"I've got to start learning my lesson for some of the plays that I'm selecting for us in the red zone."
Head coach Sean McVay said that just after the Rams defeated the Seahawks, 33-31, last Sunday. He was referring to Los Angeles' offense not coming away with points even though the unit had just received the ball at Seattle's 12-yard line following linebacker Cory Littleton's blocked punt.
On 2nd-and-goal from the two, McVay called a pass play. Quarterback Jared Goff's first read appeared covered, and then Goff tried to get a pass in to running back Todd Gurley on the left. The ball was tipped up and intercepted by defensive end Frank Clark, ending a prime scoring opportunity.
"That's something that I'll have to look at critically for myself and be better for our football team moving forward," McVay continued.
Since he began his tenure as Rams head coach, McVay has been highly critical of himself publicly — after wins as well as after losses. He's noted before that he does it because he asks the players to look at themselves critically, and therefore feels he must do the same.
And while players like quarterback Jared Goff agree that McVay is probably too hard on himself — "He's been great. We can be great, we can do a lot better as well," Goff said Wednesday — there is something to be said for at least the Rams' red-zone execution.
Los Angeles is currently No. 3 in points per game (34.6), behind New Orleans (36.0) and Kansas City (35.0). However, the Rams rank No. 12 in red zone scoring (60 percent). Of the 25 possessions that have finished within the opponent's 20-yard line, L.A. has scored 15 touchdowns and seven field goals. The club has failed to score three times — one missed field goal, and two interceptions.
So, yes, there is certainly room for improvement in that area. On Wednesday, McVay explained just why he was so critical of his red-zone play calling from the victory over the Seahawks.
Ahead of Sunday's Los Angeles Rams vs. Denver Broncos Week 16 matchup, take a look back at photos of historical matchups between the two teams.
"I think, really, the first one, you're disappointed because after an efficient run on first down, then you probably should've run it again, especially when you get a three-man rush and a loaded zone kind of look behind that — that leads to a turnover. You just want to make sure, 'Alright, are you doing things that put our guys in good spots?'" McVay said. "Later on, then when we didn't punch it in from the one right there — that's something that we can learn from in terms of they played a little bit different defensive structure than what they had shown.
"But I thought our players did a really good job after those first two, getting four conversions in a row where you end up going 4-for-6 [in red-zone efficiency]," McVay continued. "The goal is to always come away with points most importantly, but prefer touchdowns."
And when it comes to play calling, McVay said his biggest emphasis is continued learning.
"One of the things that I'm not afraid to admit is that this is only the fourth year that I've done it," McVay said, referring to how long he's called plays in the NFL. "By no means do I have all the answers or the solutions. You try to look at yourself critically. And that really goes for all of us as coaches in figuring out, 'Alright, are we making decisions' — and it's not so much the result as much as, 'Alright, was this in alignment with what we think is best?' If it works out — and sometimes there's a lot of situations, more times than not, where I get lucky because the players end up bailing you out.
"So, that's where some of those situations as far as remaining patient, are we getting good removal in the run game? And if that's the case then you want to be aware of that, but you also want to have that unpredictable element as well."
As McVay continues to gain experience, he figures he'll improve.
"If there's one thing that I've learned is if you try to learn from your mistakes and make sure that you put those things in the memory bank, that's really valuable," McVay said. "I think that's one of the things that's been as humbling and as eye opening as anything else. You always sit back and you hope to be able to get a chance to call plays and, 'Oh yeah, you can do it,' or whatever and then when you actually get into that role, it's a little bit more humbling than what you thought. You've got to make sure that you're adjusting — you're able to adapt."