Rams have 'sick taste' going into bye, more difficult portion of schedule

Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay didn't mince words following an embarrassing loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 8.

"This is a sick taste in your mouth," McVay said after the 28-17 defeat.

A day later, at the outset of the Rams' bye week, McVay didn't feel much better.

"You've got that disappointing feeling of not accomplishing what we felt like we were supposed to," McVay said. "Unfortunately, you've got to kind of sit on this a little bit longer than what you'd like, but you can't allow it to linger too long."

The Rams finished the first half of the season 5-3 overall and 0-1 in the NFC West. Despite sweeping the NFC East, the Rams' only victory over a team with a winning record was a 24-10 rout of the Chicago Bears (5-3) in Week 7.

"We're good," L.A. wide receiver Robert Woods said. "We're not great."

The second half of the Rams' schedule will require them to produce at a higher level.

According to ESPN analytics, their remaining strength of schedule ranks as the third-most difficult in the league, and they have a 61% chance of making the playoffs.

The Rams open the second half of season playing host to the division-leading Seattle Seahawks (6-1), then must travel to Tampa Bay to take on the NFC South leading Buccaneers (6-2). The Rams return to SoFi Stadium to play the injury-riddled San Francisco 49ers (4-4) in Week 12, then travel to Arizona to play the surging Cardinals (5-2).

Here's a bye-week progress report.


Through eight games, McVay had the best summary of the offense's performance.

"It's been up and down," he said. "Overall, not consistent enough for the standards that we have."

The Rams have utilized more playmakers than in McVay's previous three seasons, but the offense’s identity remains in flux through eight games.

The first three contests saw the Rams assert their ability to run the ball, and they demonstrated an capacity to stick with it despite trailing the Buffalo Bills by 25 points in a Week 3 game that they nearly came back in to win. However, despite their success behind Darrell Henderson Jr., Malcolm Brown and Cam Akers, the Rams were slow to establish the run during recent losses to the 49ers and Dolphins.

Quarterback Jared Goff has performed masterfully at times but woefully at others. In a Week 2 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, Goff got off to a blazing start and passed for 267 yards and three touchdowns. But on Sunday, Goff failed to navigate the Dolphins' pressure and completed 35 of 61 passes for 355 yards and a touchdown and was responsible for four turnovers.

"Just need to be better, got to be better," said Goff, who has passed for 13 touchdowns with six interceptions and whose 59.9 total QBR ranks 24th in the league. "Got to learn from some things and be a lot better, and I will be."

The offense is averaging 396.4 yards per game (ranks eighth), however the Rams are scoring only 24.1 points per game (20th).

"The biggest thing is consistency," said Woods, who has scored a team-high six touchdowns. "That's where we need to measure our success, and right now, we're not up to par where we need to be."


First-year coordinator Brandon Staley was hired to make a good defense great. Through eight games, the unit has shown sharp improvement and is allowing an average of 19 points per game, which ranks third in the league.

The Rams have been stout against the run by allowing an average of 94.8 rushing yards per game (fourth), and the pass, yielding an average of 197.1 passing yards per game (second).

Staley has deployed a base 3-4 scheme, but he often utilizes multiple defensive backs and has creatively exploited the talent of lockdown cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who has played outside and inside and has even lined up as a hybrid linebacker.

"We're really getting very comfortable with some of the nuances and the newer things that we're doing," McVay said. "But you're really starting to see some of our players shine, and they've done an excellent job."

Defensive tackle Aaron Donald is making a case to become NFL Defensive Player of the Year for a third time as he continues to be the ultimate disrupter. Donald has been double-teamed a league-high 171 plays but still leads the NFL with 28 pressures and has nine sacks, which is tied for first in the league with Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett.

"We're playing some good football," Rams safety John Johnson III said. "We're seeing some good flashes, but we really want to play our best football in late November and December."

Special teams

Special teams remain a concern, outside of punter Johnny Hekker, who masterfully pinned the Bears at or inside their 10-yard line five times in a Week 7 win.

The unit was "steadily improving," McVay said, until Week 8, when it allowed the Dolphins to return a punt 88 yards for a touchdown and veteran kicker Kai Forbath -- who the Rams signed to replace struggling rookie Samuel Sloman -- missed a 48-yard field goal attempt.

McVay said Forbath will remain as kicker, but the ninth-year pro will continue to be evaluated along with Austin MacGinnis, who the Rams cut after the preseason but recently re-signed to their practice squad.