The Los Angeles Rams traveled to Levi’s Stadium for Week 10 to face their divisional rival -the San Francisco 49ers. After a rough SNF showing against the Tennessee Titans, the LA Rams hoped to flip the script on primetime television against a weaker 49ers team. Due to sloppy offensive play and a defense that could not adjust its game plan to a predictable 49ers’ offense – the Rams fell to 7-3 on the season.
A lot of blame has been tossed around by media and analysts regarding the root cause of the loss. But a deeper dive into the numbers and the eye test reveals the main culprit for the Rams loss.
Sean McVay’s play calling comes into question (for the second week in a row) and Raheem Morris’ inability to stop Kyle Shanahan’s one-dimensional offense raised eyebrows …
We’ll cover those topics and the following:
- Matt Stafford’s inconsistencies
- WR stock falls substantially for first time
- Tyler Higbee and TE concerns
- Edge rushers highs and lows
- Defensive back concerns
This article will cover each player’s PFF grade as it fluctuates week to week. The grade next to the individual is his current PFF grade.
*The differential +/- in parenthesis reflects whether or not he improved or declined from the previous week. Lastly, based on my own study of the game, I hand out a grade to the position group based on their ability and impact on the game (as well as injuries, signings, or releases). This grade factors into the overall grade of the positional group for the season, and ultimately the trend of the unit moving forward.*
Time to get after it …
Matthew Stafford: 77.7 (-1.1), John Wolford: 39.2 (DNP)
The last two weeks have been the worst games of Stafford’s LA career. Stafford finished the night 26/41, 243 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT. But box scores don’t tell the full story – let’s take a deep dive to see how we got there. By the time Stafford had attempted his 7th pass, he had thrown 2 INTs and the Rams were down 14-0 at the end of the 1st Q. Not an ideal way to start a game on the road. And since the Rams have been hampered by slow starts all season, this was not a great way to ease the minds of fans. His first INT, was on the fourth play of the first drive. On 2nd & 8, Stafford went PA and with his first read (Henderson) not open, Stafford readjusted in the pocket after considering scrambling and then launched a deep ball to OBJ. Only problem is that OBJ stopped his route (still awaiting more clarity on that play design) and Jimmy Ward was able to haul in an easy INT. Not sure I can place to much blame on OBJ in this case because of his playbook limitations. So this INT probably falls on the shoulders of Stafford in the sense of ball security. Especially after last week vs TEN. Four plays later, Stafford attempted a screen to Higbee – only this time Higbee bobbled the pass and it deflected right into Jimmie Ward’s hands for a Pick-6. This one wasn’t on Stafford, but rather Higbee for a blatant drop. I do question the play call. 3rd & 11 on your own 24 and you call a screen play? Why isn’t there a more aggressive effort to pick up 11 yards through the air? Considering other teams have been able to do it vs. our defense, why can’t we try to do it against others? After the 1st half, Stafford and the offense were plagued by drops by Cooper Kupp, Tyler Higbee, & Van Jefferson. At the end of the day, the offense was flat across the board. Stafford missed throws (he had a number of turnover-worthy throws). He missed high (to Skowronek). He didn’t fit throws into windows (almost-INT by Fred Warner).
I believe Stafford is capable of leading this offense and team to a Super Bowl. But right now, the hampering factor is that Sean McVay is relying on the arm of his QB too often. Stafford was an MVP QB through the first 8 weeks of the season because of the balanced approach of the offense. Even when the Rams couldn’t EFFECTIVELY run the ball in a game like Week 3 vs TB – McVay still called 22 run plays out of 60. 37%/63% split of run/pass, The last two weeks for the offense: 28%/72% (TEN) & 18%/82% (SF). While the Tampa Bay game wasn’t a balanced approach, it’s a lot more so, compared to the games against Tennessee and San Francisco.
A couple of stats, I want to throw out there regarding Stafford this year:
- 8 INTs in 1st half, 0 INTs in 2nd half
- 6 INTs out of shotgun, 2 INTs from under center
There are plenty of other stats to show, but these two tell me two things: 1) the losses this year have happened because of the 1st half turnovers & 2) McVay’s usage of Stafford in shotgun should be more balanced.
Lastly, I want to throw these stats of Stafford’s career splits:
- September: 64.7%, 76 TD, 35 INT
- October: 62.6%, 87 TD, 31 INT
- November: 60.6%, 75 TD, 54 INT
- December: 63.9%, 55 TD, 28 INT
- January: 64.7%, 13 TD, 4 INT
Apparently, something about the month of November just doesn’t sit well with Stafford. Bad news: the Rams are 0-2 in November this year and still have one more game (a pivotal one) at Green Bay in Week 12. Good news: Matt Stafford plays better in December.
Moving forward, this is what I want to see out of Matt Stafford going into the 2nd half of the season: 1) can you win more big games and string them together? We saw the big performance against TB and a gritty game @SEA, but can he do it over and over? With a hard 2nd half schedule on slate, this will be a big test for him. 2) if the offense starts slow, can he bring the team back? The last time I remember a true comeback from behind game by the Rams was in the NFC Championship by Jared Goff. If the Rams fall behind early in a crucial game, can he give the team the boost to pull out a win? Lately, the offense has rolled over and that’s not a good indicator for a SB team.
Week 10 Grade: D, Overall: B-, Trend: Moderate Downward
Darrell Henderson: 70.4 (-0.8), Sony Michel: 64.2 (+1.9), Jake Funk: 63.6 (IR), Buddy Howell: 66.6 (N/A)
Hard to write about this group when they weren’t really relied upon because of an early deficit. McVay definitely needs to use this group more, because they are running very well.
Henderson only had 5 carries yet still picked up 31 yards. Michel carried 4 times for 20 yards. When the RBs are picking up 5.0+ yards per carry, it probably means that the offense should run a lot more.
Now, I can understand to some degree that when you fall behind 14-0, it is hard to run because you are trying to make up that deficit. I can understand the game of catch-up partially. However, its the choice of not running the ball when the score was 0-0 or 7-0 that should be emphasized.
With Henderson averaged 4.7 yards/per carry on the season, the run game needs to be prioritized more. The OL is more suited for complimentary football. The iOL and Havenstein are not able to last in pass pro for 40+ pass attempts on a weekly basis.
Week 10 Grade: B-, Overall: B+, Trend: Neutral
Cooper Kupp: 89.4* (+0.0), Odell Beckham Jr: 66.7 (N/A), Van Jefferson: 62.1 (-0.9), Bennett Skowronek: 71.2 (-2.6), Robert Woods: 75.7 (IR), Jacob Harris: 58.7 (DNP), TuTu Atwell: 60.7 (IR)
I pointed out last week that the WR had 11 drops. Week 10 didn’t help that number. Kupp and Jefferson dropped crucial Stafford passes. Kupp’s an easier play and on 3rd down. After a high flying start by this group (particularly because of Kupp’s Top 3 WR play), the Rams WR room crashed in Week 10. Without Robert Woods, the Rams didn’t have a second threat to pair with Kupp. Van Jefferson will need to step up on a weekly basis to fill a major void for a team that used 11 personnel heavily.
This group still has great ability, but it will have to get more from OBJ (needs to be able to absorb playbook), Van Jefferson (needs to win 1 on 1’s), and Skowronek (needs to be able to spell any of the big 3) and be able to get open.
The Rams will miss Robert Woods grittiness as a WR in the pass game, but also in the run game. He was never afraid to stick his nose on a block. Hopefully the Rams will get some of that back with OBJ and Van Jefferson.
Week 10 Grade: D+, Overall: B-, Trend: Significant Downward
Tyler Higbee: 60.4 (-2.4), Kendall Blanton: 45.0 (+3.9), Johnny Mundt: 64.7 (IR),
Jump right to the heart of it. Higbee had two ugly drops in this game. The first was a pick-6 and the second one was an ugly (wide-open) drop in the flat on 3rd down. Can’t happen. I don’t care that he caught his other three targets (1 for a TD tightly contest by Fred Warner in the red zone). Why is he struggling more this year without Gerald Everett’s presence? I just need more from a guy in his 6th season.
Kendall Blanton only played two offensive snaps; with the Rams only had Higbee/Blanton on the field once together. Running 11 personnel 98% of the time.
Week 10 Grade: F, Overall: D-, Trend: Significant Downward
Andrew Whitworth: 84.5 (+2.7), Joe Noteboom: 68.5 (+0.3), David Edwards: 67.1 (+2.0), Brian Allen: 74.5 (+0.5), Coleman Shelton: 48.0 (+0.2), Austin Corbett: 69.9 (+1.0), Bobby Evans: 59.9 (+1.1), Rob Havenstein: 77.3 (+0.6), Alaric Jackson: 37.9 (N/A)
Lost in the offensive struggles Monday night was the fact that the offensive line played respectable outside of Havenstein having his hands full with Nick Bosa. McVay is still putting a lot of pressure on this unit with play calls in shotgun so frequently.
Despite an unnecessary roughness call, Andrew Whitworth is without a doubt the most underrated piece of the offense, as his PFF grade has risen every week since Week 1.
In some ways, I’m glad the Rams OL went through a rough outing against TEN that way it takes some of the pressure off now that we go into the 2nd half of the year.
Running the ball more would help this group keep its Top-5 OL status.
Week 10 Grade: B-, Overall: B+, Trend: Neutral
Aaron Donald: 92.3* (-0.1), A’Shawn Robinson: 67.5 (-9.1), Greg Gaines: 79.9 (+1.5), Mike Hoecht: 43.6 (-4.2), Bobby Brown III: 63.0 (+0.2), Marquise Copeland: 85.0 (+12.6), Jonah Williams: 66.3 (Waived), Sebastian Joseph-Day: 62.4 (IR)
Pass rush was neutralized across the board because of the 49ers offensive game plan. Despite, Aaron Donald still posted 8 tackles (2 solo), 2 TFL.
Greg Gaines saw a 96% snap share again; proving that he’s the next man up following Sebastian Joseph-Day’s injury. His play continues to be strong week in and week out.
Behind the starting 3, the rotation is worth keeping an eye on:
- Hoecht: 1 snap
- Brown III: 1 snap
- Copeland: 26 snaps
Marquise Copeland saw a large snap share as the 4th DL. Was this because of SF’s run heavy scheme. Hoecht is used more in pass situations. Worth watching as Copeland was one of the very few bright spots on the defense.
Not going to place all the blame here for the DL, but A’Shawn decreased grade and some of the movement the SF OL had on him should not happen. The Rams $9 million investment from the COVID offseason has yet to record any sacks and any TFL in his time as a Ram. Step up!
This grade would be lower, but Raheem Morris’s stubbornness to use more DL earlier doesn’t make this a failing grade.
Week 10 Grade: D+, Overall: B, Trend: Moderate Downward
Troy Reeder: 46.2 (-5.5), Ernest Jones: 47.0 (-14.1), *Travin Howard: 61.6 (IR)
All night and these guys still couldn’t recognize and execute that SF was going run, run, pass every 3 plays. Ernest Jones got his first taste of being exposed in pass coverage. SF beat E. Jones/Rapp/Scott/David Long Jr all night in the middle of the field for 6+ yards any time they dropped back to pass.
Knowing that Jimmy G doesn’t possess the talent to routinely hit his WRs & TE on out-breaking routes, the Rams should have taken this away much earlier. It should have been emphasized PRE-GAME!
Again, a lot of blame on Raheem Morris.
Week 10 Grade: D+, Overall: C-, Trend: Moderate Downward
Leonard Floyd: 72.6 (-5.0), Von Miller: 86.0 (+0.4), Terrell Lewis: 50.6 (-3.5), Ogbonnia Okoronkwo: 86.5 (+3.0), Chris Garrett: 53.8 (DNP), Justin Lawlar: 63.8 (DNP), Jamir Jones: 55.2 (DNP), Justin Hollins: 71.4 (IR)
The edge rushers got worked by Kittle and Co. in this one. They could not figure out how to stop SF from pulling their TE, WR, or OL on blocks to seal the edge. Von Miller got manhandled by Kittle in a 1 on 1 (despite Reeder stuffing the play for a loss). Leonard Floyd could not contain his edge either and you could feel him getting bullied out there.
Okoronkwo was the only that seemed to play well, and he’s typically a pass rushing specialist. He only played 21% of the snap share at Edge, while Terrell Lewis saw 34%. Von Miller was in for 66% but that number seems likely to climb after the Bye Week once he’s completely healed up from an ankle injury + acclimated with defensive calls.
Week 10 Grade: D-, Current Grade: B-, Trend: Moderate Downward
Jalen Ramsey: 87.7* (+3.8), Darious Williams: 60.3 (+0.2), David Long Jr.: 62.2 (+0.1), Robert Rochell: 61.9 (-6.3), Donte Deayon: 69.0 (DNP)
Ramsey was the best defender on the field Monday night. He had a pair of pass breakups (when SF did decide to throw). He also had 2 TFL. When you have Jalen Ramsey on your team and you are playing the SF 49ers, you should definitely 1) realize that SF will not attempt to throw it that often and 2) when they do throw it, it’s likely going to be thrown to D. Samuel or Kittle. Why not put Ramsey on Kittle and double team Samuel with a corner and safety???
Darious Williams (100%) has not been the same player through 10 weeks that he was in 2020. The Rams need him to elevate his play in 1 on 1 situations.
As for CB3, right now, it seems that when healthy – Donte Deayon is the best option. That’s a scary thought in some ways because of his lack of size and that he has yet to be tested by good WRs on better teams.
I like Robert Rochell (22%), but he just wasn’t good in this one. David Long Jr got back on the field but he got beat by Samuel (31%) at least a few times (one was on 3rd & long).
I’m definitely disappointed in this group’s play, but Raheem Morris needed to see that his scheme vs. SF wasn’t working either.
Week 10 Grade: D, Overall: B-, Trend: Slight Downward (Ramsey himself keeps this from falling through the floor)
Jordan Fuller: 76.1 (-0.3), Taylor Rapp: 64.9 (+1.5), Terrell Burgess: 79.4 (DNP), Nick Scott: 39.9 (-2.6), JuJu Hughes: 35.5 (DNP)
I appreciate Nick Scott (12%), but he can’t be the third safety anymore on this team. The Rams don’t seem inclined to bench Taylor Rapp. I’m surprised his PFF grade improved because he seems to give up a lot of receptions in his area of field. I hope that R. Morris gives Burgess a consideration during the Bye. Putting him would likely elevate the talent of the DB room.
Like Ramsey with the CBs, Jordan Fuller is holding this positional group down with his play.
I think my biggest concern with this group is that the Rams don’t have a big/fast safety that can cover a TE like Kittle. Rams will have to face: Kittle, G. Everett, Ertz, M. Andrews in these last 7 games. And I don’t see the Rams putting Ramsey on one of those guys, because they haven’t in the past.
Week 10 Grade: C-, Overall: B-, Trend: Slight Downward
Johnny Hekker: 66.9 (-0.3), Matt Gay: 73.1 (+0.6)
Matt Gay booted his only FG attempt through from 37 yards.
Hekker was underwhelming as he had 3 punts for 124 yards (41.3 avg) with a long of 44. He also was a part of a fake FG, throwing a pass to Blanton for 2 yards, but was short of the first down marker.
Koski did not have any punt return opportunities, and averaged only 19.0 yards per kick return.
The kick coverage team only surrendered 1 return of 19 yards.
Week 10 Grade: C-, Overall: D+, Trend: Neutral
MCVAY AND CO.
Back to back games where the identity of the team was missing.
McVay deserves some heat for his run/pass usage. He needs to establish more emphasis with the run early to ease Stafford in. I think since the Tampa Bay game (where they passed a lot against a stout TB defense), McVay has thought he could sling it across the field. And that isn’t the Rams strong suit week in and week out. And then my other plea to McVay is to find the identity of the team. Any time the team has fallen behind early, I haven’t seen them claw back like they did in the 2018 NFC Championship. I vividly remember seeing McVay’s face to Goff after Gurley dropped a pass and the Saints recorded an INT with short field. McVay was composed and even gave Goff a nod; signaling a confidence of we’ll get back in this game. I haven’t seen that since 2018. He’s always looked baffled (with his hand/pen in hand across his face; trying to figure out what to do next). Sometimes its not strategy. Sometimes its just plain confidence/energy to let the team believe they can come back. Goff isn’t a world talent, but I bet he believed he could win that NFC Championship because his HC didn’t swallow his tongue. I love McVay and I’m definitely not a part of the fanbase that is so quick to throw him on the hot-seat. As a coach myself (different sport), I recognize the need to keep a level of positivity each play. I would like to see McVay embody this down the stretch.
Raheem Morris, on the other hand, he deserves some heat. No, he’s not getting fired this year. 99% chance that won’t happen people. But he needs to take the blame for MNF, not McVay. When Kyle Shanahan is running 16 consecutive times on 1st down. You need to respond! I told multiple people before the game, the SF 49ers are the most predictable offense in the NFL. Run, run, pass. I could have told you that would be Shanahan’s emphasis in this game to take the ball away from Stafford and keep Jimmy G alive vs. AD99, V. Miller, and Floyd. How do you not see that ahead of time? It took until late in the 2nd Q for R. Morris to decide to use 4 down lineman! Why didn’t he go to that on the first drive when SF ran 18 plays!!! You can’t let teams punch you in the mouth over and over. It not only wears on the defense, but the offense has to sit on the sideline (for 10:00+) to routinely watch it and cringe. Then when they do get on the field, they press to make up the deficit. Alas, players press and mistakes are compounded. I hope Raheem Morris takes a long look at how to evolve Brandon Staley’s defense. I am fine for the most part of the defensive strategy to bend not break. But sometimes, you do need to throw wrinkles. Double a pass catching threat. Stuff the box against a run heavy team. The Rams are blessed with AD99, V. Miller, Floyd, and Ramsey on this defense. They can never let what happened Monday night happen every again. EVER.
Going into the bye week this was tough to watch, we have another 13 days of misery until Week 12. Rams have to get straight during the Bye because the trip to Lambeau is a huge game.
Week 10 Grade: McVay: F / Morris: F / DiCamillis: C, Overall: B-, Trend: Significant Downward