The Los Angeles Rams (9-7) have had an up and down 2019 season to say the least. Technically, it began with the Super Bowl LIII loss in February, but the Rams made shifts and changes in the offseason to be set up for success in the following season. There were doubts about the offensive line being solid and whether running back Todd Gurley would be healthy, continuing the discussion of his usage during the season.
Then when the 2019 season started, we had a good run for our first three games. We were 3-0 defeating the Carolina Panthers (5-11), New Orleans Saints (13-3) and the Cleveland Browns (6-10). Then the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9) came to town. We were suddenly 3-1 with a shocking 55-40 defeat at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the biggest trouncing since the 1950s. The silver lining on that game was that the Rams came back fighting and almost pulled off an ultimate comeback win. Rams quarterback Jared Goff also broke the 500-yard passing mark. The loss was the most baffling matchup of the season.
Games like that make us scratch our heads thinking, “how in the world did we lose that game? What did our defense do wrong? What is our offense missing? Where are we headed after a loss like that?”
The Rams started so well at a 3-0 record and then quickly went to 3-3. They had three wins and three losses, just like that and no consistency. In fact, the only consistent thing about the Rams is that they were inconsistent throughout the entire season. The Rams then won two more games against the Atlanta Falcons (7-9) and the Cincinnati Bengals (2-14) to improve to 5-3. After their bye week, they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8) 17-12, displaying an anemic offense. The defense scored most of their points. It was another let-down that continued to plague the season. Next, they beat the Chicago Bears (8-8), but then embarrassed themselves the following week, losing to the Baltimore Ravens (14-2) 45-6, moving to a 6-5 record.
The losses were against inferior teams minus the Ravens, by far the best team in football. The Seattle Seahawks (11-5) and San Francisco 49ers (13-3) were expected to be tough as well. The Rams lost by one point against Seattle in Week 5 but would have won had they Greg Zuerlein made the game-winning field goal in the final seconds of the game. The Rams were held to just seven points in the first half of their first meeting with the Niners in Week 6. They ended up losing 20-7. Another NFC West rival the Arizona Cardinals (5-10-1), the Rams blew out in a Week 13 victory, 34-7.
The Rams looked great in their rematch in Week 14 against the number one team in the NFC West, the Seahawks, winning 28-12, but then got destroyed by the Dallas Cowboys (7-7) in Week 15, losing a whopping 44-21. It is these types of losses that are most frustrating for fans. They don’t seem to make sense.
Despite being humiliated the previous week, the Rams still had hope in securing a playoff spot but it was mandatory to win their final two games of the season. Both were rematches against their NFC West foes. First up was the 49ers and despite playing well, they ended up surrendering the game to the Niners in a heartbreaking 34-31 loss. The Rams did finish on a high-note though defeating the Cardinals in a 31-24 victory.
We may be disappointed with how the Rams 2019 season unfolded. These are all valid feelings given that the Rams are so much better than what they have shown this season. They have a talented, loaded offense and phenomenal defense, but only when they show up to play. The wins against the Falcons, Bengals, Cardinals and Seahawks showed a familiar Rams squad dominating on all phases of the ball. The Bears game showed the benefit of utilizing a great ground attack with both Gurley and running back Malcolm Brown.
There are multiple problems with the offense. First, we did not invest in our offensive line the way we should have. In hindsight, it would have been nice to keep veteran left guard Rodger Saffold, but the Rams would not match his four-year, $44 million dollar price tag paid by the Tennessee Titans. They also had full confidence in their current younger players. Injuries to several offensive linemen as well as inexperience were major setbacks and Goff’s protection collapsed in many games.
Second, Coach McVay did not adjust properly when challenged, making questionable play calls. Third, Goff also made questionable throws and still panics under pressure in certain games. Last, Gurley was also setup to fail in many plays in addition to not being played as often as he should have. The running game was not utilized like it should have been.
The Rams defense deserves all the praise they can get from what they did in the Super Bowl. The same team showed strong in the 2019 season, but also had their struggles. They played zone on the wrong teams and then finally adjusted to man coverage. They switched out cornerbacks mid-season, trading Marcus Peters and releasing veteran Aqib Talib, and acquiring Jalen Ramsey and moving up Troy Hill as a starter. This improved the defense, but there were still serious problems against the Ravens and the Cowboys. There was a lack of fundamentals such as: missed tackles, allowing runners to slip through for big yardage and a defensive line not stuffing the interior or providing enough pressure. These games hurt the most, given how badly they lost and how.
But now the Rams must look to the future and hope they learn from these errors and shortcomings. They certainly have the young talent and crop of veteran players to make a great team in the coming seasons. McVay has taken a perpetual losing franchise with no playoff appearances in 12 seasons and made it a Super Bowl contender in just two years. We cannot forget that.
This team went from a 4-12 record in 2016 to an 11-5 in 2017. Within one season of head coach McVay taking the reins, they were a dominant winning franchise and in the playoffs. Many of us remember the dark decade of the 1990s until the Greatest Show on Turf era of 1999-2001. There was also the infamous 2009 season at 1-15 that featured one of the greatest Rams running backs of all time, Steven Jackson, as the sole offensive weapon. No one can deny this turnaround and this Rams team has a rich, bright future.
Fans, I implore you to stick with the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams have a storied franchise that has broken records and defied the odds and created legends. Throughout history they have broken barriers in the NFL, created championship teams in multiple cities and are back in their true home. Just look at the new SoFi Stadium. It’s easy to dwell in the darkest parts of the season and overlook some of the brighter points. While the Rams will undoubtedly lose out on some premiere players this upcoming offseason, this is a team full of talented players still under contract.