to disrupt 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
“We got Bioreports Newsed in the mouth this past week,” said linebacker Micah Kiser, who fell victim to brutal stiff arm from 49ers running back Raheem Mostert. “We’re just ready to get that taste out of our mouth and get back to work. That’s all you can really do.”
Defensive tackle Aaron Donald leads the NFL with 7.5 sacks, but did not take down Garoppolo, as the 49ers spread the ball quickly to the perimeter.
“We just wasn’t playing our ball,” Donald said. “We just didn’t play good as a team.”
Donald has not gone back-to-back weeks without a sack since Weeks 4 and 5 in 2019, and could be extra motivated to take down Foles, who he has yet to sack in his career.
And finally, there’s special teams, where rookie kicker Samuel Sloman connected on a season-long 42-yard field goal Sunday but otherwise continued to struggle connecting on extra points (15-of-18) and executing strategically placed kickoffs.
On Tuesday, a day after McVay expressed frustration with Sloman’s development saying, “He’s got to improve,” the Rams signed veteran kicker Kai Forbath from the Bears’ practice squad.
Forbath last kicked in an NFL game last season, when he appeared in the final three games with the Dallas Cowboys and converted 10 of 10 field goal attempts, including a 50-yarder.
Despite the underwhelming performance that plagued every phase last Sunday, McVay is continuing to express optimism about the Rams’ capabilities moving forward.
“The thing that I do genuinely believe is when you look at, ‘Okay, where did we fall short, are these things we’re capable of doing or are we just physically outmatched?'” McVay asked, rhetorically. “No, we’re capable of executing and playing better football, being a cleaner operation.”