Rams’ McVay falls on his sword, but there’s only so much he can do – Press Enterprise
After the Lakers and Dodgers completed their championship double in October, people started suggesting that three’s company, and wouldn’t it be great if the Rams … uh, hold it right there.
This is not the way to achieve that.
The Rams had a frightful second quarter Sunday in Miami. A frightful seven minutes and 10 seconds, actually, with three Jared Goff turnovers – two fumbles that turned into Miami scores, one after the Rams had reached the Miami 9, as well as the second of his two interceptions – and an 88-yard return of a Johnny Hekker punt for another score. Those were the difference in a 28-17 loss.
And if you hadn’t been paying attention to the Rams up until now, you might be wondering how in the world they’d won five of their first seven games. (Then again, if you had been watching, your answer might be, “NFC East.” And there would be more than a shred of accuracy.)
But there is a tradition when the Rams lose, or at least there has been since Sean McVay arrived in 2017. The head coach always shoulders the bulk, if not all, of the blame, and he did so again Sunday.
“You know, (the) defense was outstanding,” he said. “And then offensively, (we) 100 percent didn’t do a good enough job on my part. The turnovers were absolutely killer, where they ended up getting a touchdown, they end up basically getting another touchdown after we had gotten the short field. We didn’t handle some of the (Dolphin defense’s) pressures earlier. And that’s on me.
“I have to do a much better job for our team. We have to do a better job in our coverage units, can’t give up a return for a touchdown. But ultimately we didn’t get it done. That falls on my plate. I have to do a much better job for this team. And that’s what I’ll focus on for these coaches, for these players and making sure that (we’re) not sitting here with this pit in your stomach, but we can do something about it when we return from the bye.
“Credit to the Dolphins and Coach (Brian) Flores, they did a great job. Hats off to them. But for us, not nearly good enough. And mainly myself.”
Those who accept blame are a lot more endearing than those who deflect it. And those postgame reflections could be a subliminal message to the players who didn’t get the job done: “Look, maybe you should accept your share of the responsibility, too.” Players who more readily do so are also more apt to make the changes necessary to be better.
“In games like this, in battles, whether it’s game-planned or not, you still have to beat the guy in front of you,” wide receiver Robert Woods said on the Zoom teleconference after Sunday’s game. “If you have that want-to, and that desire, you can still being able to execute plays if you don’t have a good look, if it’s not schemed up perfect, if you just have that grit and that grind.”
Then again, as we’ve noted before, there’s a danger in falling on your sword too often. The more often the head coach has to shoulder that responsibility after losses, the quicker his bosses might be inclined to believe him, or at least take his words at face value.
The Rams are now 5-3 entering their bye week, and that’s with only one game (a loss to the 49ers two weeks ago) within what to now has been the toughest division in the NFL, the NFC West. They’ll have five of those divisional games in the second half, beginning in two weeks against Seattle, so it behooves them to get things straightened out this week.
“You know, there’s going to be games like this,” defensive end Michael Brockers said. “They get paid. We get paid. So we just have to understand, we can’t let this loss just linger on. We have to move on to the next. And it’s good that we got a bye week so we can focus on our next opponent and just get better.”
Rams personnel won’t volunteer the number of ways they were at a disadvantage Sunday, but it’s worth noting.
• Jalen Ramsey became ill just before the game and wasn’t available, robbing the Rams of their game-changer in the secondary. McVay declined to go into more detail but did say “he’ll be able to return home with us,” which would seem to suggest it’s not COVID related.
• The temperature was 85 degrees at game time with 74 percent humidity – we in Southern California can relate to the former but not the latter – and the Rams’ sideline was on the sunny side of Hard Rock Stadium. That is home-field advantage, after all, and while it had little to do with the early turnovers, it may have been a factor in the second half when the Rams were trying to summon the energy to play catch-up.
“A couple of guys said it felt heavy,” safety John Johnson III said. “I don’t know what that really means. But, you know, it’s just something to get used to. That’s just something about being a pro. Next week we could play and it could be snowing.”
• That’s unlikely given the rest of the Rams’ regular-season schedule, aside from the potential of a December game in Seattle. But they were making their fourth East Coast trip of the season (with one more to go later this month at Tampa Bay), with the protocols that mandate travel the day before the game. They were also coming off a Monday night game, while the Dolphins were coming off a bye week.
That bye week may have given Dolphins coach Flores and defensive coordinator Josh Boyer a chance to review the film of Super Bowl LIII. They were on the Patriots’ defensive staff that February, 2019 night in Atlanta, when the Patriots won 13-3 against a Rams offense that had averaged 32.9 points in the regular season and 28.0 in the first two playoff rounds.
McVay said the Dolphins’ schemes Sunday included “some 6-1 fronts and some different things that have always been part of their identity, (like) zero pressure. But they did a great job today. It didn’t have anything to do with the Super Bowl.”
Are the Rams capable of getting another shot at a Lombardi Trophy? We’ll have a better sense eight games from now. After all, they do have to keep up with the neighbors.
@Jim_Alexander on Twitter