NFL coaches preach red-zone and third-down execution as vital to success. The Los Angeles Rams failed those tests in Monday night's 19-16 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
L.A. went 1 of 11 on third downs (9%), missing its first 10 tries at the key down before converting on the final play from scrimmage. The Rams also went 1 of 4 in the red zone, settling for early field goals that allowed the Bengals to stay in the contest as their offense found its footing.
"There (were) just a lot of self-inflicted wounds," McVay said Monday, via the Associated Press.
Penalties, bad sacks from Matthew Stafford, dropped passes. You name it, the Rams likely committed it on third downs and in the red zone.
On the Rams' opening drive, Tutu Atwell appeared to score a touchdown but upon replay review, was ruled out of bounds at the 2-yard-line. Stafford was sacked on the next play, and ultimately, the Rams would settle for a field goal.
The early red zone failure set the tone for the rest of the game.
"I think the biggest thing for us tonight was missed opportunities early in the game in the red zone," Stafford said. "If we can come away with some sevens there it's probably a little bit of a different game later on."
The Bengals, dealing with Joe Burrow's calf injury, looked little like the divebombing threat we've become used to seeing early in the contest. Had the Rams gotten off to a good start and gone up double digits, it might have forced Cincy to play differently. Instead, the repeated failures and mistakes allowed the Bengals to hang around until they rounded into form.
"It did feel like we were in striking distance," McVay said. "I thought the defense kept us in the game the whole night, and I thought it was really unfortunate, especially early on where we had to settle for field goals where we had some of the looks and some of the opportunities to be able to execute and we just weren't able to get it done."
Stafford finished 18 of 33 for 269 yards with a TD and two interceptions while getting sacked six times. He went 1 of 7 for 1 yard (TD) with two sacks in the red zone on Monday night. Early in the contest, the QB was slinging lasers, but as the O-line injuries mounted, so did the pressure. By the end, it looked a lot like the version of the Rams offense we saw last year before Stafford got injured.