The Los Angeles Rams (7-4) suffered a heartbreaking 23-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers (5-6) at SoFi Stadium on Sunday, November 29. Rams quarterback Jared Goff completed 19 of 31 passes for 198 yards, two interceptions and a fumble lost in the defeat.
Here are four observations on the game:
Time for Jared Goff to grow up
I’ve defended Goff for much of his career for good reason. The Rams put him in a poor position with former head coach Jeff Fisher as a rookie, and he’s played under multiple offensive coordinators and quarterback coaches. However, the Rams traded a bounty to select him as the No. 1 overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft to be their franchise quarterback. They later paid him $134 million over four years ($110 million guaranteed) believing that he was ready to lead the franchise. What we saw today from Goff is far below any bar set for a fifth-year franchise quarterback. In truth, Goff’s performance put him nowhere near the value of what the Rams are paying for.
Goff will enter next week’s game against the Arizona Cardinals with the highest completion percentage of his career (67.25%). He’s already over 3,000 passing yards with an improved touchdown to interception ratio (16-10) over last season. Yet the inconsistent play that began in late 2018 has continued well into this season. Goff struggles under pressure and often fails to read opposing defenses. He possesses elite raw talent, but Goff’s decision-making often hurts his team at the worst times.
The Rams’ defense led the comeback against the 49ers, saving Goff from taking full responsibility for the team’s loss. Still, his mistakes buried the Rams for much of the game. There are no more excuses for Jared Goff. His offensive line didn’t perform well, and head coach Sean McVay certainly deserves to be questioned for his playcalling, but Goff is paid to lead this franchise on the field. It’s time he acted like it.
Sean McVay’s failure evident
I’ve said it time and time again on the Rams Talk Radio podcast: John Lynch built the 49ers to beat the Rams. However, that doesn’t mean the Rams cannot match up with them. The 49ers feature a strong pass rush and a fast front seven. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh continually gameplans well for the Rams by constantly pressuring Goff and shutting down the edge against the running game.
Sean McVay failed to adjust for his offensive line’s rough performance against the 49ers pass rush for much of the first 35 minutes of the game. Keeping Goff in the pocket against that pass rush proved costly time and time again. Couple that with his failure to establish the running game and McVay hamstrung his quarterback. The 49ers’ speed stymied the Rams running game on the outside, so the obvious answer would be to attack that speed by going in between the tackles. Unfortunately, McVay failed to do that until later in the game.
McVay remains one of the brightest young minds in the game. However, he won’t win a Super Bowl until he learns to get out of his own way. Right now, McVay tends to get impatient when things don’t go his way, especially with the running game. Sometimes it’s a matter of patience, especially when facing athletic defenses. McVay could go down in history as one of the greatest coaches in the NFL. I truly believe that. However, it’s not going to happen if he doesn’t get out of his own head more.
The offensive line is a concern
The Rams offensive line protected Goff well against Tampa Bay last week, but it struggled against the aggressive 49ers front seven. Add in the Rams’ issues running the ball in the last two weeks, and there is reason for concern. The unit simply isn’t getting enough push at the line with left tackle Andrew Whitworth out of the lineup. Los Angeles is at its best when it physically controls the game. The Rams aren’t doing that, and with the Arizona Cardinals’ Kyler Murray up next, a power running game is essential for their chances. It’s time for this entire unit to step up both in pass protection and in the running game. The Rams won’t make it far without the big men showing what they are made of up front.
The bright spot
Fortunately, defensive coordinator Brandon Staley’s unit kept the Rams in the game despite four turnovers from the offense. Defensive lineman Aaron Donald reaffirmed his place among the best in the league with a dominant performance in the second half, culminating in a forced fumble returned for a touchdown by defensive back Troy Hill. There will be those that are critical of the defense’s performance on the last drive of the game. Yet it seems idiotic to point the blame at a unit that pulled the Rams back from the brink. The tired defense proved unable to make one more stop, but a nine-minute time of possession difference points to the offense, which failed to carry its weight. If Goff and the offense can figure it out, the Rams have a chance at a deep playoff run.
Derek Ciapala founded Rams Talk in 2013, after covering the Rams for Yahoo! Sports and Sports Out West. He currently serves as the site’s editor-in-chief and host for Rams Talk Radio. Follow him @dciapala on Twitter!