To say that the Rams’ performance Sunday in Dallas wasn’t up to standard would be a gentle way of putting it. By the time the Rams started their fourth drive of the game, they trailed the Cowboys 26-3. It was another offensive mess, something that is becoming a theme for a team that once possessed the most potent offense in the NFL.
Here’s why the Rams were unsuccessful offensively against the Cowboys.
The Rams continue to put themselves in third-and-long
Last week after the Rams’ loss to the Steelers, I broke down the Rams’ third-down woes and directly attributed their issues to their unwillingness to run the ball on second down and the overuse of Cooper Kupp. The Rams tightened up on those two points against Dallas but their tendency to pass the ball reared its ugly head once again.
When the Rams passed the ball on second down, they averaged a distance of 5.6 yards needed on third down. When they ran the ball, they averaged 5.8 yards needed to gain a first down. However, when we dive deeper and look at the numbers when Matthew Stafford was on the field, it tells a different story.
With Stafford on the field, the Dallas defense had to respect the arm talent of the Super Bowl champion. Therefore, they couldn’t stack the box like they did against Brett Rypien. When the Rams passed on second down with Stafford, they averaged 5.8 yards to gain on third down. When they ran the ball, the Rams averaged 5 yards to gain, nearly a whole yard less. That is huge and that 1 yard has a direct effect on the Rams’ inability to put together consistent offensive production.
The offensive line is awful
I’m not pointing out something that football fans don’t already know. The offensive line has been a mess since Andrew Whitworth retired two years ago and with Rob Havenstein missing on Sunday, Stafford was left exposed.
Stafford suffered two sacks and five QB hits, a number that might’ve been higher if he wasn’t getting the ball out of his hand quickly. The thing is, whenever Stafford wants to throw the ball fast, he relies on pre-snap reads and a determination/educated guess of the coverage defenses are running to find a target he can lock in on. He doesn’t go to his second read and it’s brought him a lot of success. It’s also made him overly reliant on Kupp so when Stafford had to make said read because he was constantly getting hit, he went for Kupp. He did it again and the pass was picked off by Dallas DB Daron Bland for a pick-6, Stafford’s seventh interception thrown on the year.
Mike LaFleur isn’t the answer at OC
Before someone says McVay is the main offensive playcaller, we know. That doesn’t mean a play-caller doesn’t need a support staff to design plays, take over play calls, analyze defensive tendencies and other OC responsibilities that a head coach might not have the time to accomplish. We saw a clear regression with Liam Coen in 2022 and we’re seeing similar issues in 2023. The offense is too pass-heavy, its structure is built off a QB having time in the pocket – something the Rams can’t provide – and it does not consistently put up points, especially against teams who can consistently generate pressure off of three- and four-man rushes.
In McVay’s two Super Bowl appearances, his main offensive assistants were Zac Taylor and Kevin O’Connell, coaches who have gone on to have success in their head-coaching roles. Whatever LaFeur’s responsibilities are, he isn’t getting it done.
If that isn’t enough evidence that an offensive-minded head coach needs a good OC, look at the offensive production in Kansas City with Eric Bieniemy at the helm compared to Matt Nagy. Clear as day.
Until the Rams address these problems, they will continue to sputter on offense while remaining turnover-prone. It’s time to make changes to the game plan before McVay is forced to make changes to the roster and the coaching staff.