Five Takeaways: Rams Allow Big Plays on Defense vs. Eagles

The Rams dropped their third game of the season on Sunday night against the Eagles. Here are five takeaways from the 30-23 loss as the Rams look to rebound against the Cardinals in the penultimate game of the regular season.

1) BIG PLAYS ALLOWED

Los Angeles had a number of issues on Sunday, but one was allowing too many big plays.

Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery had receptions of 26, 36, and 50 yards in the contest — each instrumental in Philadelphia eventually building up too much of a lead for the Rams to combat.

Jeffery was arguably the most effective Eagle on offense on Sunday night, making eight receptions on eight targets for 160 yards.

Los Angeles had done a good job limiting big plays in the Week 13 and 14 games against the Lions and Bears, respectively. They will have to get back to that going forward in the last two games of the regular season.

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2) TOO MANY GIVEAWAYS

Before the bye week, Los Angeles had largely played clean throughout 2018 — recording only nine giveaways through the first 11 games of the season.

But in just the last three games, L.A. has now recorded nine giveaways. In that same span, the Rams have recorded six takeaways — giving the club a -3 turnover margin.

That has to improve as the Rams gear up for the postseason. In Sunday’s game alone, quarterback Jared Goff threw an interception and lost a fumble. Plus, punt returner JoJo Natson lost a fumble late in the fourth quarter when L.A. was looking for a chance to tie the game at 30.

It’s nothing the Rams haven’t done this year, but the team has to be better in terms of ball security in the weeks ahead.

3) MAY NEED HELP AT BACKUP RB

Running back Todd Gurley suffered a knee injury during Sunday’s game, but was able to finish the contest with 22 touches for 124 yards with a pair of touchdowns.

While head coach Sean McVay said Monday that the Rams “think [Gurley’s] going to be OK,” the Rams may have a bit of a depth issue at the position. With running back Malcolm Brown already on injured reserve with a clavicle injury, L.A. has only inexperienced Justin Davis and John Kelly on the roster behind Gurley at the position. And Davis also suffered a shoulder injury during Sunday’s contest, so his potential availability is in question.

The Rams waived wide receiver Pharoh Cooper on Tuesday. And with the injuries at running back, it stands to reason that L.A. could add someone at the position this week.

4) HEKKER LAUNCHING IT

Punter Johnny Hekker hasn’t necessarily had the most work to do over the course of the season — as he’s currently on track to have the least amount of punts he’s ever had in a season by far. But he’s been making the most of the opportunities he does have, flipping the field whenever possible.

That was especially true on Sunday, when Hekker punted three times, averaging 56.3 yards per punt with a net average of 52.0 yards.

With just 38 punts on the season — his previous career low, reached last year, was 65 punts — Hekker is still averaging 46.3 yards per punt in 2018.

5) IMPROVEMENT NEEDED ON THIRD DOWN

Offensively, the Rams have been solid on third down for much of the season — converting 42.2 percent of their opportunities. The club ranks No. 8 at that percentage.

But on Sunday, Los Angeles was only 4-of-12 in third-down efficiency, which is a key stat in illustrating why the Rams had trouble sustaining drives.

Players and coaches alike often talk about early-down efficiency when it comes to helping out on third downs. And especially in the last two weeks, the Rams have had trouble staying ahead of the chains to be in favorable down-and-distance situations. The Rams averaging just 5.6 yards per play — they’re averaging 6.4 overall this season — is part of the reason why third down hasn’t gone well.

So in this coming game, look for the Rams to avoid “get back on track” plays — where the offense is at 2nd-and-8 or longer. That will help the club stay on schedule, which will in turn aid the team’s third-down efficiency.

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