Consecutive losses against the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles have put a major crimp in the Rams’ pursuit of the top overall seed and home-field advantage throughout the NFL playoffs while also jeopardizing their hopes of a first-round bye.
Los Angeles is still in control of its destiny and needs to win its next two games — at the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday and at home against the San Francisco 49ers — to wrap up a first-round bye.
The Rams also can clinch the No. 2 seed with one win and a loss by the Bears, but their focus entering Sunday’s matchup is getting back on track and regaining some momentum heading into the postseason.
“We’ve got to get it figured out in a hurry,” said McVay. “It’s guys that are making decisions that, typically, we haven’t seen. It’s guys that are making mistakes that we typically haven’t seen. But, however you cut it, we’re all in this together. We’ve all got to do better and it starts with me. But, we’ve got to figure it out. All they know how to do is go back to work, work as hard as we possibly can to figure out the solutions and get better for next week.”
In losses at Chicago (15-6) and at home against the Eagles (30-23) last week, Los Angeles quarterback Jared Goff has thrown five interceptions and turned the ball over seven times while not throwing a touchdown pass. The Rams also have committed 14 penalties in the two defeats.
“We have really good leadership. In a time like this, you need it — from players to coaches to strength staff to equipment staff to the training staff,” said Goff. “There’s good leadership and it allows us to get through stuff like this. This is the first time since Sean has been here that we’ve lost two in a row. So, we’ll see how we respond — I have a pretty good feeling it’ll be in a positive way.”
The motivation for a first-round bye — extra rest — is simple enough, particularly with star running back Todd Gurley II dealing with inflammation in his left knee. Gurley ranks second in the league with 1,251 yards and has scored a league-leading 21 touchdowns, but he has been limited to a combined 76 yards over the past two games.
“It’s just us out there at the end of the day and we’re not making the plays and making mistakes,” said Gurley. “Like I said, we just got to go back to work and just keep grinding. We’ve got two more weeks left, divisional games, so it will tell us a lot about ourselves how we finish the season. Like I said, it’s not the end of the world, still 11-3, still like the second-best record in the league. So, no worries over here with us.”
Los Angeles was concerned enough about Gurley’s knee that they signed free-agent running back C.J. Anderson this week. Malcolm Brown, who had been the backup, is out for the season.
A matchup against the Cardinals could be just want the Rams need to regain their mojo. While Los Angeles has wrapped up a second consecutive NFC West title, Arizona is buried at the bottom of the division and was bludgeoned by the Rams 34-0 in Week 2. Gurley rushed for 42 yards but scored three touchdowns in the romp.
Sam Bradford was under center in the Week 2 matchup, a game in which the Cardinals managed only five first downs and were limited to 137 total yards. Bradford was relieved by rookie Josh Rosen the following week and the No. 10 overall pick in this year’s draft has been the starter since.
It’s been a rocky first season for Rosen, who has more interceptions (14) than touchdown passes (10) and is averaging a measley 170.2 yards passing. Rosen has not thrown a scoring pass in each of his past three games and there has been been speculation the team may hold him out against the physical defenses of Los Angeles and Seattle in the final two weeks.
“I don’t really want to speak more on that because I want to play,” said Rosen. “I couldn’t make it any more clear. I would be very frustrated if they didn’t play me, but those are decisions above me. I’m glad, at least, from practice today I’m playing. I’m very grateful for that. I would be very frustrated, but it’s out of my control.”