The Los Angeles Rams fell to 1-2 after losing a close 19-16 Monday Night Football battle to the Cincinnati Bengals. In a rematch of Super Bowl LVI, the Rams could not repeat as winners and the Bengals ultimately got revenge and the win. The Rams fall to third in the NFC West while the Bengals finally grasp their first win of the season.
This was far from the Bengals' sharpest game, but the Bengals simply played better than the Rams. The Rams lost many of they key offensive battles to the Bengals defense, who put in their best performance of the year. Los Angeles significantly lost the time of possession battle, only holding the ball for 24 minutes compared to Cincy who held the ball for 36 minutes. The Rams also only converted one of their 11 third downs and struggled to convert drives into touchdowns and instead kicked four field goals.
With in this in mind, let's check out who's to blame for the Rams' offensive struggles.
3. The Rams Offensive Line
Though the offensive line is a unit and not a player, their struggles were significant in the loss. While it's unfortunate that left tackle Alaric Jackson exited the game early with a thigh injury, the Rams didn't adjust well enough to stop the Bengals rush. The Bengals defensive simply overwhelmed the Rams offensive line and Stafford. Not only was the defensive line able to get pressure for the Bengals, but the Bengals successfully blitzed safety Daxton Hill and cornerback Mike Hilton tipped a pass near the line of scrimmage, which ended up being intercepted.
The sacks impacted the game from the get-go when the Rams had first-and-goal from the two-and-a-half yard line. Instead of punching it in, D.J. Reader pushed up the middle and sacked Stafford back at the 14-yard line. The Rams then had to settle for a field goal. All in all, the Rams gave up six sacks, which is simply not a recipe for winning, especially with a quarterback like Matthew Stafford who isn't very mobile.
Aside from Hill and Reader, the Rams also gave up two sacks to Trey Hendrickson and a sack each to B.J. Hill and Sam Hubbard.
2. QB Matthew Stafford
Matthew Stafford made several nice plays and throws as he always does, but he also made some costly mistakes. Stafford threw two interceptions which allowed the Bengals to maintain possession of the ball for much of the game. Stafford threw his first interception while three targeting a receiver with three Bengals in the area. The decision was not his best and Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson capitalized on the opportunity, coming up with his first of two interceptions on the day.
Stafford also could have helped his team by throwing the ball away when the defensive line was getting to him. This could have kept the Rams out of 2nd-and-long or third-and-long situations.
Following the game, Stafford addressed the struggles saying, “Obviously, if we can come away with some sevens there, it's probably a little bit different game later on … We didn't do enough on offense, especially early in the game, to give ourselves a little bit of a lead there. It was kind of one of those deals where we'd have some nice plays and then, for one reason or another, we'd go backwards there for a little bit,” via Stu Jackson of the Rams' official website.
1. HC Sean McVay
Ultimately, a lot of the blame for the game falls on the shoulders of coach Sean McVay. The offense is McVay's strongpoint and yet proved to be the weakest area of the team Monday as the defense held up their end of the bargain.
While maybe credit is simply due to Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo for creating an excellent game plan of his own to limit Puka Nacua and routinely pressure Stafford, it's still on McVay to ensure the offense adjusts. The previous week versus the San Francisco 49ers, McVay did an excellent job of scheming quick passes to get the ball out of Stafford's hand fast and avoid the 49ers rush. However, this week he did not seem to utilize the same concepts enough or as effectively.
Coach McVay also only gave his backs 13 carries on the day. This allowed the Bengals to eat the time of possession, and is strange since the Rams did not trail heavily throughout much of the game. All-in-all, the Rams will have to learn from these errors and come with a better game plan for next week, when they get a shot at redemption against the Colts, who are a surprising 2-1.