This becomes a farce.
And not just Sunday’s last desperate game for the Rams, a series of passes, lateral shots and clownish moves aimed at perhaps creating another miracle against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium.
No, an offense and a play-caller once feared in the NFL are more than stagnant. Touchdowns are rarities, the rushing attack is not a threat. Even 10 yards for a game-clinching first down seems like asking too much.
Coach Sean McVay and defending Super Bowl champion Rams are clearly plagued by a Super Bowl hangover.
They too are at a crossroads.
After a 16-13 loss to the Buccaneers on Sunday — another Tom Brady-drafted beauty for those unrelated to the Rams — Los Angeles’ record fell to 3-5.
“It’s a sick feeling,” McVay said.
That comment was reminiscent of McVay around February 2019 and the moments after Brady led the New England Patriots to victory over the Rams in Super Bowl LIII.
McVay and the Rams recovered. They rebuilt to win Super Bowl LVI. Along the way, they’ve beaten Brady and the Buccaneers three times in the last two seasons.
But with nine games remaining, that offense is nowhere near competent, let alone playoff caliber.
In January, during an NFC divisional round playoff game against the Buccaneers, quarterback Matthew Stafford needed just 42 seconds to propel the Rams 75 yards to score a game-winning field goal.
Stafford said afterwards that he would have liked to have been up with three touchdowns and a knee, “but it’s a lot more fun when you’re making a game like that to win the game and just steal someone’s soul.”
On Sunday, after the defense maintained a 13-9 lead by stopping Brady and the Buccaneers with a goal-line stand with less than two minutes to go, Stafford and the offense needed only a first down to tick off the clock.
Instead, the Rams had to stab and give Brady the ball with 44 seconds left.
Brady needed 35 seconds to go 60 yards and topped a six-game drive with a one-yard touchdown pass to tight end Cade Otton with nine seconds left, sucking the soul out of the Rams.
“It’s asking a lot that they do that twice late in the game,” Stafford said of the defense. “And we definitely had our chance and we didn’t take it.”
It wasn’t the first time the offense has faltered — in the game or this season.
“We shouldn’t have been out there,” said cornerback Jalen Ramsey. “You can put it like it is – the game should have been over.”
But the defense cannot do it alone.
“We have so many games where the defense gets stopped and then we go to the sidelines and they’re like, ‘You stay locked up. you stay locked up You’re going to have to get back out there,’” Ramsey said.
“It shouldn’t be like that. We’ve got to have some dogs that are going to say, ‘We’re going to shut this mom out… out.'”
The defense gave the offensive several opportunities to control the game.
Linebacker Bobby Wagner blocked a field goal try. Defensive lineman Aaron Donald fired Brady on the fourth down and smashed away a third-down pass on the Buccaneers’ next possession to force a punt.
But the defense couldn’t stop Brady on the final drive.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Brady, 45, a seven-time Super Bowl champion with a long record of late-game heroics, had briefly retired following last season’s playoff loss to the Rams.
The Rams undoubtedly wished he’d stuck with it and not returned for a 23rd season.
“You just can’t give Tom a chance,” said Wagner. “He’s shown it time and time again, you keep giving him chances that he’s going to hurt you.”
The Rams locker room wasn’t a gloomy place, even after this season’s losses. But after missing an opportunity to perhaps reverse their season, the players quietly dressed and dispersed.
“I’m kind of in shock,” Donald said.
McVay seemed shocked too.
“It can’t go on like this,” he said. “As it looks, I don’t necessarily have the exact answers now.”
But McVay hinted that changes were afoot.
“We really need to figure out a lot of different things that we can do, whether they’re different players, different plans, different things like that,” he said. “But that’s not good enough and I have to do better.
“I’m a big part of it, and that’s just the reality we’re in right now.”
Wide receiver Cooper Kupp, who set up last season’s playoff win over the Buccaneers with a long pass reception, scored the Rams’ only touchdown on Sunday after catching a midrange pass and turning it into a 69-yard touchdown .
Kupp also carried the ball in a jet sweep on the Rams’ last possession. Instead of risking being thrown wide and stopping the clock, he went onto the grass after a five-yard lead. Two games later, the Rams punted and gave Brady another chance.
Kupp agreed that a change was in order.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again,” he said, adding, “It’s not a lack of effort, but how much more effort can you give yourself at some point?”
“You have to change something.”
https://www.latimes.com/sports/rams/story/2022-11-06/rams-offense-defense-fail-tom-brady-leads-tampa-win-final-drive Rams can’t stop Tom Brady from leading final drive to lift Tampa