The Los Angeles Rams (6-5) were handed their biggest loss ever at the L.A. Coliseum on Monday night. And the worst part about it is they were never really even in it.
Stopping MVP frontrunner Lamar Jackson and the Ravens (9-2) was always going to be a tall task but, with four multi-time Pro Bowlers in the lineup, the Rams had a decent chance to make his life difficult. That expectation was quickly vaporized by a heavy dose of reality: the NFL's top offense is indeed worthy of that spot, and they proved it with a commanding 45-6 victory.
"It was impressive. When you sit there and watch and feel the operation up close and personal and you just see how sharp they are with their execution, what a dynamic player he is [and] what a good job they do of creating conflict right before the snap, changing your fits," said Rams coach Sean McVay of Jackson and Co. "Just his operation, his ability to find some completions, make plays with his legs. There's a reason why people are talking about him as an MVP. It felt like it tonight."
From the onset, the Ravens offense went full throttle, running the ball down the Rams' throats six straight times for 43 yards before Jackson even attempted a pass. His first three passes, spread across two drives, resulted in two touchdowns; he'd finish the night 15-of-20 for 169 yards and five TDs, his sixth multi-pass TD game. Combine that with Jackson (eight carries, 95 yards) and running back Mark Ingram (15/111/1) having their way on the ground, and L.A.'s D looked a lot more like an "F" by the end.
"Couldn't get off the field. Couldn't help our offense. You got to give credit to the Ravens," said safety Eric Weddle, who spent three prosperous seasons in Baltimore. "We knew that they were a tough match as one of the best teams in the league. They showed why they're the best. They're playing at a high level and we didn't match up to it. It's tough. It's not a good feeling."
Baltimore scored on seven straight drives (six TDs) and converted 9-of-16 on third (8-of-10 before Jackson was pulled late). To make matters worse, Weddle (nine tackles, one pass defensed) stood by and watched former teammate Marcus Peters gain a measure of revenge with eight tackles, a pass deflection and a late-game pick on Jared Goff to pour salt on the wound. Perhaps Weddle should've shared those inside secrets, huh?
Chances are that info likely wouldn't have spared Weddle or his teammates the fate they suffered in prime-time. Jackson constantly threw the Rams off with play-action and tight end motion before the bulk of their snaps; per Next Gen Stats, Baltimore gained 250 rushing yards from the pistol formation alone. Despite the Rams knowing the run was coming, they were powerless in containing it.
"A lot of times I wouldn't know for a few seconds after if he handed it or if he still had it," Weddle admitted. "Imagine the whole defense, trying to play rules and play the guy and these guys are just coming down hill and doubling and getting extra gaps and you're trying to figure out what's going on. [Jackson's] playing outstanding. They're playing complementary football, their defense is playing outstanding. We got our faces peeled off. You guys watched it."
Perceived Jackson-stopper Aaron Donald finished with one assisted tackle and no sacks (three pressures) while Jalen Ramsey (six tackles, PD) and Clay Matthews (two tackles) also did little to move the needle. On the offensive side, Goff (26/37, 212 yards, 2 INTs) and Todd Gurley (six rushes, 22 yards) were ineffective, as well. Another down showing in a topsy-turvy season.
"It's so hit or miss every week and you want to stay consistent but I think this game just got away from us. That's the best way to describe it," said Goff, who will finish November without a TD. "I think everyone would look at themselves and say we can be better. I've said this before, it starts with me, I could do better."
The hope of getting better has yet to come to pass for the Rams as their playoff hopes continue to dwindle. They're still in the hunt but they're now two games behind the Vikings (8-3) for the sixth seed. Crazier things have happened but, for Goff, Weddle and the Rams to keep their heads above water, shaking off this game and beating the Cardinals in Arizona is their new top priority.
"We got to take it one game at a time. Obviously, we need some stuff to happen but I don't think it's completely out of the realm of possibility at all," said Goff. "I think we're still very much in it and just got to keep fighting."