Game Day: Rams have fallen a long way since playoff victory in Tampa Bay

Editor’s note: This is the Monday, Nov. 7 edition of the “Game Day with Kevin Modesti” newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.

Good morning. There was déjà vu in watching the Rams get the ball in the final minutes with a chance to beat Tom Brady and the Buccaneers yesterday. But the feeling didn’t last long.

First, other sports news:

LAFC held a celebration with fans the day after the club won its first MLS Cup, and beat writer Josh Gross says this time there was parking.
Paul George couldn’t do it all himself, and the Clippers fell to Utah.
A fast start wasn’t enough for the Lakers against Cleveland.
Another slow start cost the Ducks in a loss to Florida.
USC nearly wasted a lead, and UCLA had to improvise a backfield, but columnist Mirjam Swanson says the weekend’s bottom line is the schools still have national-playoff hopes.
And Flightline is retiring undefeated after his dazzling win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Now, what should we make of how the Rams let a lead get away and lost 16-13 to Brady and the Bucs?

The Rams offense was working from the same end, on the same field at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, where they launched the most miraculous of the late scoring drives that won three postseason games on the way to the Super Bowl championship in February.

That time, and it’s hard to believe it was this calendar year, the Rams took the ball at their 25 in the final minute in a tie game looking for a game-winning score – and got it when Matthew Stafford found Cooper Kupp open deep to set up Matt Gay’s field goal.

This time, the Rams took the ball at their 7 inside the two-minute warning with a four-point lead looking only for a first down to ice the game – and couldn’t manage even that modest assignment, giving Brady one more possession that he didn’t squander.

As Gilbert Manzano’s game story shows, the Rams know they blew it and that the season is slipping away after what looked like a return to .500 turned into a 3-5 record at the midpoint of the NFL’s 18-week schedule.

As Gilbert’s notebook says, some of what has gone wrong with the offense is the disappearance of a running game, which didn’t improve even with the reappearance of Cam Akers.

Said coach Sean McVay: “I don’t necessarily think it’s the panic button, but changes have to be made, adjustments have to be made,” McVay said after the crushing loss. “We can’t continue to go on like this. What that looks like I don’t necessarily have the exact answers right now.”

It’s revealing that he said “necessarily.”

Said cornerback Jalen Ramsey: “We don’t got games to spare, like this ain’t the NBA. We don’t get 82 mother(bleeping) games. We have a few games that we have to win. We gotta have some urgency, and there’s gotta be some competitive juice and some tension around this mother(bleeper).”

Meanwhile, over in the NBA, the Lakers are thinking this ain’t MLB, we don’t get 162 mother(bleeping) games.

Said Kupp: “It’s not a shortage of effort, but at some point how much effort can you give? You gotta change something. If the effort is there and we can’t find a way to win, if we can’t find ways to beat the guy across from you, then changes need to be made.”

McVay hinted at changes, whatever those would be, so it could be a rough week as the Rams get ready to host a winnable game against the Cardinals on Sunday.

Manzano summed it up: “The Rams had suggestions for what might be wrong – lack of urgency and toughness with maybe the wrong scheme and players. Now the Rams need to find a way to fix all of that if they want to defend their Super Bowl crown in the postseason.”

How much worse than expected are they?

Before the season, Gilbert set an expectation for a 12-5 season for the Rams, and had them 5-3 at this point. They’re already two wins behind schedule.

At the same time, our Elliott Teaford’s week-by-week forecast had the Chargers going 10-7, 6-2 at this stage. They’re one game behind the pace at 5-3.

But the Chargers have shown signs of making the most of their chances. Three weeks ago, they carried kicker Dustin Hopkins off the field on their shoulders after his overtime game-winning field goal against the Broncos at SoFi Stadium. Yesterday, they hoisted fill-in kicker Cameron Dicker after his final-play 37-yarder beat the Falcons in Atlanta, rescuing a game that Austin Ekeler nearly fumbled away.

The Rams show signs of making the least of their chance to “run it back.”

Their deterioration shows up in under-the-hood numbers like Football Outsiders’ (defense-adjusted value over average) metric, which measures teams’ down-by-down success while factoring in situations and opponents. Going into Week 9 last season, the Rams rated No. 1 in the league on offense (No. 1 passing, No. 10 rushing) and No. 9 on defense (No. 18 vs. the pass, No. 9 vs. the run). Going into Week 9 this season, they were in the bottom half of the league in all three offensive categories while in the top half in overall defense.

The constant injuries on the offensive line probably explain more than is being discussed. The absence of any in-season trade or signing on the order of Von Miller and Odell Beckham Jr. a year ago might be telling. Add in the disappearance of late-game magic – getting a first down now would count as magic – and you’vegot a season half-empty.

Maybe, supernaturally, the Rams’ struggles this fall are meant to remind us how special last winter was.

But there must be an easier way.


Lakers visit the Jazz (7:15 p.m., SPSN), which is a game out of first place in the WesternConference.
Clippers host the Cavaliers (7:20 p.m., BSSC), who are a half-game out of the lead in the Eastern Conference.
USC’s men’s basketball team opens the season against Florida Gulf Coast at Galen Center (6:30 p.m., Pac12LA).
UCLA, which won its lone exhibition, plays its official opener against Sacramento State at Pauley Pavilion (8:30 p.m., Pac12N).


After LAFC won the MLS Cup, the Game Day newsletter asked readers this morning: Which L.A.-area pro or major college team will be next to win a championship?

Twitter user Brian Murphy (@TheMurphDogg) replied: The easy answer is LAFC. Dodgers a close second, but unlikely. Rest are all a big fat no.”

Thomas Jennings said: UCLA men’s basketball.

Tony Toretto said: the Kings.


Who should be top priority for the Dodgers to keep as they make decisions on free agents, including Clayton Kershaw, Trea Turner, Tyler Anderson, Andrew Heaney, Chris Martin, David Price and Joey Gallo, and players with contract options, including Justin Turner? Respond by email at or on Twitter (@KevinModesti).


#Rams had four RBs available vs. Bucs for another inconsistent ground game. Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to pick one and stay committed

— Gilbert Manzano (@GManzano24) November 7, 2022

– Rams beat writer Gilbert Manzano (@GManzano24) after Darrell Henderson and two other running backs averaged 3.6 yards a carry yesterday at Tampa Bay.

1,000 WORDS

That’s a stretch: Chargers wide receiver Joshua Palmer is stopped by Falcons safety Richie Grant, who grabbed whatever he could, in the fourth quarter yesterday in Atlanta. Photo is by Adam Hagy for Getty Images.


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