After 10 weeks, the playoff picture is starting to take shape. Unfortunately for the Los Angeles Rams, they sit just outside of the frame. Coming off of two wins, and heading into the bye week, there was still hope the Rams could launch a playoff push. However, after another week ends with more questions than answers, and more importantly, another loss, Los Angeles must once again regroup and re-adjust if they want to extend their season.
Los Angeles Rams on the Outside, Looking in During Postseason Push
As bad as the loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers was, the real blow to the Rams postseason hopes came with the Seattle Seahawks‘ Monday Night win. Handing the division-leading San Francisco 49ers their first loss not only kept Seattle in the hunt for the division crown but crucially, gave them the inside track for one of the two NFC Wild Card spots. While things are starting to look bleak for Los Angeles, there is still a tiny, albeit mostly mathematical, chance that the Rams can sneak into the postseason. However, if they want to play in January, the game this week against the Chicago Bears becomes a must-win.
Postseason Push Paused in Pittsburgh
Unpacking the most recent loss can be condensed into one line two words, no offense. A problem that has plagued Los Angeles all season long, as they continue to look like a shell of their 2018 selves. In fairness, the Rams aren’t anywhere near as healthy as they would like to be. Resorting to first-year starters and players out of position across the entirety of the offensive line, as well as injuries in the secondary, and linebacker units. However, even with the slew of injuries, they have little to no excuse for their recent loss.
Literally seconds into the game, the Rams defense got on the board, when Dante Fowler Jr recovered, and returned, a fumble for a touchdown. It would be the only touchdown for the Rams, in a game where the defense finished with nine of the team’s 12 points. While the offense has been a concern for the Rams all season, this game seemed to exploit every weakness LA has.
A Pittsburgh defense ranked 16th up to this point in the season, were too much for the short-handed Rams squad. Finishing with four sacks, three interceptions, three forced fumbles, and holding LA’s offense to just three points for the game. However, as bad as all that was, they still had a chance to win the game, and once again, finished with a loss, and more questions.
A decision on Gurley Needs to Be Made
The most telling stat in the recent loss on the road had to be, zero. That was the number of times Todd Gurley touched the ball in the fourth quarter of a four-point game. When asked about his lack of action in the fourth quarter, Gurley responded, “um, not really. I’m used to it,” via Vincent Bonsignore of The Athletic. While most fans would think having a player fed up, demanding trades would be bad, this, in a lot of ways, is worse. Gurley even appeared to be dejected when making those comments. While the reason may still be unclear, the outcome has started to become more apparent. Not using your best player on offense, at all, in a one-score game, with the window for a postseason rapidly closing, speaks volumes.
Speaking to reporters after the game, head coach Sean McVay was asked about the lack of Gurley usage late, his response wasn’t any more comforting. “That was just kind of the rotation. Sometimes I’m on both sides of the headsets. There’s just a lot of trust for our coaches that have some of the (confidence) to be really able to say, ‘Alright, who’s in?’ Then I will be able to click back on, and then we know what we are going with.”
Rams Outside of the Playoffs, Gurley Outside the Rotation
All due respect to the football genius that is McVay, that answer isn’t good enough. The time for vague, Jedi-like responses to questions regarding Gurley, has passed. If he is indeed hurt, then it is time to shut him down and at the very least, you avoid the constant barrage of queries into his inclusion or lack thereof. Perhaps, the truth is, as hard as it may be to fathom, that he just isn’t in their future plans anymore. With newcomer, Jalen Ramsey, set to collect his bag, money is drying up fast in LA. In addition, the need for depth along the front has become obvious.
Gurley finished Sunday with 73 yards on 12 carries, an average of just over six yards a touch. Hard to imagine production like that, from what was your best player, can’t find its place in the rotation, in the closing moments of a one-score game. Whether he openly admits it is irrelevant at this point, as his actions have spoken loud enough. McVay is ready to put all his faith in his highly paid quarterback, Jared Goff, for better or worse. Now it’s on him to decide whether Gurley fits into his future, or is it time to cut his losses and move on as he has seemingly already begun to.
The Road Ahead
Next up for the Rams are the Chicago Bears. While they come into their home game as the favorites, things could get ugly for the home team. Yes, the offense for the Bears is lacking in a lot of ways, and they may be all but out of the postseason hunt themselves, but the defense still remains a real threat. Ranked ninth in the NFL, the Chicago front seven will be looking to feast on the depleted Rams offensive line. In addition, having given up their first-round pick to acquire Khalil Mack, they have no added motivation to lose. While having struggled all year, Trubisky will look to build on his three touchdown, zero interception performance from last week. This is shaping up to be another low-scoring affair, as the last time these two teams met last year, it ended in a 15-6 victory for Chicago.
The schedule only gets tougher for the Rams, with games against Dallas, Seattle, San Francisco, and Baltimore on the horizon, meaning a loss this weekend all but seals their fate as another team to not reach the postseason after a Super Bowl defeat.