Rams’ Sean McVay defends interception-prone Matthew Stafford

It took a few seasons, but Sean McVay finally couldn’t take it anymore.

After a 2020 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, McVay blamed quarterback Jared Goff for committing too many costly turnovers. He eventually traded Goff and two first-round draft picks to the Detroit Lions for Matthew Stafford.

McVay may never come close to similarly criticizing Stafford, who led the Rams to the Super Bowl last season.

That became clear again on Wednesday, when the Rams (2-2) began preparations for Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys (3-1) at SoFi Stadium.

The Rams lost to the 49ers 24-9.

Stafford completed 32 of 48 passes for 254 yards but made two turnovers, including an interception in the fourth quarter that was returned for a touchdown to seal the embarrassing defeat at Monday Night Football.

And yet McVay said Stafford played “excellently” in the loss.

“If you look at some of the different things that he was involved with, I thought he played excellently,” McVay said. “I thought he did a lot of good things. I think the margin of error was so much smaller. … I thought that’s an achievement he can build on.”

The 34-year-old Stafford got off to a quick and successful start with the Rams in 2021, surviving a winless November and playing to the Super Bowl title in the postseason.

The first quarter of this season was not similar.

In four games — about a quarter of the 17-game season — Stafford’s touchdown passes are way down, his interceptions way up.

The Buffalo Bills routed the Rams in the opener and the offense didn’t look sharp in victories over the Atlanta Falcons and Arizona Cardinals. The inconsistencies continued against the 49ers.

When asked to rate his performance in four games on Wednesday, Stafford found room for improvement.

“The name of the game for the quarterback is to help the team get to the end zone,” he said. “We haven’t done that enough yet.

“And I can do better at that, whether that’s a little bit better in the red or a little bit more explosive. … Can definitely be better.”

In the first four games last season, Stafford rushed for 1,222 yards and 11 touchdowns with two interceptions.

In four games this season, he has rushed for 1,015 yards and four touchdowns, with the league’s worst six interceptions.

Stafford has targeted star receiver Cooper Kupp 54 times, and the reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year has 42 catches for 402 yards and three touchdowns at the top of the league.

But receiver Allen Robinson, who the Rams viewed as an upgrade over Robert Woods, has been targeted just 18 times. He has nine catches, one for a touchdown.

San Francisco cornerback (7) Charvarius Ward cuts off a pass in the end zone intended for Rams receiver Allen Robinson.

San Francisco cornerback (7) Charvarius Ward breaks up a pass in the end zone destined for Rams receiver Allen Robinson, who hasn’t been targeted often this season.

(Jeff Lewis/Associated Press)

“He’s a really talented player – a guy I can try better to find and get balls to him earlier,” said Stafford, adding: “Whatever the coverage dictates, I try to use the football.

“I think there are some opportunities in games where I can give him shots.”

On Sunday, Stafford faces a Cowboys defense that includes elite pass rushers DeMarcus Lawrence and Micah Parsons, among others. The Cowboys have 15 sacks, the second most in the NFL.

The Rams have given up 16 sacks, including seven against the Bills and seven against the 49ers.

Stafford said he studies film to find ways to improve in situations like this.

“‘Can I get the ball out of here quicker? can we do that Can I get us out of this piece or that piece or whatever?’” he said, “Well, I look inward more than anything. Know that the boys up front are fighting the fuck and will do anything to keep the boys away from me.”

With center Brian Allen recovering from knee surgery and Coleman Shelton sidelined for four to six weeks with an ankle injury, Stafford could operate behind a line that again includes third-string center Jeremiah Kolone, Bobby Evans and Alaric Jackson deals with Joe Noteboom and Rob Havenstein.

Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy coached the Green Bay Packers for ten seasons while Stafford played for the Detroit Lions in the NFC North.

McCarthy is familiar with Stafford’s potential.

“He can do any throw from any platform and any arm angle,” McCarthy said Wednesday during a conference call with Los Angeles reporters. “So he gives you the flexibility to be very aggressive, schematically, and he’s obviously a great fit for Sean and the Rams.”

Etc.

The Rams held meetings and worked in the weight room but did not train Wednesday. Had they practiced, offensive lineman David Edwards (concussion), cornerback David Long (groin) and safety Taylor Rapp (ribs) would have been limited, according to the Rams injury report.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/rams/story/2022-10-05/rams-coach-sean-mcvay-interception-prone-matthew-stafford-excellent Rams’ Sean McVay defends interception-prone Matthew Stafford

Emma Bowman

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