By Cedric Williams
Going into Sunday’s NFL regular season finale against the San Francisco 49ers, the Los Angeles Rams had already announced that many of their starters would not play. And though the primary goal of allowing those players to rest was accomplished, the secondary goal of finishing the regular season with a victory fell well short.
The Rams backups got pummeled by the red-hot 49ers, 34-13, sending the visiting Niners into the offseason with five straight wins, while LA will head to the NFC playoffs with a defeat that head coach Sean McVay called “humbling.” And it’s because of how the Rams got humbled and pummeled that we’ve got mostly low marks for their performance at The Coliseum on Sunday.
With no Todd Gurley to carry the ball and no Jared Goff to run the offense, the Rams looked as drab on offense as most experts thought they would. Backup Sean Mannion was called upon to play quarterback, and he wasn’t terrible, but he wasn’t particularly good, either. He finished the day with just 169 passing yards.
The Rams also used a couple of running backs to replace Gurley, and those guys didn’t do so great, either. Malcolm Brown got most of the carries (14 carries for 54 yards) and Lance Dunbar scored LA’s only touchdown of the day. The O-line also gave up three quarterback sacks, which was disappointing to see.
A number of the Rams’ key defensive starters didn’t play, either, including stalwart DL Aaron Donald and LB Alec Ogletree. San Fran put up a lot of yards on Sunday—463 total, to be exact—to go along with 25 first downs and 6 third-down conversions.
Niners QB Jimmy Garoppolo, who is quickly becoming one of the league’s top young quarterbacks, had a fine day with 292 passing yards and two touchdowns. The Rams did intercept two of Garoppolo’s passes—both by first-year CB Kevin Peterson, who had an A+ day individually, with two INTs, a fumble recovery, and a team-high eight tackles on Sunday.
Special Teams: C+
Losing by three touchdowns on Sunday meant the Rams didn’t really need much impact from their special teams units, but there was one bright spot. New kicker Sam Ficken made both of his field goal attempts and knocked home his only PAT to go three-for-three on successful attempts in his final game before the playoffs begin next week.
As mentioned before, the Rams got what they wanted most on Sunday, which was a day of rest for most of the team’s starters. But it still would’ve been nice to see more of the backups come out with a better performance than what fans saw on Sunday.
Nevertheless, the Rams are still champions of the NFC West and they will be hosting an NFC Wild Card game next Saturday. Kickoff at The Coliseum is slated for 5:15 p.m.