Rams’ inability to play a complete game for 4 quarters is their Achilles’ heel

Just as they were last season, the Los Angeles Rams are 3-4 through seven games this year. As disappointing as their record is, there’s still some semblance of hope that the Rams can be a playoff team in 2023.

That’s especially true when you think about the fact that Los Angeles has been competitive in just about every game with a lead in all seven of them – including losses to the 49ers, Eagles and Bengals.

What’s plagued the Rams all year is their inability to play a complete game for four quarters. They’ve had good halves, like their 23-point outburst against the Seahawks in the final 30 minutes in Week 1. They’ve also had awful halves, like when they were blanked by the Eagles in the second half in Week 5.

In Sunday’s game against the Steelers, the Rams’ point differential in the first half and second half was the narrowest it’s been all season: nine points in the first half and eight in the second. However, they were outscored 14-0 in the fourth quarter, blowing a 17-10 lead.

In the final 15 minutes, the Rams had 20 net yards and Matthew Stafford didn’t complete a single pass in the final 20 minutes, going 0-for-6 down the stretch. It’s mostly been the second half that’s caused issues for the Rams, averaging only 10 points per game in the third and fourth quarters combined – a number that’s buoyed by their 23 points and 20 points in the second half of their wins over the Seahawks and Cardinals.

Here’s how the Rams’ scoring output breaks down in the first and second halves of each game.

Week 1 win vs. Seahawks

  • 1st half: 7 points

  • 2nd half: 23 points

Week 2 loss vs. 49ers

  • 1st half: 17 points

  • 2nd half: 6 points

Week 3 loss vs. Bengals

  • 1st half: 6 points

  • 2nd half: 10 points

Week 4 win vs. Colts

  • 1st half: 20 points

  • 2nd half: 3 points (6 in overtime)

Week 5 loss vs. Eagles

  • 1st half: 14 points

  • 2nd half: 0 points

Week 6 win vs. Cardinals

  • 1st half: 6 points

  • 2nd half: 20 points

Week 7 loss vs. Steelers

  • 1st half: 9 points

  • 2nd half: 8 points

As our own Skyler Carlin pointed out, it’s been the passing game struggles that have led to the Rams’ issues in the second half. Stafford is completing 65% of his passes in the first half and only 54.5% in the second half. He’s thrown four touchdown passes and one pick in the first half, and two touchdown passes with five picks in the second half.

His passer rating in each half? 99.9 in the first half and 63.0 in the second.

If the Rams are going to contend for a playoff spot, they’ll need to improve in the second half and stop having these brutal slumps in one half or the other each week. Sean McVay knows it’s an issue, too.

“I think the biggest challenge is the consistency through four quarters, the complementary football,” he said after the game Sunday. “I mean you look at it, there are some really good opportunities for us to be able to kind of just run away with some games or be able to kind of extend some leads and we haven’t been able to do that. When we get into some of these tight games, how do we figure out a way to finish and get some of the results that we’ve gotten?”

The defense has been inconsistent from half to half, as well. The Rams pitched a shutout in one half against the Seahawks, Colts and Cardinals, but they also gave up 17 first-half points to the 49ers, 23 second-half points to the Colts, 17 first-half points to the Eagles and 21 second-half points to the Steelers.

It’s unreasonable to expect the defense to shut down the opponent for all four quarters, but some half-to-half consistency would put the Rams in much better spots – and allow them to pull away from their opponent, as McVay said.

Whether it’s turnovers, missed field goals, penalties or poor play on third down, the Rams have given the momentum back to their opponent much too often this season, and it’s a big reason they’re 3-4.

Story originally appeared on Rams Wire