In what turned into a battle of the defenses on the Monday night showdown, the Los Angeles Rams ultimately fell to the Cincinnati Bengals, 19-16. The Super Bowl LVI rematch game unfolded in Cincinnati with several key takeaways that significantly impacted the outcome.
1. Rams’ Offense Struggles on Third Down and Red Zone Execution
One of the most glaring issues for the Rams in this game was their inability to convert on third downs. The team found themselves in dire straits, managing only one successful third down conversion out of 11 attempts. The Rams were further challenged by the fact that five of these attempts required gaining at least ten yards, with three being third-and-16 or more.
The Rams’ offensive struggles weren’t limited to third-down conversions. Their inefficiency in the red zone became evident, as they failed to capitalize on scoring opportunities throughout the contest. Rather than finding the end zone, Los Angeles had to rely heavily on the leg of kicker Brett Maher, who has been a consistent source of points this season. Maher is tied for second in the NFL in made field goals as he converted all three of his field goal attempts and nailed his only extra point attempt on the evening.
Notably, the Rams did manage a 37-yard connection between quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Tutu Atwell in the first quarter, marking the third-longest play for the Rams’ offense this season. Still, these sporadic successes couldn’t mask their overall struggles on offense, particularly in crucial situations.
2. Offensive Line Woes
The absence of left tackle Alaric Jackson due to injury cast a shadow over the Rams’ offensive line, which was felt keenly in the game. Stafford, in his 15th season, found himself under constant pressure as the Bengals’ defense capitalized on the vulnerability created by Jackson’s absence.
The Rams’ offensive line allowed an alarming six sacks of Stafford throughout the night, making it challenging for him to establish a rhythm and connect with his receiving corps. The Rams will need to sure up the offensive line play moving forward to protect their star signal-caller and regain offensive momentum.
3. Defense Records First Interception of the Season
While the Rams’ offense struggled, their defense had a moment to shine. In the fourth quarter, defensive back Ahkello Witherspoon intercepted a pass, marking the first interception of the season for the Rams’ defense and the ninth of Witherspoon’s career. This interception provided a much-needed boost for the Rams and momentarily swung momentum in their favor.
Witherspoon’s playmaking ability in the secondary showcased the potential of the Rams’ defense, and they will look to build on this takeaway as they progress through the season. Creating turnovers and giving their offense better field position will be crucial for the Rams to find success in the weeks to come.
In the end, the Rams’ struggles on third down and in the red zone, combined with the loss of their left tackle, ultimately hindered their performance against the Bengals. The defense’s first recorded pick of the season demonstrated a silver lining in what was a winnable game that did not have a favorable outcome for the young team. Los Angeles will continue their first road trip of the season as they travel to face the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.