What the hell is going on with the LA Rams? One week Jeff Fisher is getting an extension, two weeks later he’s fired. Rams reporter Tom Green has broken down the last four weeks of the Rams season to detail where it all went wrong…
Since their narrow 9-6 victory over the New York Jets in week 10, the Los Angeles Rams went on a four game losing streak which dashed their hopes of a playoff birth in their first season back in Los Angeles.
This string of defeats resulted in Head Coach Jeff Fisher losing his job and raised questions about the selection of Quarterback Jared Goff in the 2016 NFL Draft after the Rams traded away 6 draft picks to the Tennessee Titans to get him.
Week 11 – Rams 10-14 Dolphins
Jared Goff’s debut:
Jared Goff had a disappointing start on his regular season debut, as the 1st overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft was only able to throw for 134 yards with a completion percentage of 53.4%.
This certainly isn’t the worst start to a quarterbacks career in the NFL, not by a long shot. Former Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Wheeden started with 4 interceptions and passed for 114 yards.
One reason behind Goff’s underwhelming debut is the quality of the Rams offensive line which has been lacking throughout the season. Another reason is wide receivers such as Brian Quick and Kenny Britt not performing at a high enough level.
The Rams offense never really got going and this stems from the lack of raw talent in the offensive line. Running back Todd Gurley was only able to rush for 76 yards throughout the game and was ineffective on most drives. This was disappointing because he made a great start to the game by scoring a 24 yard rushing touchdown in the first quarter. As a result of this the Rams were only within scoring range on three drives throughout the game.
In week 11 the Rams were successful at stopping the run and gave Ryan Tannehill a lot of problems in the pocket due to an explosive performance by the Rams defensive line which only allowed 5 first downs on the run and who sacked Tannehill 4 times.
However, when Tannehill was able to move the ball through the air the Rams secondary were unable to contain the Dolphins receiving core which allowed the Tannehill to throw for 172 yards and two touchdowns. Maurice Alexander was able to get a pick but it wasn’t capitalised on by the Rams offense.
Special Teams Performance:
The special teams had a mixed game as Johnny Hecker had a strong performance with the boot, landing 5 out of 8 punts within the Dolphins 20 yard line with an average punt of 45.4 yards (his longest punt was a 61 yarder).
The kick-off returner Benny Cunningham also performed well averaging 43 yards per return (with a long of 44 yds). However, kicker Greg Zuerlein had a game to forget. He made a 43 yard field goal but also missed a 48 yarder which is well within his range. The Rams were also unable to return punts effectively and between Tavon Austin and Pharoh Cooper the Rams only made 25 yards on punt returns.
Overall Performance: C-/C+
Week 12 – Rams 21-49 Saints
The ‘O’ had a strong start by scoring on their opening drive of the game when Jared Goff threw a 24 yard touchdown pass to Tavon Austin. The Rams went on to score three more touchdowns through the air in the first half but capitulated in the second which let the Saints run away with the game.
Goff had a strong performance throwing for 214 yards, scoring 3 touchdowns and was intercepted on only one occasion. However, the Rams were unable to keep up with the Saints because they couldn’t develop an effective run game. Gurley was only able to rush the ball 50 yards in 13 attempts which forced the Rams to throw the ball more often than they should. This is a problem as there is only so much you can expect from a rookie quarterback and the Rams don’t have any big name recievers.
Defensively the Rams performed badly against Drew Brees and the Saints offense and failed to put the veteran quarterback under serious pressure. The defensive line were only able to breach the Saints on a couple of occasions and only recorded two sacks throughout the game.
They were also ineffective at stopping the run as Mark Ingram was able to rush for 146 yards and his team mate Tim Hightower recorded 51 yards (which was more than Gurley). The Rams secondary was also ineffective and gave up 310 yards when Brees was under centre and a further 50 yards when wide receiver Willie Snead threw a touchdown pass!
Special Teams Performance:
The special teams unit had a better performance than they did in week 11 as Zuerlein didn’t miss a field goal throughout the game (this is to be expected when playing in an indoor arena) and Tavon Austin averaged 8 yards on punt returns.
The stand out performer on special teams was Johnny Hecker once again. He boomed a 68 yard punt and averaged 47.7 yards a punt which gave the Rams defense excellent field position.
The kick off returning was also solid as Cunningham was able to average 32 yards per return which included a 61 yarder.
Overall Performance: C
Week 13 – Rams 10-26 Patriots
The offensive performance can be summarised in one word, and that word is abysmal. The running game never developed and Gurley was only able to rush for 38 yards in 11 rushing attempts. This was in part due to a strong performance by the Patriots defensive line, partly due to a bad performance by the Rams offensive line but mostly because Gurley couldn’t get out of the back field.
Goff also had a performance to forget as he threw two interceptions and just 161 yards. In his defense he was being battered by the Patriots defensive line who managed to sack the rookie quarterback four times.
He wasn’t helped by his receiving corps who dropped three regulation catches which made it impossible for the Rams to get any drives going.
The defensive unit on the other hand had an okay performance as for the most part they were able to contain the Patriots running game with the exception of a 43 yard rushing touchdown by LeGarrett Blount.
Unfortunately, the defensive line once again were unable to apply pressure on Tom Brady and he was able to dominate the Rams defense. He threw the ball for 269 yards and ended up scoring one touchdown. He could have scored more were it not for good performances by Maurice Alexander, Michael Jordan, LeMarcus Joyner and Alec Ogletree who managed to stop the receivers from breaking away up field.
Special Teams Performance:
The special teams unit had another good performance in week 13 but unlike in previous weeks, their kick off returns were less effective.
Cunningham was only able to average 23 yards on returns and his longest return was only for 25 yards. Zuerlein had another solid performance kicking a 43 yard field goal and scoring on the PAT after the only Rams touchdown.
Once again, punter Johnny Hecker was the star of the show on special teams averaging 52.9 yards with his longest going for 76 yards which is one of the longest punts of the season. However, punt returns were still ineffective as the longest return only went for 6 yards.
Week 14 Rams 14-42 Falcons
For the first three quarters of the game the Rams offensive unit was useless and couldn’t get anything going but the dramatically improved in the 4th quarter when the game was dead and buried.
Goff had another week to forget as he threw for 235 yards but was intercepted twice. However, he was able to score his first rushing touchdown in the NFL.
Gurley couldn’t escape from the backfield until the fourth quarter as he was only able to rush for 61 yards throughout the game with his longest run being is 9 yard rushing touchdown. The line had an okay performance but were unable to give Gurley adequate room to run the the football and they allowed their quarterback to be sacked three times.
None of the receivers had a game to go down in the history books as they couldn’t escape from the Falcons coverage until it was too late.
At times the Rams defense was overwhelmed by the Falcons with the exception of two sacks with one by William Hayes and one by Aaron Donald (which is impressive considering most of the time he has two lineman on him).
The Rams conceded 104 yards on the ground as the Falcons running backs were able to exploit the weaknesses to the outside of the defensive line. They also allowed 237 yards through the air and 3 touchdowns which included a 64 yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan to Taylor Gabriel. I think it is safe to say that Thursday Night can’t come soon enough for the Rams.
Special Teams Performance:
The special teams unit had another solid performance even though they were unable to return kick offs or punts effectively. Zuerlien was able to score 2 conversion attempts but wasn’t given the opportunity to kick a field goal as the Rams offense were unable to get into field goal range.
Hecker had a good performance averaging 48.6 yards per punt.
Fisher Loses his Job
This disastrous defeat was the final nail in the coffin and only a few days later it was announced that Coach Jeff Fisher had been fired. He won only 41.4% of his games with the Rams.
His best season was a 7 and 9 season in 2015 where he led the Rams to 3rd in the NFC West. It is fair to say that he was unable to emulate the success he had with the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans where he led them to to Superbowl 34 only to be beaten by the St Louis Rams of 1999, dubbed “the greatest show on turf”.
John Fassel will be the interim head coach for the rest of the season (his highest coaching role prior to Fisher’s firing was the head coaches job at New Mexico Highlands Cowboys (a division II NCAA team).
Overall Performance: D+