By Sam McPherson
The last time the Rams NFL franchise could be called a winning organization was in 2003, and it will remain that way until at least 2017. The New England Patriots handed the Los Angeles Rams a 26-10 loss on Sunday, so the best the Rams can finish the 2016 regular season now is 8-8, if they win their remaining four games on the schedule. That’s hardly a guarantee, of course, considering the struggles Los Angeles has faced all season.
Head coach Jeff Fisher is under public scrutiny for his inability to field a winning team after years of high draft picks and for the recently revealed contract extension he signed with the team. This flat performance by the Rams does little to help the situation. The Patriots may be the best team in the AFC, but trailing 17-0 at halftime, Los Angeles could do little in the second half to catch up. With the loss, the 4-8 Rams remain in third place among four NFC West Division teams.
There were few bright spots in a 162-yard performance by the Rams offense. Once again, running back Todd Gurley couldn’t get anything going on the ground. Despite the fact he now has 679 yards rushing on the season, his sophomore season in the NFL has been a major reason why L.A. is going nowhere. His 38-yard effort against New England typifies the struggles the entire Rams offense has had in 2016.
Rookie quarterback Jared Goff did as well as could be expected against the Patriots, throwing for 161 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Rookie QBs aren’t going to find it easy against a Bill Belichick defense, and Goff was no exception to that established reality. There was a nice 66-yard pass completion to wide receiver Kenny Britt, however, and that was a bright spot for Goff to remember and build upon for Week 14 and beyond.
New England gained 402 yards on the Los Angeles defense, which was an improvement over what the New Orleans Saints did to the Rams in the previous game. It was a slow, methodical rhythm, however, for the Patriots offense, which simply wore out the L.A. unit as the game went on. New England gained 4.6 yards per carry on the ground, and even though the Pats didn’t fare well on third downs, they did just fine on the two fourth-down conversions they attempted.
The Rams did well to hold the New England offense to 26 points, considering the Patriots kicked four field goals on the day. Even though QB Tom Brady threw 46 passes, he only gained 269 yards with them. In the end, though, the L.A. defense couldn’t limit the running yardage or force any key turnovers, so the Pats took what they could get on offense—and it was enough for the relatively easy win.
Special Teams: B+
There were no spectacularly bad or good plays on special teams for the Rams in this game, although punter Johnny Hekker once again deserves accolades for his efforts. He had a 76-yard punt in this game while averaging 52.9 yards on eight attempts. Imagine where Los Angeles would be without his influence on field position each week. Kicker Greg Zuerlein was perfect on his kicks: one extra point and one field goal.
Fisher is not going to out-coach Belichick, so this loss was somewhat expected. Gurley and the offense’s inability to find a successful rhythm continues to fall on Fisher’s plate, however. Knowing the QB situation heading into this season, there’s no excuse for Fisher and his staff’s failure to make sure that Gurley’s role in the offense was a positive one. The Rams’ star RB carried the ball just 11 times, and that left a lot of responsibility on a rookie QB’s shoulders.
For the third straight game, the Los Angeles defense will face a high-flying offense. This time, the Atlanta Falcons come to the Memorial Coliseum as the Rams host the NFC South Division leaders. The Falcons are coming off a disappointing loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, and they certainly will look to re-establish winning ways against a struggling Los Angeles squad.