The Rams fell to the Panthers, 13-10, for their fourth consecutive loss. Is it time for Jeff Fisher to insert Jared Goff at quarterback?
The faded Coliseum stands were filled with empty seats. The makeshift Coliseum field was filled with empty promises.
The Rams reached the halfway point of their homecoming season Sunday amid a stadium of boos and a city of yawns.
After a dreadful 13-10 defeat by the Carolina Panthers, it is clear that Los Angeles’ once-darling Rams have lost far more than five of their first eight games.
They have lost buzz. They have lost belief. They have blown a blue-and-golden opportunity to fall into the open arms of a town that had been waiting 22 years for the opportunity to simply embrace them.
That town now scoffs at them. That town now jeers at them. In the wake of the Dodgers’ success and Lakers’ start, is anybody really even really talking about them?
During the slow ruination of what began as a spectacularly warm and clear autumn Sunday afternoon, that embrace dissipated into a shove and a stare. Seven minutes into the game, the Rams were booed. With five minutes left, the Rams were abandoned. By the time the Rams mercifully left a field that had been sloppily painted after Saturday’s USC game, they had been whipped not only by the Panthers, but also by their inept offense, their strange personnel decisions, and a general malaise that everyone assumed they left in St. Louis.
Apparently we assumed wrong.
“We’re just absolutely crushed,” said guard Rodger Saffold, afterward, shaking his head. “Enough is enough.”
Enough is enough, indeed. Many in the announced crowd of 86,109 — minus bunches of no-shows — felt the same way, and were vocal about it. The Rams were booed not only because their offense is bad and boring, but also because they don’t seem to be inclined to change any of it.
They were booed, first, because they refuse to replace struggling starting quarterback Case Keenum with No. 1 overall draft pick Jared Goff, and, c’mon, this is getting ridiculous.
While fans chanted, “We want Goff,” Keenum overthrew Brian Quick for a sure touchdown pass early in the second quarter, then threw it to a leaping Panther Thomas Davis for a third-quarter interception that led to a Panthers field goal. Keenum wasn’t tall enough to avoid three tipped passes, wasn’t aware enough to find an open Todd Gurley on the interception, and generally failed again to muster even the most minuscule offensive firepower that could reward the Rams’ great defense.
Keenum has nine touchdown passes and 11 interceptions and, really, how bad could Goff be? At least he represents hope. At least he’ll offer entertainment. In him, there is at least a future.
Of course, once again, Rams Coach Jeff Fisher is watching an entirely different game.
“I would submit that Case is not the reason we lost this game today,” Fisher said, and then stunningly noted it wasn’t even up for debate, saying, “I don’t think Case’s play today was indicative of raising the question.”
Photos from the Rams’ 13-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers
Not even raising the question? Um, that question has already been answered. Goff should be the starting quarterback, just like Gurley should be the workhorse running back.
That’s another reason the fans booed, because the man who was supposed to be Hollywood’s newest star continued to be mostly invisible and often irrelevant, gaining just 48 yards on a dozen carries with four catches for 26 more yards.
It seemed as though after every time Gurley broke free, the Rams would hustle him off to the sidelines. Every time he had some momentum, his team would steal it from him.
The crowd was briefly awakened when Gurley broke off an 18-yard run out of a wildcat formation late in the second quarter. Yet the Rams followed with three consecutive passes before giving Gurley the ball on fourth and one, at which point he was stopped.
Then in the fourth quarter, Gurley’s 10-yard run gave the Rams first and goal from the Carolina seven-yard line. But sure enough, last season’s NFL offensive rookie of the year didn’t touch the ball again in that series, with three straight incomplete passes — including an end zone drop by Lance Kendricks — leading to a field goal that closed the gap to 10-3.
“They’re taking the run away with respect to the fronts and the stunting, so we pick it up and throw it,” said Fisher. ‘’It’s not a Todd thing.”
No, indeed, it seems to be a Fisher and play-caller Rob Boras thing, and with every loss it makes less sense.
“It’s not the end of the world,” said Gurley. “We just have to win games.”
It’s not the end of the world, but it’s the end of the honeymoon, and one has to wonder exactly what the Rams are doing.
While other teams in Los Angeles understand the concept of renewal and rebirth — check out Dave Roberts’ Dodgers and Luke Walton’s Lakers — the Rams still seem stuck back in St. Louis with lowered expectations and a mantra of mediocrity.
Halfway into the first season of their return, Los Angeles’ oldest pro franchise appears to need new vision, new leadership … and for goodness sakes, a new quarterback.
Surely this isn’t about ownership being content to tread water for three seasons until they move into the palace in Inglewood, is it? Surely the Rams don’t think fans will accept three seasons of this mess and then happily plunk down thousands for hot new tickets to see a tired old team.