Last May, Miami, Ohio, unveiled a statue of Rams coach Sean McVay about 50 minutes from Paycor Stadium.
McVay, who led the Rams to victory in Super Bowl LVI, was enshrined in the school’s storied Cradle of Coaches, an exclusive club of alumni that includes Super Bowl winners Weeb Ewbank and John Harbaugh, among others.
On Monday night, McVay practiced in Ohio for the first time since he and his signature hairpin were immortalized in bronze.
And for much of the game, the Rams’ defense made injured Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow look like a statue.
But Burrow found some footing in the second half and the Rams couldn’t counter in a 19-16 loss in front of 66,158 and a “Monday Night Football” crowd.
“There were just a lot of self-inflicted wounds,” McVay said.
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford had two passes intercepted by Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson and six of them sacked just.
The Rams converted just one of 11 third downs and had to settle for field goals after penetrating inside the 20-yard line several times.
“Our defense played great,” said Stafford, who completed 18 of 33 passes for 269 yards and a touchdown. “But we just didn’t do enough offensively, especially early in the game, to get a little bit of a lead there.”
The Rams are 1-2 heading into Sunday’s game against the Colts in Indianapolis.
It will be a short week for a team that desperately needs recovery time after left tackle Alaric Jackson and right guard Joe Noteboom left the game due to injuries.
Monday night’s game was the first game between the Rams and Bengals since Super Bowl LVI, when the Rams earned a 23-20 victory at SoFi Stadium.
With this win, the Rams’ all-in, boom-or-bust mentality paid off for owner Stan Kroenke. Ultimately, the goal is to win championships, not to be a perennial contender who doesn’t get there.
However, this victory came at a cost. The Rams no longer employ stars like receiver Odell Beckham Jr., edge rusher Von Miller, safety Eric Weddle, cornerback Jalen Ramsey and tackle Andrew Whitworth, to name a few.
After enduring the worst Super Bowl hangover in NFL history in 2022, the Rams retreated financially and traded, released or chose not to re-sign, many of whom would play critical roles in the Super Bowl. Played run. Among them was Bengals safety Nick Scott.
Whitworth was in attendance Monday for the induction of former Bengals stars Chad Johnson and Boomer Esiason into the team’s Ring of Honor.
The Rams could have used him against a Bengals defense that featured Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard, especially after Jackson suffered a hamstring injury in the first half and was replaced by Zachary Thomas.
The pregame drama revolved around Burrow and the right calf injury that has hampered him since training camp. Coach Zac Taylor had said it would be a mid-game decision, but with the Bengals facing a dreaded 0-3 start, it seemed inconceivable that a player they recently signed to a $275 million extension had, would be watching from the sidelines.
“He got all the money – he’s good with his feet, he’s great with his arm too and he’s really smart,” said Rams safety Jordan Fuller, who played with Burrow at Ohio State before the quarterback moved on Louisiana State transferred. “So he’s obviously a threat whether he can run or not.”
When the Bengals won the throw and elected to receive, we didn’t have to wait to see how Burrow would react.
However, Taylor gave Burrow a limited playbook, with no rollouts or anything that would force Burrow to move sideways. Instead, he got rid of the ball as quickly as possible, which helped the Rams avoid having Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd running around freely in the secondary.
At least for the first half.
Burrow completed 17 of 31 passes for 144 yards in the first half, but never really seemed to use his right foot to release passes. Many sailed high.
“He really didn’t move around all that much,” said Rams defensive back Aaron Donald, who had one of the Rams’ two sacks. “He stood still and just got the ball out quickly.”
Linebacker Ernest Jones said, “We could see he just wasn’t moving the way he normally does … but he got the ball out of his hand quickly and put it where it needed to be.”
Burrow found his rhythm midway through the third quarter and helped the Bengals to their first lead – and win – of the season. Burrow completed 26 of 49 passes for 259 yards, with one interception. Chase caught 12 passes for 141 yards, both more than he caught in the first two weeks combined.
Evan McPherson kicked four field goals and Joe Mixon rushed for a touchdown.
That was enough to beat a Rams team that gained just 292 yards. After the Bengals’ second interception, the Rams went out of bounds three times on their next three possessions.
“There were a lot of things that just weren’t good enough,” McVay said.
At halftime the score was tied (6-6) as neither team could score more than a few field goals.
The Rams came out and moved quickly down the field following passes from Stafford to tight ends Tyler Higbee and Kyren Williams. A facemask penalty on the Bengals helped the Rams get to the 21-yard line, but a third-down sack by Hendrickson forced the Rams to settle for another field goal and a 9-6 lead .
Then Burrow seemed to come to life.
He connected with Chase, deflected a fierce hit from Aaron Donald, found Chase two more times and then completed a pass to Higgins before Mixon scored a 14-yard touchdown and a 13-9 lead.
Stafford responded with a 46-yard pass to Van Jefferson, but Wilson intercepted his next pass at the 22-yard line.
Burrow’s 43-yard pass to Chase helped set up another field goal, extending the lead to seven points.
Rams cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon’s interception with just over 10 minutes left set the Rams on track for a possible comeback, but the Bengals sacked Stafford twice, ending the threat.
The Bengals added another field goal before the Rams made a final push.
With 3:34 left, Stafford drove the Rams 61 yards and finished the drive with a one-yard touchdown pass on third down to Tutu Atwell with 1:06 left.
However, the Rams failed to recover the onside kick and the Bengals ran out of time.
The Rams left the stadium to go to the airport and catch a plane home later that evening. In five days they will be on the plane again. The short turnaround forces the Rams to put the result behind them even quicker than usual.
According to Stafford, that could serve the Rams well.
“Nothing better than that,” he said. “Just go back out there and go play again.”