The Los Angeles Rams started their season off with a robust fart noise Monday night, as the rebuilding San Francisco 49ers shut them out in Santa Clara, 28-0.
Anyone on the East Coast who went to sleep by halftime didn’t miss anything. The Rams only made it into Niners territory five times in 14 offensive possessions; two of those fives drives ended in interceptions and the last was turned over on downs. The team punted 10 times, averaged 3.1 yards per play, and were unwatchable during the 28-0 loss to the 49ers. The Rams made 49ers quarterback Blaine Gabbert look somewhat competent, and that alone is a feat worthy of day-after scorn.
The Rams had a great opportunity in front of them. They are L.A.’s new-old team, after all, and to some extent, the move from St. Louis felt like the Rams were getting a fresh start. Yeah, the new Rams! They got a new name (kinda), a new venue (kinda), and new fans (maybe). But after playing the worst game of the week, the Rams are still exactly the same product, maybe worse. There are no new Rams. They are still the team clawing out of the bottom of the NFC West, with the same tendency to trot out atrocious quarterbacks, and the same ol’ man on the sideline, Jeff Fisher. The team’s not even bringing back the those aesthetically pleasing yellow and royal blue uniforms until the new Inglewood stadium opens in 2019.
Next week, the fans get to experience this atrocity at the old Los Angeles Coliseum, against the Seattle Seahawks. According to Fisher, the Rams will start Case Keenum again next week. “This doesn’t change anything as far as quarterback is concerned,” the coach said. During last night’s game, ESPN’s cameras tracked rookie quarterback Jared Goff on the sideline. The first overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, for whom the Rams traded six picks (two first, two second, two third-round) to the Tennessee Titans to acquire, wasn’t suited up as he watched the Rams’ revolutionary three-and-out strategy.
Fisher deactivated Goff, meaning he was the third-string QB behind Keenum and something called Sean Mannion. “I just want him to feel and sense and absorb the pressures of Week 1,” Fisher said.
“There’s no doubt that he’s made great progress,” quarterbacks coach Chris Weinke told ESPN in a separate interview. “He continues to make progress, and he’s comfortable with the fact that he knows he needs to continue to get better. And I think it’s a good situation right now, him being able to really just kind of take a step back and take a deep breath, and watch a veteran guy operate in Case Keenum. Jared can see how Case prepares, and I think that in the long run, this is going to be very beneficial for Jared.”
Okay, sure. I don’t think that the offense’s performance was what I’d want my presumptive face of the franchise to “absorb” and observe as an example of preparedness, but it’s smart of the Rams to be patient with Goff if they feel he’s not adequately developed for the NFL. It would probably be worse to watch Goff flail around on the field next week than it will be to watch Case Keenum do, well, the same thing. Goff brings hope, because he hasn’t actually played yet.
But what about the rest of the team? How did running back Todd Gurley finish last night with 47 yards on 17 carries? He rushed for four more yards than Gabbert. Was it the 49ers’ defense? They’re not that good. Newly extended wide receiver Tavon Austin was nonexistent in the passing game with 13 yards on four receptions after being targeted 12 times. San Francisco’s four touchdowns might have betrayed the work the Rams defense put in, as they were forced to take the field 77 times against the Niners offense. The team also gave up 102 yards on 10 penalties, including 27 yards on consecutive unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties from DT Aaron Donald that led to his fourth-quarter ejection.
It was not just an unspectacular night from the Rams. It was the most incompetent display of the week. You’d be generous to even call it “some 7-9 bullshit,” as Fisher eloquently put it on Hard Knocks this season. Forget the box score; last night’s big winner, it seems, was the city of St. Louis and the fans that the Rams left behind.