Champion Rams are super disappointing in lopsided loss to Cowboys
It still might not officially qualify as a Super Bowl hangover.
But the Rams are woozy. Punchless. They are teetering on the verge of a fall, if not perhaps a complete collapse.
A team that proclaimed its intention to “run it back” and become the first team in nearly two decades to repeat as Super Bowl champion appears to be running on empty.
And coach Sean McVay and his staff are dealing with major headaches after the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Rams 22-10 on Sunday at SoFi Stadium.
A crowd of 74,154 heavy on Cowboys faithful watched the Rams lose their second game in a row and fall to 2-3.
The Rams, now 2-3 after a home loss to Dallas, have never looked worse under coach Sean McVay, who admits everything is “not good enough.”
Consider: Other than when they started this season with a blowout loss to the Buffalo Bills, the Rams never had been under .500 since McVay was hired in 2017.
“It’s not a good movie right now,” McVay said.
For a coach who has guided the Rams to two Super Bowl trips and four playoff appearances in five seasons, it’s been a horror show.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford continues to commit game-changing turnovers. The offense barely can score touchdowns. The injury-hampered line is a shambles, with Stafford under constant duress and no rushing attack materializing.
The defense, for the third game in a row, failed to create a turnover.
And the Cowboys became the second team to block a Rams punt this season.
The Cowboys declare they have the best defense in the NFL, and they certainly made believers out of the Rams, who continue their offensive funk.
“This is a challenging time right now,” McVay said.
It certainly must be for Stafford.
A week after the San Francisco 49ers sacked the quarterback seven times, Cowboys All-Pro linebacker Micah Parsons fueled a rush that sacked Stafford five times, hit him 11 times and repeatedly left him walking slowly to the sideline.
“Everybody needs to pick up the slack up front, starting with us,” left tackle Joe Noteboom said. “We just need to take a little more accountability and help him out.”
Tutu Atwell caught a 54-yard pass and fellow wide receiver Cooper Kupp turned a short reception into a 75-yard touchdown, but those were the lone Rams highlights.
“Other than that, there really wasn’t much to write home about,” McVay said, before correcting himself. “There was nothing to write home about.”
Stafford, who had a pass intercepted and lost two fumbles, probably would have trouble holding a pen after the beating he endured.
Trouble began on the first series when Cowboys end Dorance Armstrong sacked Stafford and forced a fumble. End DeMarcus Lawrence scooped the ball and returned it 19 yards for a touchdown. On the ensuing series, Armstrong blocked a punt by Riley Dixon to set up a field goal.
The Rams managed to take a 10-9 lead on Kupp’s second-quarter touchdown, but the Cowboys shut them out the rest of the game.
A week after managing only three field goals in a 24-9 beatdown by the 49ers, the Rams once again repeatedly stalled. Even ultra-reliable kicker Matt Gay missed a field-goal attempt for the first time this season.
“We’ve got to find a way to get the ball into the end zone,” said Stafford, who has been unable to repeat last season’s fast start.
In the first five games of the 2021 season, Stafford passed for 12 touchdowns with three interceptions. This season, he has passed for five touchdowns with seven interceptions.
Last week, after Stafford lost a fumble and the 49ers returned an interception for a game-clinching touchdown, McVay said Stafford played “excellent.”
On Sunday, McVay said others needed to play better around Stafford.
“Love Matthew Stafford,” McVay said. “I’ll ride with that guy till the end of time.”
Stafford said he would look inward. He declined to assign blame.
“In the NFL, the margins for victory are very small,” he said, “and our margins are really, really small at this moment.”
The Rams will play the struggling Carolina Panthers on Sunday at SoFi Stadium, so perhaps McVay and the team will find a tonic for their distress and solve their problems on offense before they head into an open date.
“Whatever it is,” running back Cam Akers said, “we’ve got to get it under control.”
Chargers coach Brandon Staley decided it was better to try for a first down than punt. When that failed, Cleveland needed just a few yards to kick a field goal but missed on last play of 30-28 loss.
There is no reason to panic, safety Nick Scott said.
“If we get into panicking and trying to overcoach and overfix and guys trying to do too much, then we’re just going to keep burying ourselves,” he said.
There is “a lot of football left,” McVay said, but the Rams’ urgency must start to increase this week.
“Try to be able to get to 3-3,” he said, “and then we’ve got to be able to do a lot of things over the bye to get this thing cleaned up.”
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