Rams reeling as regular-season slide vs. 49ers continues in loss

From Super Bowl Champion to Super Average. Mediocre. And maybe leaning towards… super bad?

There the Rams find themselves at Levi’s Stadium after a 24-9 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night.

“However you want to cut it,” said coach Sean McVay, “we have to get better together.”

It was the Rams’ seventh straight regular-season loss to the 49ers — their fourth straight at Levi’s Stadium — and lowered the Rams’ record to 2-2 overall and 1-1 in the NFC West.

For most teams, a .500 record is not a cause for alarm. The NFL is set to give the defending Super Bowl champion a hard time – and every team in the NFC West is now 2-2.

But under McVay, the Rams aren’t used to average.

Prior to this season, which began with a loss to the Buffalo Bills and a win over the Atlanta Falcons, they’d only been to .500 twice since the Rams made then-30-year-old McVay the youngest coach in modern NFL history.

In 2017, they started 1-1 and then finished 11-5, making the playoffs for the first time since the 2004 season. But in 2019, the Rams were 3-3 on their way to a 9-7 finish and missed the playoffs for the only time under McVay.

With 13 games remaining, Monday night’s result may still not be convincing evidence that the Rams are suffering from a Super Bowl hangover. It might not spell disaster.

But with the 3-1 Dallas Cowboys coming to SoFi Stadium on Sunday, the Rams have plenty of problems.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford again intercepted a pass and returned for a touchdown against the 49ers. He also lost a fumble. Linebackers Justin Hollins and Takkarist McKinley had to be separated while fighting on the sidelines. The offensive line is a mess due to injuries. And aside from Stafford’s connection to Cooper Kupp and Tyler Higbee, the offense isn’t prolific.

The defeat at “Monday Night Football” was a “punch in the stomach,” said Kupp.

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) battles the San Francisco 49ers.

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) battles the San Francisco 49ers.

(Godofredo A. Vasquez / Associated Press)

“You can sit here and say we have to do better,” said Kupp, who caught 14 passes for 122 yards. “We say that every week, but at some point you just have to do it.”

A week after conceding just four field goals in a 20-12 win over the Arizona Cardinals, the Rams only managed three field goals.

It was a poor performance by a team that ended some misery against the 49ers by beating them in the NFC Championship game in January.

Stafford, operating behind a patchwork offensive line, was sacked seven times, four in the first half.

Center Coleman Shelton, again playing in place of injured starter Brian Allen, left the game after the second series with an ankle injury, leading Jeremiah Kolone to snap the ball for a line where reserves Alaric Jackson and Bobby Evans were already on guard .

Stafford completed 32 of 48 passes for 254 yards but missed a touchdown in his second straight game, just three times in his 13+ NFL seasons and not since 2016.

And after shooting clean against the Cardinals, Stafford made a crucial error in the fourth quarter when 49ers safety Talanoa Hufanga intercepted a screen pass and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown that sealed the win.

Stafford made a similar mistake against the 49ers last season when safety Jimmie Ward intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown.

“It was like deja vu,” McVay said, adding, “It’s very frustrating.”

Said Stafford: “That’s on my account. I can work better there.”

Stafford was again outplayed by much-criticized 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Garoppolo, who was out for Trey Lance in the offseason and in training camp, bounced back from an embarrassing performance against the Denver Broncos and played well as usual in his second start against the Rams.

Garoppolo completed 16 of 27 passes for 239 yards and a touchdown. The versatile Deebo Samuel scored late in the first half when he caught a short pass and ran through several would-be tacklers on his way to a 57-yard touchdown.

“He took the ball out of his hands and put it in the playmaker’s hands,” Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner said of Garoppolo. “Last year nobody thought he would be back on this team. Earlier this year, no one thought he would be back on that team.

“And all he does is come out and do plays. He did [Monday]and we have to make sure next time we stop doing that.”

The Rams were down 14-6 at halftime, having just two field goals and giving up a 32-yard touchdown run by Jeff Wilson Jr. and Samuel’s touchdown.

But after five possession games, Hufanga stepped in front of a pass intended for Kupp and deflected it back into the end zone.

After being routed by the Buffalo Bills in the opener and then bouncing back with victories over the Atlanta Falcons and Cardinals, the Rams continue to search for a consistent winning formula.

“It’s four games,” McVay said, “but that’s about where we are.”

https://www.latimes.com/sports/rams/story/2022-10-03/rams-san-francisco-49ers-loss-nfl-matthew-stafford-recap Rams reeling as regular-season slide vs. 49ers continues in loss

Emma Bowman

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