The City of Angels will have to settle for two world champions.
The Los Angeles Rams fell short in joining the Lakers and Dodgers in bringing another title to Southern California when being eliminated by the Green Bay Packers in an NFC divisional playoff game.
“We could have tackled better, could have played better,’’ Rams defensive end Michael Brockers said. “They exploited us on some plays. They just make the field super big and they make you defend every inch of it.’’
The Packers were better by miles, and on the scoreboard, 32-18. The Rams’ vaunted defense, ranked No. 1 in the NFL, was no match for Green Bay’s top-ranked offense as quarterback Aaron Rodgers proved again on Saturday why he’s a candidate for the league’s MVP award.
The loss hurt the Rams deeply and that was evident from the tears that rolled down defensive tackle Aaron Donald’s cheeks in the game’s closing minutes. The two-time NFL defensive player of the year was performing with a rib injury, but he still played his heart out.
You’re an outliner if not recognizing that Donald, a dominating, disruptive force, had but one assisted tackle and played just 55 percent of the snaps with so much at stake.
Donald, and few other Rams, reached Rodgers’ neighborhood. A unit which paced the NFL in sacks never put Rodgers on a tundra that wasn’t frozen, but warm with the glow of his pinpoint passing.
The Rams dodged Green Bay’s brutal weather only to run into a perfect storm which has them looking toward 2021.
Quarterback Jared Goff had a solid day, although he was but three weeks removed from thumb surgery on his throwing hand.
Wide receiver Cooper Kupp, like Linus’ security blanket a safe harbor for Goff, was unavailable. Same goes for left guard David Edwards.
Donald’s tender ribs gutted a defense which couldn’t slow the Packers through the air or on the down-low. The 484 yards Green Bay collected were the most the Rams had allowed this season, by nearly 100 yards. For just second time, the Rams surrendered at least 30 points.
“I don’t think it takes away from how great they were and how instrumental they were in even getting to this point as a team,’’ McVay said of his defenders.
Goff’s thumb restricted his ability to stretch the field, as well as the team’s lack of a deep threat. But heading into the offseason, at least the chatter of finding Goff’s replacement was muted.
Not only would it be difficult to shed Goff and his $134 million contract, but he played well in defeat and gave the Rams a chance to upset the NFC’s top seed.
But the bottom line with Goff, as always, is in the final tally. On that count, he failed.
“My job is to win the game,’’ said Goff, after completing 21 of 27 of passes for 174 yards and a touchdown. “There’s absolutely no moral victories, especially in the playoffs.’’
But the payoff for his heady, turnover-free performance is securing his starting spot heading into the next season. Although McVay, while praising Goff’s outing, hardly was effusive in clarifying Goff’s status.
McVay seemed miffed when asked if Goff was still No. 1, although his answer tailed off with a “for right now” disclaimer.
What’s not a mystery is the Rams were too inconsistent to make a deep run this year. It’s rare for a No. 6 seed to rise and ride a hot streak to the Super Bowl. L.A.’s path to its second title game in three years was impeded by a roller-coaster season.
It saw the Rams win 10 games, a road playoff outing and go 5-1 against playoff squads. But they also lost to the previously winless New York Jets and they were swept by the San Francisco 49ers, giving them a third of their six wins
“It’s rare that teams win two or three games on the road in the playoffs to get to the Super Bowl,’’ All Pro left tackle Andrew Whitworth said.
What’s left unsaid is if Whitworth, 39, will retire. His return is among the items the Rams have to address in an offseason which will also include securing more help along the offensive line, finding a speedy receiver and likely another edge rusher if Leonard Floyd exits as a free agent.
McVay is expected to hire a new defensive coordinator as Brandon Staley continues to interview for head-coaching jobs.
Then there’s the business side.
The Rams hope to welcome fans into their $5 billion venue for the first time next season after SoFi Stadium’s debut was derailed by COVID-19, keeping fans sidelined.
Selling future tickets and suites would have been an easier lift if the Rams had flexed their muscles deeper into the postseason.
L.A. will sift through the ashes of 2020 with a clear vision for 2021 and that’s eradicating the blemishes that were mentioned above.
They’ll do so after the sting of Saturday’s loss dissipates, although McVay said with this season’s heartache comes resolve.
“I love the scars that we are able to respond from,’’ McVay said.
The Rams, back after a one-year absence from the playoffs, ripped the band aid of a season which featured as many ups as downs.
“There’s never a good way to have feelings right now, when there’s such a finality to it,’’ McVay said.
Finally, the Rams’ shortcomings cost them. The price is they can’t duplicate the Lakers and Dodgers, two L.A. franchises with championship parades on hold.