In spite of another performance without a touchdown scored, the Los Angeles Rams were able to pull out an ugly 9-6 victory against the New York Jets. The win snapped Los Angeles’ four game losing streak, inching them closer to the NFC West division lead and to the NFC playoff picture, as well. The Rams inability to score a touchdown was offset by stellar performances by the defense and special team units. Here are three takeaways from today’s victory.
Los Angeles Rams Week Ten Takeaways
For the Sixth Straight Week, Ineffective Offensive Play Continues
It’d be unjust to rest all of the blame on Case Keenum for today’s offensive struggles, but he did play a huge part in preventing the team from having any added success. The five-year vet out of the University of Houston completed just over 50 percent of his passes, and those completions primarily came on short throws.
Keenum’s play, was once again, all too conservative, which is just a testament to his inability to serve and last as a first-string quarterback in the NFL. Despite not throwing an interception, his totals amounted to a mere 5.5 yards per attempt to go along with no touchdowns. It seemed that the later the game would get, the more mental mistakes the quarterback would force; from overthrown and underthrown balls to batted passes.
The rushing attack wasn’t that much better, as Todd Gurley stretched his under 100-yard rushing performances to 16 of his last 17 games, one game shy of equating an entire season. Gurley amassed 64 yards on 21 carries, which nearly matches his season rushing average of 3.1 yards. He did, however, break out a couple of big, momentum-changing runs that were ultimately brought back following offensive-line penalties. Benny Cunningham, who had been plagued by injuries in recent weeks, played his best game of the season, rushing for 40 yards on six attempts.
The offensive line was arguably the worst component of the entire offensive unit today. Not only were they called for a significant number of flags, but they did a poor job of making Keenum feel comfortable in the pocket. What shouldn’t have been a surprise, given the Jets formidable and sometimes-troublesome defensive line, the front office is likely questioning the number of draft picks they spent on last year’s draft. They gave up a total of eight quarterback hits, three sacks, seven tackle-for-losses, and five pass deflections.
Rams Red Zone is the Rams Weak Zone
Red zone play continues to be one of Los Angeles’ biggest weak links for it’s offense. The Rams have done a solid job converting points on first drives this season, but seem to struggle a bit after that. Out of their eight plays inside the Jets’ 20-yard line, Los Angeles totaled an abysmal negative-five yards.
In two of their three field goals, the Rams were threatening inside the Jets ten-yard line but were unable to convert any of them into touchdowns. The closest they came to reaching the end zone was on the first drive of the game, where Keenum and company had a first-and-ten on the New York one-yard line. Cunningham began by fumbling the ball, in which they lost one yard, and that was ultimately followed by two straight incompletions by Keenum. That set up Greg Zurlein to convert on a 20-yard chipshot field goal; his first of three in the game.
Los Angeles seems to be a team that has yet to find out how to identify and play through it’s biggest strength. Jeff Fisher has previously stated that his philosophy for this Rams team is to pound the ball through the ground and finding passing opportunites when given. The offense has turned that gameplan upside down, especially inside the redzone; making defensive opponents pay most of it’s attention to an already mediocre passing attack. Despite Gurley’s recent struggles, Los Angeles is still better off handing him the rock, rather than resting it’s chances into Keenum’s arm.
Johnny Hekker is the Rams Most Valuable Player
Johnny Hekker, undoubtedly Los Angeles’ most valuable player this season, should also be considered a candidate for league MVP. Hekker came into today’s game leading all punters with 24 punts inside the 20-yard line. He added five more today, with one of them tying a season and career-best 78-yard punt; also good for the third longest in franchise history. Not only that, but Hekker also leads the league in fair catches and touchbacks allowed.
Building off a historic season last year in which he led the National Football League is almost every punting category, Hekker has been the sole reason for the Rams victories this season. He has ultimately awarded the defense more room for breathers and mistakes, and the offense more time to gameplan. Teammate, Alec Ogletree, has also gone on the record to praise his special team counterpart, stating: “Kind of been the MVP of the team so far, in my eyes. He changes field position.”
As unusual as this stat is, the Rams are 2-1 when they are unable to score a touchdown in a game. Much of that can be credited with the defense, but most of it should be directed towards Hekker. And we all laughed at the front office after they gave Hekker a six-year, $18 million contract.
Who’s the one laughing now?