Los Angeles tied Sunday's matchup midway through the fourth quarter but could not complete the comeback, as Washington used a 10-play drive to drain the clock and score a game-winning touchdown. With a short turnaround before playing San Francisco for Thursday Night Football, L.A. has much to correct. But there were also some encouraging aspects to Sunday's game.
With that in mind, here are five takeaways from Week 2.
1) Run defense must improve
Washington rushed for 229 yards on Sunday, receiving significant production from three different running backs. Starter Rob Kelley recorded 78 yards on 12 carries before exiting the game with an injury to his ribs. Chris Thompson and Samaje Perine picked up where Kelley left off, rushing for 77 and 67 yards, respectively.
"It's frustrating to lose period and it was definitely frustrating giving up that amount of yards in the run game," middle linebacker Alec Ogletree said. "And when you don't stop the run, you leave yourself open for a lot of stuff. They executed really well and credit to them for coming in with a good game plan and doing the right things."
"We've got to watch the film, but just got to play better on the run and when run situations come, you've got to win your one-on-ones and get off the field," defensive tackle Aaron Donald said. "That's what we need to do."
Overall, Washington averaged 5.9 yards per rushing attempt, with three plays of at least 19 yards.
"I haven't seen the film yet, so I'll have to go and watch it and see," Ogletree said, "but I feel like we just weren't physical enough at stopping the run and we didn't do our job today."
Physicality could be one factor, but it's likely not the only one. This is an area in which the Rams must improve going forward, especially considering their next opponent.
2) Penalties, turnovers hurt offense
Los Angeles had a hard time getting going offensively in the first half in part due to a key penalty on a kickoff and a fumble on the third drive.
After Washington's first field goal, wide receiver Pharoh Cooper appeared to return the ensuing kickoff to the home team's 26-yard line. But linebacker Cory Littleton was flagged for holding and Washington was called for a facemask. After some lengthy discussion, the officials determined that because the fouls occurred after the ball was possessed, the Rams' drive was to start where the kick ended — which was the two-yard line. This had a clear negative effect on the offense, as L.A. went three-and-out.
Then running back Todd Gurley fumbled on the first play on the next drive. He credited Washington cornerback Josh Norman for making the play to jar the ball out, but the sudden change allowed the visitors to add a field goal and take a 13-0 lead.
In the fourth quarter, wide receiver Robert Woods committed a pair of penalties on the Rams' game-tying drive that contributed to stalling the offense and keeping it out of the end zone. The first foul was unnecessary roughness and the second was offensive pass interference. Woods took responsibility for both mistakes in the locker room postgame.
And when the Rams had a chance to tie the game late in the fourth quarter, quarterback Jared Goff threw an interception on the drive's first play to effectively end the contest.
Overall, Los Angeles was penalized seven times for 75 yards and turned the ball over twice.
"We can't hurt ourselves with the penalties, some of the different things that occurred throughout the course of the game," McVay said. "But, I know that we'll look at ourselves critically in the mirror — coaches included, starting with me — and make sure that we do a good job with our short week of preparation going into a game against our divisional opponent in the Niners."
3) Gurley got going
One positive takeaway from Sunday's game is Gurley's production both on the ground and through the air.
The running back finished with 136 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns — one receiving, and one rushing. Gurley recorded 16 carries for 88 yards — 5.5 yards per carry — and three receptions for 48 yards.
After the game, Gurley and Goff both mentioned how they noticed Washington wasn't necessarily paying much attention to the running back on routes out of the backfield.
"Todd was great," Goff said. "We talked early on, they weren't covering him much out of our backfield in the pass game, so we were trying to get him the ball al tilt bit and sure enough we did. He kept jumping over people and making some plays."
Gurley made as impressive a play as you'll see for the first touchdown reception of his career in the third quarter. On 1st-and-10 from the Washington 18, Goff hit Gurley in the left flat. From there, the running back hurdled over cornerback Bashaud Breeland at about the 10-yard line, then stayed in bounds as safety Deshazor Everett hit him, extending the ball over the pylon for six points.
With the Rams losing the game, Gurley understandably downplayed the hurdles, saying only it "[j]ust happens. I don't really pay attention to it too much."
4) Donald returns, but isn't quite "back"
Defensive tackle Aaron Donald played his first game of 2017 on Sunday, but wan't pleased with his own performance.
"I didn't win my one-on-ones," he said postgame. "When I have one-on-ones I usually win those, — just doing too much thinking. And you can try to say that [it was because] I didn't play. But that's on me — I need to play better."
Donald played 48 snaps on Sunday, which works out to 68 percent of the defense's time on the field. He said he felt fine as far as fatigue, but was adamant that the needed to improve.
"I'll be good next week," Donald said. "Just to be out there with live bullets just to get the speed of the game and seeing little things that help me play a little faster. So like I said, breaking down the film and coming back next week a lot better because I didn't like the way I played today."
5) Better get right back to work
Any loss is disappointing, but there's not much time to dwell on it as Los Angeles will head up to the Bay Area to play San Francisco on Thursday Night Football this week.
"Yeah, you've got to start that preparation right away because everything is condensed down," McVay said. "The players will start with the recovery process and ti'll be more of an above-the-neck approach for the next couple days. But that processed that procedure in terms of getting ready for that game on Thursday starts right now."
Recovery and preparation can be difficult for a Thursday game, especially when it's on the road. To that end, the Rams canceled their originally scheduled jog-through for late Monday afternoon. The club will hold a shorter practice on Tuesday afternoon before traveling on Wednesday.
"We've got to look at ourselves — I've got to do a better job for our team as a whole," McVay said. "First adversity that we've faced — we really get a chance to see how we'll respond on a short week. So we don't have much time to feel sorry for ourselves about this game."