Los Angeles Rams trending in the wrong direction heading into their bye week

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- In the immediate aftermath of a Week 10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay promised the next seven games would not be like their last two.

"We are going to figure this thing out," said McVay, coming off back-to-back losses for the first time this season. "And we are going to come back freaking swinging."

A day later, McVay explained that his emotions got the best of him after the game, but the notion of what he said remained.

"I don't know how to do anything else when our back is against the wall than just to come out and fight," McVay said, "and really just work hard and try to be solution oriented."

For most teams, a 7-3 record would not be concerning. But the Rams are not most teams.

They have, without a doubt, gone all-in -- potentially mortgaging their long-term future -- to win a Super Bowl in owner Stan Kroenke's $5 billion SoFi Stadium on Feb. 13.

They traded two first-round picks for quarterback Matthew Stafford over the offseason, added All-Pro outside linebacker Von Miller ahead of the trade deadline, then signed three-time Pro Bowl receiver Odell Beckham Jr. last week.

Stafford, Miller and Beckham joined a star-studded cast that already included three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald and All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey, along with Cooper Kupp, the NFL's leading receiver this season.

But as they attempt to enjoy an open date in Week 11, there's concern about the direction the Rams are headed after back-to-back losses to the Tennessee Titans (8-2) and 49ers (4-5).

"There is a trajectory on the season," McVay said. "And right now our trajectory is not going in the right way."

The Rams' only victory against a team with a winning record was a 34-24 win over Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 3.

And their schedule won't provide any relief after the bye as they await a Week 12 matchup against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers (8-2) at Lambeau Field.

"We do have to fix some of these things with some urgency," McVay said.

Here's a bye week progress report.


The biggest question must be, what's going on with Stafford?

Stafford started the season hot, throwing for 23 touchdown passes in his first eight games to only four interceptions while becoming an early front runner in the Most Valuable Player award.

But in the last two losses, the 13th-year quarterback has thrown only two touchdown passes with four interceptions, including a tipped ball off the hands of tight end Tyler Higbee against the 49ers that turned into a pick-six.

"They're all their own kind of individual thing," Stafford said about his recent string of interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns. "But I can definitely be better in all aspects."

"I know he expects to be able to play better," McVay said. "He will play better. He can play better. But I have all the confidence in the world in Matthew Stafford."

Despite Stafford's recent woes, which were coupled with several drops by receivers in last Monday's loss, the Rams still rank No. 5 in the NFL in scoring, averaging 27.1 points per game.

However, as they attempt to solve their recent offensive issues, they must do so without No. 2 receiver Robert Woods, who suffered a left ACL tear during a practice last week that will sideline him for the remainder of the season. That will unquestionably affect their fifth-ranked passing game, which has averaged 289.3 yards per contest.

Kupp, who leads the NFL with 1,141 receiving yards and 10 touchdown receptions, and second-year pro Van Jefferson remain as dependable targets, but Beckham's quick integration could prove key down the stretch.

"I'll be working out, getting it in, doing a little two days," Beckham said about his bye week plans. "I get to get back in the lab and get to work and get through the playbook."

The Rams also could (perhaps should) lean into the run game behind Darrell Henderson Jr. and Sony Michel. Both have been used somewhat sparingly in a rushing attack that ranks 23rd, averaging 97.9 yards per game.


Expectations were high entering the season for the defending top-ranked defense, which returned Donald and Ramsey but lost coordinator Brandon Staley after he was named head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers.

The unit under 19-year coaching veteran Raheem Morris wasn't expected to take much of a step back but ranks No. 12 in the NFL in scoring defense, allowing an average of 22.7 points per game.

Until recently, the defense was defined by game-saving plays, including last-minute interceptions and stops. However, that hasn't been the case recently -- though part of that could be pinned on the offense's early-game turnovers.

"We just have to get back on the film," safety Jordan Fuller said. "And figure out how we get back to being us again."

Most concerning in the latest loss was how the 49ers compiled two drives that traveled more than 90 yards, seemingly with ease.

The Rams couldn't get off the field on third down, had little ability to stop the run and were unable to affect quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who quickly distributed the ball to avoid the rush.

"We were kind of behind the eight ball a little bit and they were able to just run," said Miller, who made his Rams debut in the loss after sitting out his first game with the team due to an ankle injury.

The 49ers also found a way for their top playmaker, receiver Deebo Samuel, to bypass Ramsey, as the All-Pro corner lined up most often in the slot.

Ramsey's positioning could be explored moving forward so that he is in place to take on the opponent's top player more often.

"Definitely want to try to continue to find ways to have Jalen at the point of attack or where you envision offenses want their point of attack player to be," McVay said. "But there are a lot of layers to it."

Special Teams

Special teams has been an area of weakness throughout the season.

The Rams lack dynamic kick and punt returners.

They've also lacked overall preparation, which was exploited by the lowly Detroit Lions, who recovered an early onside kick and converted two fake punts into first downs in Week 7.

Playcalling hasn't helped.

Against the 49ers, McVay opted to fake a field goal and attempt to pass for a first down at the 49ers' 17-yard line with 18 seconds left in the first half. The 49ers stopped the play with ease, as the Rams trotted into halftime without three points and down 21-7, adding another loss to the special teams column.

"In hindsight it wasn't a good decision," McVay said. "That's my responsibility. It was something that we felt like we had a chance to work. They made the play, we didn't, and that falls on my shoulders."