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Win or lose, there are always decisions made by coaches and players that people will look back on and question. For the Rams, there were two key decisions made by Sean McVay in Sunday’s 37-20 loss to the Cardinals.
The first was his call to accept a holding penalty on the Cardinals on third-and-4 with 1:16 left in the second quarter. Kyler Murray threw an incomplete pass to A.J. Green on the play, which would’ve left the Cardinals with fourth-and-4 from the Rams’ 29-yard line had the holding penalty been declined. McVay accepted it, pushing Arizona back to the 39-yard line with a third-and-14 upcoming.
The Cardinals somehow converted with a 16-yard pass to Rondale Moore, keeping the drive alive and eventually making a 23-yard field goal with 7 seconds left to take a 24-13 lead. They likely would’ve attempted a 46-yard field goal if McVay declined the penalty, but he wanted to push them out of field goal range and hopefully get a stop from his defense.
“The first one, you know, moving them back, it put them out of field goal range,” he explained after the game. “They ended up converting and our guys did a — it didn’t work out for us in that instance right there. I felt like that was the right decision at the time. It didn’t work out for us. I’ll make no excuses about that.”
The second key decision wasn’t as crucial as the accepted penalty because it came much later in the game when the score was already lopsided (34-13) with 13:42 remaining. Matthew Stafford scrambled up the middle for 7 yards on second down, nearly getting into the end zone. But he was ruled down inside the 1-yard line, despite it seeming like he got the ball across the plane.
McVay could’ve challenged it in hopes of the officials giving the Rams the touchdown, but he opted not to.
Stafford then attempted to sneak into the end zone and came up short again. On fourth down he threw a low pass to Tyler Higbee in the flat – a pass that could’ve been caught – which fell incomplete, resulting in a turnover on downs.
McVay admitted he thought about challenging Stafford’s near-touchdown, but he was told by his assistants in the booth that he appeared to be short.
“I did think about challenging that, but our guys up top felt like he was short. So that’s why I didn’t,” McVay said. “And then we didn’t end up punching that in. So there was a lot of decisions, a lot of things I didn’t do nearly a good enough job for our football team. I love the way our guys continue to battle, continue to compete. We got the right guys in that locker room. We didn’t all of a sudden become a different football team. We didn’t play up to our standards, but you give the Cardinals credit and we look forward to responding on a short week. Our work will start right after this.”
There was some controversy about both of these decisions by McVay, but ultimately, even if he had declined the penalty on the Cardinals and challenged Stafford’s run, it likely wouldn’t have changed the outcome.
The Cardinals were simply the better team and won in dominant fashion.