Why are Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams struggling?

The Los Angeles Rams were humbled by the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night. After back-to-back losses, what's wrong with Matthew Stafford?

There’s winning, as Pat Riley loves to say, and then there’s misery. This is shaping up to be a miserable month for Sean McVay and the Los Angeles Rams. After Monday night’s debacle in Santa Clara (a 31-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers), the Rams are assured to go winless for nearly a month.

Los Angeles Rams lose second straight

The Rams have lost their last two games and now must stew on it for the next two weeks with their bye coming this weekend. What’s more, they squandered an opportunity to close ground on the NFC West-leading Arizona Cardinals while Kyler Murray has been out due to injury.

The Rams would be the NFC’s fifth seed if the season ended today, opening the postseason in Tampa Bay against the defending champions. They’ve seriously regressed. And that continued Monday night, even with their two shiny new toys — edge rusher Von Miller and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. — on the field for the first time.

Neither had much of an impact. Beckham was targeted just 3 times, catching 2 balls for 18 yards. Meanwhile, Miller had 3 tackles, including 1 for loss, but no sacks or quarterback hits.

Expect both to see their roles and productivity increase as they get more comfortable in the system. McVay will probably call upon Beckham even more than expected with Robert Woods out for the season with a knee injury.

Matthew Stafford is in a slump

Nevertheless, change in wide receiver personnel has had little to do with how poorly Matthew Stafford has been the past two weeks. And Miller’s arrival is not the reason the 49ers destroyed a Rams run defense that hasn’t been particularly good all year.

Stafford, of course, deserves much of the blame. He’s made some truly horrible decisions in losses to the Titans and 49ers. He’s offered up 2 pick-sixes in consecutive weeks. Furthermore, he threw a deep-ball prayer into double coverage to Beckham on the Rams’ opening drive.

Stafford’s QBR in the last two weeks has been 16.9 and 33.6, respectively. He’s now down to seventh in EPA+CPOE (0.145) after leading the NFL in that statistic for most of the season. Once the MVP front-runner, Stafford now is probably behind Kyler Murray, Dak Prescott, and perhaps even Patrick Mahomes.

Stafford is not the only player struggling

“Robert’s a very important player,” McVay said late Sunday when speaking of Woods. “You never replace him. It certainly didn’t help not to have him, but I don’t want to use that as an excuse. We didn’t play well enough. We didn’t make enough plays. Our best players didn’t play up to their standards.”

Cooper Kupp did. He caught 11 of 13 passes for 122 yards. So did Aaron Donald. He had 8 tackles, including 2 for loss. But they’re on a short list of Rams players who showed up.

The Rams allowed 156 rushing yards, and Jimmy Garoppolo lit up the Rams’ secondary for 2 touchdowns and 182 yards on 15 of 19 passes. Los Angeles has allowed 59 points the last two weeks after allowing 69 the previous four.

But third downs were really where this game was decided. The 49ers converted 8 of 14 chances and stopped the Rams on 7 of their 10.

Rams’ remaining schedule

The schedule doesn’t get much easier for the Rams. Two of the first three games after the bye are against the Packers and Cardinals, both of whom are ahead of LA in the NFC standings. The Ravens loom late in the year. The only sure win in that stretch is home against the Jaguars on Dec. 5.

“We didn’t play well enough to win the game tonight,” McVay said. “This was a humbling night for us as a team and a great opportunity for us to take a deep breath, step away, look at the things we need to correct, particularly offensively, over the last couple weeks. It obviously wasn’t nearly good enough. We’ll look inwardly, we’re going to figure this thing out, and we’re going to come back freaking swinging, I promise you that, these last seven games of the regular season.”

McVay added: “I choose to believe that these last couple of weeks are not who we are. I refuse to believe that, even though you know what, you’re only as good as your last game.”

And that last game was ugly.

Adam Beasley is the National NFL Analyst and Insider for Pro Football Network. You can read all of Adam’s work here and give him a follow on Twitter @AdamHBeasley.

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