By Sam McPherson
There was only one turnover in Sunday’s NFL matchup between the visiting Los Angeles Rams and the host Detroit Lions, but that one miscue helped decide the game late in the fourth quarter. After the Lions kicked the go-ahead field goal with 3:37 left in the game, Rams quarterback Case Keenum threw an interception that sealed the game for Detroit.
L.A. drops to 3-3 on the season, and to come up short in a game that was very winnable has to be a disappointment for the Rams right now. The defense held its own despite several injury concerns on the line, and Keenum played a pretty good game right up until the point he committed the game’s only turnover.
Keenum completed 27 of 32 passes with three touchdown passes while running for another score. The interception was literally the only mistake he made in the game, and it’s tough to blame him for the loss considering he did so much on the day to even have the Rams in position to win at that point. Keenum’s 321 yards through the air kept L.A. competitive all day long at Ford Field.
Running back Todd Gurley couldn’t get loose against the Lions defense, running for just 58 yards. His longest run was just 15 yards, and without that carry, Gurley averaged a mere 3.3 yards per carry. For an alleged franchise back, he was averaging just 2.7 yards per carry coming into this game, and he didn’t do much to improve that number against Detroit.
Holding the Lions to just 348 yards was a solid accomplishment for the Rams defense, considering the venue and the opponent’s offensive ability. The big negative on the day was the inability to force a turnover, and L.A. also couldn’t put much pressure on Detroit QB Matthew Stafford, sacking him just once.
Stafford was too comfortable on Sunday, completing 23 of 31 throws for 270 yards and four TDs. Stafford is one those QBs that suffers when he gets hit a lot, and with the injuries on defense, the Rams just weren’t able to rattle him at all. That may have been the key to the game, unfortunately.
Special Teams: B
It was a quiet day for the Rams special teams unit. There were no dynamic kick returns to help the offense get jumpstarted on a scoring drive, and kick coverage was adequate. Punter Johnny Hekker did average 45 yards on his two punts, while place kicker Greg Zuerlein nailed all four extra points. He didn’t have any FG attempts on Sunday.
The staff has to find a way to get Gurley on track in 2016, and in that regard, this game was another “failure” of sorts. When your most talented skill player gets only 14 carries, there’s something wrong with the offensive game plan. Gurley did catch four passes, but the Rams need to find a way to establish his presence on the ground. After running for almost 1,400 yards last season, Gurley is on pace for just 912 yards this year.
The coaching staff must solve this problem if L.A. wants to make the postseason for the first time since 2004—let alone post a winning season for the first time since 2003. The Rams seem to constantly be underachieving, and while Head Coach Jeff Fisher has the respect of many experts around the league, the results aren’t bearing out his efforts. It may be a time for an organizational change soon.
Next week, the Rams return to Southern California to host Eli Manning and the New York Giants, and unless Gurley can get his game going, that game could be a carbon copy of this one if nothing changes during the week’s preparation.