Rams review: Questionable play calls puts Cooper Kupp in tough position against Bucs

Here’s what we learned, what we heard and what comes next after the Rams’ heartbreaking 16-13 loss against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, which gave them a 3-5 record, marking the first time Rams coach Sean McVay has been two games under .500 as a head coach:


The Rams’ offensive players kicked themselves after the last-minute loss for not putting the game away with a first down, but it appeared wide receiver Cooper Kupp had a lane to get the new set of downs before his decision to slide and stay inbounds to force the Buccaneers to burn their second timeout with 1:39 left in regulation.

The Rams failed to convert on third-and-5 following Kupp’s second-down slide and gave Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady 44 seconds and no timeouts to produce his game-winning drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Cade Otton with nine seconds left in regulation.

“You’re in that moment when you gotta make a decision,” Kupp said. “Do you guarantee yourself the first down and potentially stop the clock or put your foot in the ground and cut back inwards? Where do you wanna draw the line? It happens quick.”

Kupp likely didn’t expect McVay to call a run up the middle for no gain following his decision to slide after taking a jet-sweep hand-off from the right edge. The Rams put Kupp in a tough position and his teammates supported his decision.

“It was probably one of the more efficient runs of the second half, to be honest with you,” Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “I think it’s the right call. We’re putting the ball in one of our best players’ hands and give him an opportunity to go the width of the field there.”

Rams wide receiver Allen Robinson said he’s OK with Kupp’s decision because maybe he doesn’t get the first down and he’s knocked out of bounds to stop the clock.

“It happens very quickly,” Robinson said. “Cooper is one of those players who always makes the right decision. … It was bang-bang and watching the tape, again, I thought he made a good decision. Hindsight is 20/20 on situations like that, but it’s one of those things where you trust your teammate, you trust the player’s instinct and it’s not many times that his instinct isn’t correct.”

Kupp has often bailed out the Rams’ stagnant offense this season, and he did it earlier in the game with his 69-yard catch-and-run touchdown to give them their lone touchdown of the game. Kupp took heat for his decision, but McVay’s questionable offensive play calls did him no favors on Sunday. The Rams had a season-low 206 yards against the Buccaneers.

“We gotta really figure out a lot of different things,” McVay said. “Whether it’s different players, whether it’s different scheme, different things like that. This is not good enough and I have to do better, too. I’m a huge part of this.”


McVay said Monday he’s unsure what offensive changes he’ll make this week, but he dwelled on the eight three-and-outs with only 55 total plays against the Buccaneers.

Finding a productive rushing attack would help with those issues and it might open up the playbook to help Kupp. The Rams had 68 rushing yards in Tampa Bay, the sixth game in which they were held under 70 this season.

McVay’s committee approach hasn’t worked and it might be time for him to pick a lead back to find some stability. The Rams had four running backs available against the Buccaneers with Darrell Henderson, Cam Akers, Malcolm Brown and Ronnie Rivers. They might get a fifth option this week with rookie running back Kyren Williams close to returning from the ankle injury that has sidelined him the past seven games.

If McVay decides to go with one or two running backs the rest of the way, Henderson might be at the top of his list. Henderson had a memorable sequence with back-to-back runs of 11 and 23 yards against the Buccaneers.

Henderson is only averaging 7.75 carries per game and he hasn’t had more than 13 carries in a game this season.

“That’s a possibility,” McVay said after being asked if increasing Henderson’s carries is an option. “I thought he did some good things yesterday. Eight three-and-outs, it’s hard to get any sort of continuity offensively.

“When you have as many three-and-outs it’s hard to get into any sort of rhythm and routine and so I think we’re at our best when we get more plays off. You have the ability to sustain some drives, and you get a handful of different guys involved. I thought Darrell Henderson did have some bright spots.”

Another looming change is more changes to the offensive line. McVay made the surprising decision to start Chandler Brewer over Oday Aboushi at right guard against the Buccaneers, giving the Rams their eighth offensive line combination in as many games this season.

“Just felt like he gave us the best option,” McVay said about Brewer. “I thought he did a nice job and I was pleased with the way he played yesterday.”

Now McVay might be considering a change at left guard with Bobby Evans struggling against Buccaneers defensive tackle Vita Vea, who recorded two sacks and three quarterback hits.

“That’s a possibility,” McVay said about making changes on the interior of the offensive line.


McVay and the Rams’ offensive players also dwelled on the lack of production on first down against the Buccaneers. That forced them to use more “get-right” plays, which limited their playbook.

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At 3-5, the Rams are also in desperate need of a “get-right” game with the Arizona Cardinals (3-6) coming to town for a Week 10 matchup at SoFi Stadium. The Cardinals also have many issues offensively.

“I think there’s glimpses,” McVay said of his offense. “The challenging thing is that it’s not exclusively from one. … We’ve obviously had a lot of injuries centralized to certain spots, but I do see positive glimpses. It’s just about the consistency and the sustainability through four quarters.”

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