LOS ANGELES — Before Sunday’s game, the Los Angeles Rams did not express concern when asked if their Week 4 matchup against the one-win Tampa Bay Buccaneers amounted to a trap game, sandwiched between an emotional Week 3 win over the Cleveland Browns and before a Week 5 division matchup on Thursday night against the Seattle Seahawks.
But now, on a short week of a preparation, the Rams must figure out how to deliver a consistent performance on offense and regroup on defense after a 54-40 loss to the Bucs that drops the Rams to 3-1 this season.
“It’s a wake-up call for everybody,” Rams coach Sean McVay said after the game.
QB breakdown: Jared Goff became the 23rd quarterback to pass for more than 500 yards in a game and the first to do so since Tom Brady passed for 505 yards in a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII. But it wasn’t enough. Goff did not mince words throughout the week when asked about the offense’s subpar performance through the season’s first three weeks. They just need to play better, Goff said: “That’s the bottom line.” But against the Bucs, Goff had another uneven outing. The fourth-year quarterback, who signed a four-year extension with $110 million guaranteed before the season, completed a career-high 45 passes on 68 attempts for a career-best 517 yards and two touchdowns, with three interceptions. Goff also was strip sacked with 1 minute, 6 seconds remaining, with the chance to tie. “We need to execute better on offense and I need to execute better personally,” Goff said.
Goff threw interceptions on back-to-back drives in the second quarter that the Bucs converted into touchdowns and a 21-0 lead. In the third quarter, Goff felt pressure up the middle and attempted to squeeze a pass to running back Malcolm Brown that was also picked off. And in the fourth quarter, with the chance to lead a game-tying drive with under two minutes to play, Goff was sacked and fumbled, as former teammate Ndamukong Suh scooped and scored to secure the win.
“There’s going to be lot of things we can go back and look at,” McVay said. “I loved the way that he continued to battle, took some shots, continued to respond.”
Goff threw two interceptions in Week 3 against the Browns, giving him consecutive games with multiple thrown interceptions for the second time in his career, and the first since 2016, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
Troubling trend, Part I: Slow starts on offense. For a fourth consecutive game, the Rams failed to score a touchdown in the first quarter. The last time the Rams went at least four games without a first-quarter touchdown was a seven-game stretch between Week 14 of 2014 to Week 3 of 2015.
Troubling trend, Part II: Through three weeks, the Rams’ defense allowed an average of 285 yards and 16 points per game. The Bucs blew those averages away on Sunday, as quarterback Jameis Winston passed for 385 yards and four touchdowns, with an interception, as the Bucs racked up 55 points. Cornerback Marcus Peters created the only turnover of the game when he intercepted Winston in the fourth quarter and returned it 32 yards for a touchdown. But outside of Peters’ heads-up pick and a pair of early sacks from defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day and outside linebacker Clay Matthews, the Rams were unable to consistently pressure Winston. “I know I didn’t,” defensive tackle Aaron Donald said, when asked if he disrupted Winston. “I just have to try and find ways to free myself up.”
Troubling trend, Part III: The offensive line. It wasn’t just first-year starters Brian Allen and Joe Noteboom who needed work Sunday. The entire line was porous. Veteran right tackle Rob Havenstein collected a couple false starts, along with right guard Austin Blythe and Allen at center. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth was flagged for holding. “When you look at just the amount of times that we threw the football and some of the situations that the flow of the game dictated, that does put some pressure on our offensive line,” McVay said. “They’ve got a good pass rush.” Goff was forced to work with pressure in his face throughout much of the game.
Troubling trend, Part IV: The running game. The Rams did not establish the run in the first quarter and then were forced to abandon it altogether in the second quarter as they trailed 21-0. McVay said running back Todd Gurley was not on a load management program, but Gurley rushed for 16 yards — two that went for touchdowns — on five carries. “I don’t call the play calls, bro,” Gurley said, when asked why they appeared reluctant to run the ball “I block for J.G., run the ball, run the routes, whatever. Whatever the play call is, I’m going to go out there and do it.” Gurley caught seven passes for 54 yards. Backup Malcolm Brown was also ineffective on the ground as he rushed for 8 yards on four carries.