Losses hurt no matter what, but the biggest takeaway from the Los Angeles Rams’ 24-7 loss to the Minnesota Vikings is that the team is still a work in progress. The Rams didn’t take a step backwards, but adjustments must be made. At the end of the day, the Rams lost to a good Vikings team.
The 12th man
The 12th man served as one of the major contributing factors to the Rams’ offensive struggles. The hostile environment in Minnesota caused miscommunication and resulted in several wasted timeouts or delay of game penalties. Of course, the loud atmosphere occurred at multiple crucial points for the Rams offense, and it served the Vikings well. The team should thank its fans for becoming a vital part of the win.
Cornerback depth tested
The Rams’ were already short at cornerback with Troy Hill out of action. Losing Kayvon Webster and Nickell Robey-Coleman made matters worse. Overall, the Rams did a solid job at containing the Vikings offense in the first half. However, everything changed once both corners went down and were replaced with Blake Countess and Dominique Hatfield. Both attempted to cover Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen too softly and got burned many times. The Rams’ struggles to hit Vikings quarterback Case Keenum played a role in the soft coverage, but it’s also clear that there is a significant drop in skill after Robey-Coleman on the depth chart.
Cooper Kupp’s struggles
Kupp caught six passes for 64 yards in what looks like a productive day on the stat sheet. However, it’s his mistakes that leave a bad taste. He fumbled at the Vikings’ 1-yard line in the second quarter on a drive that likely would have resulted in a touchdown. Later, he dropped a critical 3rd-and-10 pass on a Rams’ drive into Vikings territory. Minnesotat then took the ball downfield for another score.
Fumbles and dropped passes happen on occasion, but this appears to be a reoccurring theme for Kupp. He deserved the benefit of the doubt as a rookie entering his first real hostile environment. That said, Kupp must get better.
Keenum adjusted to the over pursuits
The Rams defense played a nearly flawless game early and shook up Keenum. The Rams pressured him early and forced the Vikings to alter their strategy. Unfortunately, Keenum adapted easily by simply stepping through the pocket or rolling out. The Vikings used the Rams’ overpursuit, and Keenum got away on most occasions. Poor tackling hurt the Rams’ pass rush as well. Keenum should have been hit, sacked and pressured more times than he actually was. Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will need to make a few adjustments as the team runs the gauntlet against New Orleans and Philadelphia in the next few weeks
McVay made vital coaching errors
Sean McVay made a puzzling decision early in the second quarter. He declined an illegible receiver downfield call. I understand that he opted for the loss of down, rather than repeating the first-and-goal, but it could have made it tougher for the Vikings to score. Vikings running back Latavius Murray then rushed for an 8-yard touchdown. Every yard counts in the NFL, and the Rams needed those yards in the red zone.
Also, McVay’s decision to punt down 21-7 with 8:25 left in the fourth quarter ended the game right there. Don’t get me wrong, the risk would have been huge considering it was on the Rams’ 29-yard line, but it was like handing the Vikings a victory, because they controlled the clock. Had the Rams converted, it might have been the spark they needed to change the outcome. Of course, they needed plenty of things to go in their favor.
Case Keenum gets the last laugh
When it was all said and done, Keenum pulled one over on his former team. He outperformed his replacement in Jared Goff and earned the victory. The Vikings own the better record, but the Rams are still a young, developing team. McVay and Phillips will use this game as a teaching tool. They did so against the Redskins and the Seahawks. They better learn quickly though, because the New Orleans Saints are knocking on the door.