For the third straight game coming out of their bye, the Los Angeles Rams offense, which hummed at a superior frequency for the first half of the season, played like an average unit.
Jared Goff and company compiled 413 total yards in Sunday night's surprising loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, but averaged a pedestrian 5.6 yards per play, finished 4 for 12 on third downs and committed three costly turnovers.
Goff's struggles, which continued Sunday evening, have been most notable over the last few weeks. The Rams quarterback and one-time MVP candidate has thrown more picks in the three games since L.A.'s bye (7) than in his 11 prior games (6). Goff missed many open receivers Sunday, especially in the red zone, and made a critical error in the third quarter when he threw a sloppy pick after fumbling the snap and nearly falling on the ball.
Following the loss, Rams coach Sean McVay expressed confidence in the shaky Goff, but admitted the quarterback needs to play better.
"He did a good job continuing to compete ... and that's what you love about Jared. But there's some things that we all got to be better," McVay told reporters following the loss. "He's got to make better decisions, especially when we end up falling out underneath the center on third-and-1. You know, sometimes the only play is to just eat it and take that sack ... but in trying to make plays, we learn from all of our mistakes, and that's Rams coaches alike, but there's certainly some things we can look at, and we got to be better.
"Teams are doing different things to us," Goff said when asked why L.A. is struggling on offense. "They're trying out different things and we just need to find a way to respond."
The Rams entered Sunday's proceedings aiming to get Todd Gurley involved more as well after the back saw just 14 touches in Chicago in Week 14. The plan was working early on as Gurley recorded 10 touches in the first quarter, but a third-quarter knee injury briefly sidelined the back and then limited him as the game wore on. Gurley finished with 124 total yards and two scores on 22 touches.
McVay admitted Gurley's absence impacted L.A.'s plans on offense "a lot," especially in regard to their early-down efficiency.
With Sunday's loss to Philly, L.A. has lost back-to-back regular-season games for the first time under McVay. Despite the setbacks in the standings, the team didn't sound panicked about its current slide.
"It's good to go through some adversity at some point," Goff explained. "Going through this now, we're in a position where we know we're in the playoffs, but at the same point, we have to be urgent about getting these things fixed. Like I said, it's nothing that we haven't done. It should be very fixable."
"We've got to be able to figure this out and figure it out fast," McVay told reporters. "Because these last couple weeks, we're doing things totally uncharacteristic of what good football teams do, of what we've done through the first handful of games this season. The only thing we know how to do is go back to work, look at ourselves. Everybody's got a hand in this and we've got to get it figured out fast."
If McVay's offense isn't purring at its midseason pace after those opponents have come and gone, though, the "urgency" around the Rams might just turn into panic.