QB Matthew Stafford: Rams offense has ‘a lot to clean up’ following loss to 49ers

For the first time in the Sean McVay era, the Los Angeles Rams are 2-2 through four games following Monday night’s 24-9 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

The offense struggled against a great Niners defense Monday, coming up short in the red zone, failing to sustain drives and Matthew Stafford threw a game-sealing pick-six.

“The story of the night from an offensive perspective was self-inflicted wounds,” McVay said, per the official transcript. “Just above the neck errors, where we’re not doing the things that we’re capable of, and I expect us to be better than that.”

The Rams were held without an offensive TD for the first time since Week 17, 2020, versus Arizona (a game started by QB John Wolford due to a Jared Goff injury). L.A. generated three red-zone drives of 10-plus plays but was never able to push the ball across the goal line, settling for field goals. Stafford went 1-of-6 passing for -2 pass yards and a 39.6 passer rating inside the 20-yard line.

McVay pointed to the red zone issues as the critical cause of the offensive ineptitude Monday.

“The red area, I mean, to have three good drives and only come away with nine points in a game, that was a back and forth battle like that, that ended up being the difference,” he said. “And then when you do make it a one-possession game, and you got some momentum, a couple game first downs, and we throw an interception for a touchdown on a screen, those are the things that, you know, don’t help you win games.”

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After throwing a TD pass in every game last season as the Rams stormed their way to a Super Bowl, Stafford has zero touchdown passes in back-to-back games, his first streak without a TD toss since Weeks 15-16, 2016. Stafford has four passing touchdowns and six interceptions in 2022.

Stafford threw his 28th-career pick-six on Monday, tying Joe Namath for third-most by any player since at least 1950 — Brett Favre (32) and Dan Marino (29) are the only players with more.

“You know, there were some plays that we can execute better, whether it’s throwing and catching or, just assignment-wise, so a lot to clean up,” the QB said. “Proud of the way we fought. Give them a lot of credit, it’s a good football team but like you said, one-possession game. We make a critical error there, and they capitalize on it, and that was that.”

With backups filling in the offensive line, Stafford was under heavy pressure throughout the contest that stymied the game plan. Receivers struggling to get open doesn’t help, as the QB force-feeds Cooper Kupp. Kupp had 14 catches on 19 targets for 122 yards. No other Rams WR had more than two catches. Against lesser teams, that might work, but not against the 49ers’ game-wreckers.

Despite O-line injuries, an ineffective run game and a receiver group that can’t get open, Kupp believes the Rams’ issues are fixable.

“Without a doubt, it’s fixable,” he said. “I mean, we’ll look at the film. Obviously, these kinds of games hurt. It’s a gut punch. You walk off that field and don’t accomplish what you have worked so hard to accomplish. Again we will watch the film and in some ways be encouraged. It allows you to say: hey look, this is all stuff that we have answers for. It’s just doing it better.”

L.A. has particularly faltered in the fourth quarter, getting outscored 44-3 in the final period in 2022, including 10-0 in Week 4. It’s the worst point differential (-41) by any team in a quarter in 2022, per NFL Research.

Hailed as an offensive genius, McVay has a lot of work ahead to figure out how to coax better play from his offense if the Rams are to make it back to the postseason after a 2-2 start that included blowout losses to playoff contenders.

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