Wednesday, Feb 2024

Rams face the Colts after tough loss to Cincinnati

                By Fred Altieri Sports Reporter

“This is a very humbling league and every week takes great focus and concentration to come away with a win.” In 2017, Sean McVay uttered these words more than once during his rookie season as head coach of the Los Angeles Rams. And they still ring true in 2023. Seven years later his team suffered a 19-16 loss to the slow-starting Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football at Paycor Stadium, who were sporting their white tiger-striped helmets for only the third time.

The Rams (1-2) have now lost two consecutive games and are sputtering on offense, only two weeks after a promising win in the season opener. Quarterback Matthew Stafford moved the offense into the red zone on the team’s opening drive but only came away with a field goal. That set the tone for the rest of the game as the Bengals (1-2) led by quarterback Joe Burrow made just enough plays to outscore the Rams 13-10 in the second half for their first win of the season.

“There were opportunities very early that we just weren’t able to capitalize on, whether it was red zone possessions or other opportunities,” said McVay. “You get some early momentum on in that game, and you just realize the margin for error. Turnovers obviously hurt us.”

With a short work week Los Angeles is preparing for the surprisingly 2-1 Indianapolis Colts this Sunday, Oct. 1, 10:00 a.m. PT at Lucas Oil Stadium. After losing their season home-opener to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Colts have won their last two games on the road, including an impressive 22-19 overtime win over the favored Baltimore Ravens. Former Rams kicker Matt Gay delivered five field goals, including a 53-yarder to win the game against the Ravens.

The Rams have beaten the Colts three consecutive games including a 27-24 win the last time the two teams met in Indianapolis in Week 2, 2021. The Colts lead the all-time series 23-21-2 dating back to 1950. The Rams set their all-time single game scoring records in Week 6 of that inaugural 1950 matchup, 70-27. The team also set the NFL single game touchdown record with 10 scores, and 10 extra-point conversions by legendary quarterback and kicker Bob Waterfield.

The record has been tied twice, incidentally this past weekend when Miami trounced the Denver Broncos, 70-20. The Washington Redskins initially tied the record in 1966, beating the New York Giants 72-41. While setting the record in 1950, the Rams other quarterback legend, Norm Van Brocklin and Waterfield combined to complete 16 of 24 passes for 301 total yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions.

Notable was the Rams opening the scoring with a 58-yard touchdown pass from local hero (Bonita HS, Cal Poly-Pomona, Army), halfback Glenn “Mr. Outside” Davis to Hall of Fame receiver Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch. Also noted was the balance of Rams attack in 1950, as eight players caught 17 passes for 359 total yards and five touchdowns. And no less than nine players rushed 36 times for 188 total yards and four touchdowns.

Fast-forward to 2023 against the Bengals, where four Rams rushed 13 times for 71 yards. The only running back to touch the ball was 2nd-year pro Kyren Williams, who rushed for 38 yards on 10 carries. Two runs were sweeps by receivers Tutu Atwell and Van Jefferson while Stafford scrambled seven yards for a first down during the team’s only touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter. Six Rams caught 18 passes for 269 total yards. Of course it’s a false equivalency reflecting into the past but the comparison remains.

For the first time this season the Rams offensive front line failed to keep Stafford protected as the Bengals defense registered six quarterback sacks. The front line accounted for five sacks and pressured Stafford to throw two interceptions to linebacker Logan Wilson. But it was the earlier missed opportunities that changed the course of the game according to Stafford, who needs only 1,358 passing yards to surpass Matt Ryan (54,349) for the second-most ever by a player in his first 200 games.

“It’s the name of the game in the NFL, missed opportunities. If you don’t get them, obviously you let a good team like them stay in the game especially early on it’s going to be tough to hold them off,” said Stafford.

“The biggest thing for us tonight was missed opportunities early in the game in the red zone. Obviously, if we can come away with some sevens there it’s probably a little different game there on,” said Stafford. “I thought our defense played great. We just didn’t do enough on offense early in the game to kind of get ourselves a little lead.”

McVay: “I loved the way that our defense played. I thought they were relentless. I thought the special teams did a nice job. There were just some opportunities that we’ll be able to learn from, whether it’s figuring out how we communicate and how do we handle some of the different things that they were presenting. A credit to Cincinnati.”

The Rams are now in third place in the NFC West behind the undefeated San Francisco 49ers (3-0) and the Seattle Seahawks (2-1), who have won their last two games after being routed by the Rams in their home opener. Los Angeles has been competitive in all three games this season despite the preseason predictions of many pundits that it was a rebuilding year with no playoff picture in sight. With a defense led by defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who registered one sack, seven combined tackles and two quarterback hits, and a healthy Stafford leading the offense, the Rams remain positive about their chances this season.

“We’d have some nice plays and for some reason or another we’d go backwards there for a little bit. So just got to have everyone look inward,” said Stafford. “It’s early on in the season and we have to find a way to get better. Obviously, we have short week. Nothing better than that so just get back out there and go play against a good Indy team.”