McVay & the offense: gameplanning, redzone, target distribution, etc

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    Rams Continuing to Evaluate Target Distribution

    Myles Simmons

    Through five games, the Rams have four players with at least 200 yards receiving, and three players with either 29 or 30 targets.

    As a playcaller, Los Angeles head coach Sean McVay has a reputation for designing offenses that spread the ball around. With multiple weapons, opposing defenses cannot just key in on one or two players and shut the unit down.

    Last year’s Washington offense, for instance, had four players with at least 89 targets. Pierre Garçon led the team with 114, DeSean Jackson had 100, Jamison Crowder had 99, and Jordan Reed finished with 89. Garçon and Jackson each had over 1,000 yards receiving.

    McVay appears to be constructing a similar structure with L.A. — albeit with significantly different personnel. So far in 2017, wide receiver Robert Woods leads the team with 252 yards receiving, while running back Todd Gurley’s 22 receptions leads the club. Woods, Gurley, Cooper Kupp and Sammy Watkins are all above 200 yards receiving, though Woods has 252.

    But any time there are a number of talented pass catchers on a team, there are going to be personalities manage in order to keep everyone on the unit happy. That’s something McVay had to deal with as a coordinator in Washington, and it’s a challenge he embraces as a head coach, too.

    “[T]hese are positive problems when you’ve got a lot of playmakers,” McVay said Monday when asked about distributing touches between Gurley, Watkins and Tavon Austin. “And every decision that we try to make, while we know that being able to win and be efficient on offense is going to be to get those guys involved and get them touches. It’s important for them to understand how they fit and as long as we clearly communicate the why — as to why we’re doing different things, what we’re trying to get done — I feel like it helps create a better understanding.”

    To that end, there were a few posts on social media from Watkins that surfaced following Sunday’s game against the Seahawks. Watkins did not have a reception in Sunday’s game on four targets, and was targeted only twice in the Week 4 victory over Dallas. McVay said he was aware of the posts and addressed them with the wide receiver.

    “I think looking at some of those social media exchanges, I think he was more just responding to those things and he knows that he’ll do the right things moving forward,” McVay said. “But, I really respect the way Sammy handled our conversation today in terms of taking the accountability to know that it’s about snap-in and snap-out and really the tape is what tells the story. Sometimes, when you don’t get your number targeted, it can be a little bit misleading and that’s what I appreciate about Sammy is I think he took it the right way and expect him to respond the right way moving forward.”

    How does the tape tell the story? Well, McVay pointed to one play midway through the third quarter where Watkins may not have finished the top of his route in an ideal fashion.

    “I think it was really one play in particular, and we had run a similar play earlier [where] he kind of almost served as a pick on Earl Thomas before we had a chance to hit Cooper Kupp on a crossing route,” McVay said. “In that instance right there, the pocket allowed where [Thomas] was kind of coming down on an intermediate [route] and it opened up down the field. And that’s where it’s a great learning experience and opportunity, not just for Sammy, but for all of our receivers that you never know how each play is going to play out.

    “We always talk to our players about playing each play as its own individual entity and based on the way that some of the plays had played out, we felt like that was a chance and we wanted to be able to make them count and capitalize on that,” McVay continued. “Because we weren’t all on the same page, it didn’t work out that way for us. But I think that’s a learning opportunity for everybody on our offense, including Sammy, so that if it doesn’t come up again we’re not sitting here in that same situation.”

    As for the way targets are distributed, quarterback Jared Goff was asked after Sunday’s game about getting the ball to players like Gulrey and Watkins regardless of what the defense initially presents.

    “I think guys that get the ball are most of the time, some of your best players and those two definitely are,” Goff said. “I would say for the most part, they’re guys I’m thinking the back of my head I want to get the ball to a lot. But, by no means do I want to force them the ball, just continue to let them get open in the framework of the play and work the ball to them.”

    That falls in line with what McVay said Monday, which was that targets and ball distribution are more the responsibility of the play caller than the quarterback.

    “[W]hat we tell the quarterback to do is to just make sure you do a good job of just progressing through whatever the concept is called and reading it out as such,” McVay said. “We’ve got a lot of players that we have confidence in. There are certain opportunities where maybe we could have gotten Sammy involved, but ultimately, I think people have a tendency to blame the quarterback on getting guys involved. That to me, is on me as a play caller because we try to call plays to get players involved, to attack certain coverages — certainly it’s an inexact deal in terms of getting the looks that you want. But, what you never want to do with the quarterback is make him feel like he’s got to force throws to guys when the coverage doesn’t dictate that’s where the ball should go.

    “Every play that we run, we try to have all-purpose plays,” McVay added. “It’s not perfect, but your progression is dictated based on whatever the defense presents. Certain calls, you try to get guys involved and certainly there were a couple [Sunday] we did with Sammy that didn’t work out for a couple different reasons.”

    And so as 2017 continues, McVay said he expects Watkins’ numbers will increase.

    “We’ll continue to try to find ways to get the ball in Sammy’s hands,” McVay said. “He’s a good player for us, he will be a good player and these last couple weeks, I don’t believe, are indicative of his production for the rest of the season.”


    Rams Aim to Improve Red Zone Offense

    Kristen Lago

    Entering Week 5, the Rams led the NFL in scoring with 142 points. First year head coach Sean McVay had rejuvenated an offense that ranked No. 32 for the last two seasons. And the unit was looking efficient under quarterback Jared Goff, who was distributing the football to a variety of playmakers, including running back Todd Gurley — September’s NFC Offensive Player of the Month.

    But while the Rams as a whole have looked vastly improved this season, Sunday’s 16-10 loss to the Seahawks pointed out a significant issue with the team’s offense: Los Angeles has a problem scoring in the red zone.

    “It wasn’t so much we weren’t moving the ball, we just weren’t finishing drives,” Goff said after Sunday’s contest. “That’s what it came down to, we just weren’t finishing drives. We got into the red zone and we didn’t do a very good job and that’s what shows up.”

    The Rams took four trips inside the Seahawks’ 20-yard line on Sunday. Of those four drives, just one led to scoring — a 36-yard field goal attempt made by kicker Greg Zuerlein — and none of them ended in the Rams crossing the goal line.

    “It felt like a lot of little things that one, didn’t go our way, or two we hurt ourselves,” left tackle Andrew Whitworthsaid. “If you don’t execute at a really high level, you don’t win.”

    “I think it was extremely frustrating after the game,” McVay said Monday, “and still frustrating when you go back and look at it.”

    Sunday’s loss continued a red zone pattern that began in Week 5’s victory over Dallas. Though the Rams’ scored 35 points against the Cowboys, the team reached the end zone just twice, settling for seven field goals from Zuerlein.

    Overall, the team has scored just one touchdown in its last eight trips to the red zone — the rest of those drives have ended in several field-goal attempts, an interception, a fumble, and a turnover on downs. Los Angeles is now the No. 24 ranked team in terms of red zone scoring percentages, crossing the goal line just 43.87 percent of the time.

    On Monday, Mcvay was asked what he believes is the reason for the Rams’ struggles inside the 20-yard line. He said it starts with himself as a playcaller.

    “To Seattle’s credit they did a good job,” he said. “That’s why they are a highly ranked red-zone defense. But I definitely need to look at myself and make sure that with some of the passes when you’re going incomplete — are we giving good, high percentage throws like we did early on when we were having some success? And then we have got to run the football efficiently as well.”

    Goff, however, called the team’s red zone struggles a problem of execution, not play calling.

    “We need to be sharper,” he said. “I can do a better job of understanding what they’re going to do coming into it. Getting the ball out of my hands a little quicker would probably help and then we need to make plays. We need to make plays all over the field. Ultimately that’s why we lost the game.”

    This week, against the Jaguars, Los Angeles will face off against another elite defense, one that will challenge the offense’s ability to improve its red-zone efficiency. But fortunately for the Rams, McVay referred to the team’s mistakes this past weekend as “fixable things that we can correct,” not extreme areas for concern.

    “We can do a better job of emphasizing it as a coaching staff and then it’s on the players then to be able to fix those things,” he said Monday. “We’ve got the right kind of guys in that locker room to be able to look at themselves critically in the mirror and figure out what they can do to be a part of the solution.”

    “That’s kind of what today was, is figure out what we can do to fix that and then we’ll come back Wednesday with a plan for the Jacksonville Jaguars.”


    How about just kicking field goals instead of turning tha ball over. That alone wins the game


    Sean McVay’s ‘crazy mind,’ play-calling skills quickly gaining notice in NFL circles



    THOUSAND OAKS — Since 2015, when Washington head coach Jay Gruden quietly handed play-calling duties to his 29-year-old offensive coordinator, Sean McVay has earned a reputation in football circles as somewhat of a play-calling savant.

    Ask those who witnessed his swift ascent through the ranks — from wunderkind assistant to youngest head coach in NFL history with the Rams to potential Coach of the Year candidate — and, inevitably, they’ll mention his memory. When it comes to football, it is borderline photographic.

    “He’s like ‘Rain Man,’” says Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur. “He’ll remember plays from before he was born. I’m not joking. I’ve never met somebody with the recall he has.”

    Every week, McVay’s gameplan is memorized, each play filed away to be retrieved at a moment’s notice. On Sundays, his double-sided, 11-by-17 play sheet is essentially window dressing, used mostly between drives as a security blanket. Challenge him to recount any of the 306 plays he has called this season, and he is confident he could describe any of them in full detail.

    To his assistants, McVay is a bionic playbook, capable of recounting random play sequences from months or years earlier.

    “He’s special,” says offensive line coach Aaron Kromer. “He remembers everything.” And that’s not limited to his own team and its opponents. As LaFleur put together a play this preseason, McVay casually referenced a related sequence from a 2015 tilt between the Broncos and Steelers.

    “I’m like, ‘How do you remember that?’” LaFleur says. “He’s just got one of those crazy minds. Everything sticks with him.”

    This mastery of the playbook is no doubt a keystone of McVay’s success, like it has been for the dozen or so other NFL coaches who call their team’s offensive plays. But play-calling is more art form than science. A memorized gameplan is useless if the plan itself is thwarted.

    “I think it’s the hardest job in all of sports, to be honest with you,” says Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn, hired a day after McVay and quickly handed over play calling duties to his offensive coordinator, Ken Whisenhunt.

    Playcallers are often judged by their spur-of-the-moment improvisation — and blamed when those decisions go sideways — but it’s the methodology behind Sunday’s high stakes chess match, prepared through long days of work beforehand, that separates the NFL’s true playbook artists.

    McVay relishes this responsibility to a near-obsessive degree. Kyle Shanahan, now the 49ers head coach, worked with McVay in Washington when he started as a quality control assistant. Shanahan noticed even then, as McVay broke down film and filed scouting reports, how much pride he put into the process.

    “Sean would grind,” Shanahan says. “He takes it very personally if he makes a mistake.”

    And indeed, no one has been harder on McVay’s playcalling than McVay himself. After nearly every game this season, even victories, he’s offered unprompted self-critiques, heaping any spare blame on his own shoulders.

    But through five weeks of his first season in Los Angeles, Todd Gurley is thriving, Jared Goff is improving, and a once-disastrous offensive line is clicking. Overnight, the Rams have transformed from the NFL’s most moribund offense to one of its most explosive.

    Behind it all is a 31-year-old play-calling maestro with a photographic memory and a preternatural grasp on the game, far beyond his age.


    In football’s earliest days, the quarterback typically served as his team’s de facto play caller. That first changed in the 1950’s, when legendary Cleveland head coach Paul Brown sought more control, opting to use his own players to relay plays to the huddle.

    It wasn’t until Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh and his 49ers offenses of the 1980s that the NFL was introduced to the modern concept of scripting plays ahead of time. Then, Walsh’s script often included just 15 to 25 plays.

    “Scripting is planning; it’s contingency planning,” Walsh told the New York Times in 1996. “The fewer decisions to be made during the game, the better. You don’t want to live by your instincts.”

    The same concept stands today, although modern play cards have become exponentially more detailed … with exponentially smaller fonts.

    “Depending on how long the call is, (McVay’s) can be pretty tough to read,” LaFleur says.

    Most Sundays, the Rams’ playsheet will contain more than 100 plays. Each option is organized to match the order in which the Rams practice every week.

    In the upper left-hand column are the offense’s 20 or so “openers,” which are exclusive to first- and second-down calls and practiced earliest in the week. Below that are priority second-and-long, “get-back-on-track” calls. Slide over, and you’ll find the third-down plays worked on during Thursday’s practice, followed by those meant for the redzone and two-minute drill, which are practiced on Friday. Those sections are then broken down into further sub-sections and contingency options.

    “The whole game is right there,” McVay says.

    The process of devising that plan is collaborative, carried out in a series of meetings throughout the week in which open communication is encouraged. Each coach has their own responsibility in regards to game planning. LaFleur teams with McVay on pass plays. Kromer works the run game. Quarterbacks coach Greg Olson handles third downs, and tight ends coach Shane Waldron focuses on red zone. “They’re all instrumental,” McVay says.

    But McVay oversees it all, watching hours upon hours of film and jotting down possible plays in his usual notebook. Assistants describe him as meticulously organized, and, in that way, they’ve noticed the Rams’ weekly process mirroring his tendencies.

    “Everyone is a creature of habit,” Waldron says. “When you have a clear idea of what you want to be and how you want to communicate, it makes the weekly rhythm that much easier.”

    At his behest, McVay’s staff often begins its preparation by looking inward. Over the course of a week, the Rams focus as much time studying their own film, as they do their opponent.

    This self-analysis is a crucial tenet of McVay’s coaching philosophy. He is constantly poring over past playcalls, analyzing — and doubting — his own tendencies on film, and subtly manipulating future plans. All with the intention of being a step ahead of his opponent.

    “They’re watching the tape, too,” he says. “So we’re making sure we’re aware of what the defense is preparing for when they’re watching us.”

    From there, McVay takes his cues from Walsh’s teachings.

    “You try to play the game before the game, envision some of the scenarios and situations that can come up,” he explains. Sometimes, McVay will visualize a game from start to finish, two or three times. Until it feels “like second nature,” he says.

    When he first started calling plays in Washington, McVay admits he was caught on his heels too often. He tries not to ruminate on any of his failures. But it’s the mistakes he can’t explain to his players, the ones that suggest a lack of preparation, that eat at him most.

    In his short time as a playcaller, McVay has done his best to internalize those miscues and learn from them. And as the Rams head into Week 6 ranked second in the NFL in points per game and fifth in total yards, it’s the rest of the NFL that seems to be caught off balance.


    Two weeks ago, at the end of the third quarter in Dallas, the Rams lined up in shotgun on first-and-10, with two receivers stacked to the left and one split out right. Trailing the Cowboys by five points, they were in desperate need of a spark.

    So McVay sent Tavon Austin motion, knowing the Cowboys would then account for the jet sweep. As the ball was snapped, Goff faked to Austin and Cowboys inside linebacker Damien Wilson bit on the fake, just as Gurley sprinted out of the backfield and up the seam behind him.

    McVay’s tweak to the original play — sending Gurley into the seam — was just subtle enough to fool the Cowboys, whom he figured knew of his jet sweep and the several variations he’s installed. Down the field, Goff hit an open Gurley, who cut on a dime to avoid the only defender in his way, before darting into the endzone for a 53-yard score. It was the kind of brilliant adjustment for which McVay has come to be known in his short time as a playcaller.

    “He just has a great ability to change it up,” Washington’s Gruden says. “You don’t know what’s coming. You think, first-and-10, stop Todd Gurley. Then, they do a play-pass and launch it over your head, or they do a boot leg and hit somebody in the flat for a gain of nine. He’s just got a great way of keeping you off balance.”

    McVay’s offense is built on such subtle deception, culled from those long sessions of self-analysis. The jet sweep is perhaps the best example. McVay has faked the jet sweep to Austin 19 times this season, out of several different alignments, while Austin has only actually taken the handoff eight times. Still, defenses are forced to account for him every time he sets in motion.

    Pre-snap motion is a foundational part of McVay’s strategy for keeping opponents off balance. A receiver or running back has set in motion before the snap on 45 percent of the Rams’ plays this season. That’s 135 times the opposing defense was forced to make a split-second adjustment, just before the play.

    It’s not his only pre-snap curveball. Recently, McVay has used quick snap counts and no-huddle more frequently. Over the past two games, the Rams have run 30 plays of no-huddle offense, compared to just 12 plays from the first three weeks combined.

    A few days after the Rams narrowly beat the Cowboys, McVay is asked about how that Gurley touchdown came together. As he describes it in full detail, he grins.

    “That was fun,” McVay says.

    But he has to cop to something. He stole that play from the Patriots, who used it in Week 2. And he’s pretty sure they stole it from the Chiefs, who used it to burn New England for a 78-yard Kareem Hunt touchdown the week before. Neither team is on the Rams’ schedule this season. Of course, McVay had already studied them, anyway.

    “It was a great play,” McVay says. “It fits with what we do because of Tavon’s ability, the same way Kansas City uses Tyreek Hill. Then, New England made it work because it stresses some of the coverage that New Orleans plays.

    “We had an idea how it would play out.”

    Still, McVay had prepared a contingency plan, if it hadn’t. You know, just in case.


    It’s time to dust off the gear and be proud, Rams fans. Here’s how your team has risen


    The ball was right there. It was a third-and-10 throw, eight seconds to go, and it was on and off the fingertips. If Connor Kupp makes that catch the Rams beat Seattle and we’re having a completely different conversation right now about that team, about Jared Goff, about Sean McVay.

    But they’ve been fun to watch and it’s not just a deal where they’re playing well at home. They’ve taken it on the road. They went to Dallas and got a big win, then came home and took Seattle to the wire. They’re 3-2 and one year after having one of the worst point differentials in the NFL (minus-170, 30th) they have one of the best (plus-31, fourth). And this is a team with the youngest coach in the NFL, with the second-youngest roster and with a quarterback who many were ready to write off last season.

    McVay has done his best work there, with Goff.

    You heard a lot in the offseason: “He’s not going to pan out. He doesn’t have the arm strength or the talent.” I watched him come into the league with Carson Wentz, and I liked Carson better just from a physical standpoint. He also was ahead from a protection standpoint and a read-recognition standpoint.


    It’s not that Jared wasn’t going to be able to do it, it’s just that he wasn’t asked to do a lot at Cal. Then last year, with the Rams, that offense was just archaic.

    It was boring and old school and really not a lot of fun to watch. It wasn’t very creative and it didn’t do what Sean is doing this year, which is create offense for his quarterback, create easy throws and make it a simple game for him. They do that now, and Jared is playing with the confidence of a quarterback who knows the coordinator has his best interests, who knows he can trust the reads and trust the throws. He’s letting it rip and you don’t hear anything about arm-strength issues or mechanical issues.

    Seahawks Rams Football
    Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff looks to pass during the game against the Seattle Seahawks Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017. After a rough rookie season, Goff is thriving in the offense installed by new coach Seean McVay. The former No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft has completed 61 percent of his passes for 1,360 yards with seven touchdowns and three interceptions.
    The Rams are an impressive team, and they’re only going to get better on the defensive side of the ball as they’re transitioning into that new front that Wade Phillips likes to play.

    I wish Sean McVay would have been there last year when they showed up in Los Angeles because I think they would have put a better product on the field.

    That offense a year ago, it was just hard to watch. If they were going to throw the ball, a lot of times they’d be outnumbered. They’d keep too many guys in for protection, probably because their line wasn’t very good. But sometimes they’d run a three-man route and there would be eight guys dropping into coverage and you’re just not going to win that battle, especially with a rookie quarterback.

    Now, the personnel is better up front and that’s a credit to Sean, also. But as a quarterback you’re never in a situation where you’re scratching your head trying to come up with answers. I’ve been in that situation. My rookie year in Houston, we ran an old-school offense and I didn’t know better and I’m sure Jared didn’t know any better. But when you get with someone who really gets it and knows how to move guys around, you finally see it, and you see the way Jared is playing.

    Sean is on the offensive. He’s on the attack.

    Saints coach Sean Payton is another example. He’s on the attack at all times. He hasn’t had the best personnel, but he’s a coordinator who keeps defensive coordinators up at night thinking because Payton is going to exploit his matchups. He’s going to find a way to get his guys in open space.

    Sean McVay is one of those guys.

    He has done a fantastic job of spreading the football around and getting everyone involved. It’s not just the “Force Feed Tavon Austin Show” anymore. He’s just part of the plan and he comes in and he’ll play running back and he’ll do some of the things that he did last year, but it’s so much more than that.

    Sean is creating offense for Jared and that’s the coordinator’s job. If you’re going to be a good one, at least 30 percent of the game plan should be just easy money throws, where guys have 4 or 5 yards of separation and you just out-scheme the other guy.

    I think the good coordinators get close to that number and Sean is definitely doing that.

    It’s great to see him with Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and Tavon. Todd Gurley, it looks like he’s one of the top backs in the league. I’m sure if you asked Todd if he’s a different player than he was last year he might say he’s on the field more, and he is, he’s playing a lot more third downs. Other than that, I’m sure he’d tell you he has prepared the same way his whole career, but now you have a guy who knows how to utilize a back like that and you’re seeing the dividends.


    Rams’ red-zone woes need fixing in a hurry



    Shortly after trading the obligatory handshake with Pete Carroll after the Rams suffered a frustrating loss to the Seattle Seahawks last Sunday, Sean McVay turned to leave the Coliseum field on his way to the locker room. The look he wore was angry. And with each hurried step he took, he appeared to be muttering to himself.

    McVay was a disappointed coach alone with his thoughts. And it was obvious he wasn’t about to easily let himself off the hook for what just transpired over the course of the previous three hours.

    The Rams entered that game leading the NFL in scoring at 35.5 points per game. Yet all they could manage was a measly 10 points.

    This, in spite of the fact they out gained the Seahawks 375 yards to 241. They were far better through the air with 275 yards to 179, and were more productive on the ground with 100 yards to 62.
    And while the superior production could be seen in a positive light, it actually shined an even brighter one on the issue making McVay seethe, and the one he’s focused like a laser beam on this week ahead of the Rams’ important trip to Jacksonville.

    That issue being: How and why did the Rams churn out that kind of yardage yet manage just 10 points? The answer, of course, was eating at McVay’s offensive soul.

    “We got into the red zone and we didn’t do a very good job,” quarterback Jared Goff succinctly summed up.

    The Rams’ ability to successfully flip the frustrating explanation will go a long way toward determining what happens Sunday against the Jaguars and, even more importantly, what kind of course they chart for themselves over the next two months.

    The Rams need to start scoring touchdowns again. Like, in a hurry.

    Problem is, their end zone compass has inexplicably been malfunctioning lately inside their opponent’s Red Zone. It works fabulously everywhere else, as their overall yardage against the Seahawks can attest, and as does the 412 yards they pummeled the Cowboys with the week before.

    But it’s going haywire in the very region of the field they need it to work best.

    On the Rams’ last eight visits to the Red Zone, they’ve come up with exactly one touchdown. That includes four trips inside the 20 against the Seahawks that resulted in one lousy field goal.

    And while Greg Zuerlein was able to offset the issue some against the Cowboys by kicking seven field goals, he provided no such coverage against the Seahawks. And, even if he had, there’s no way the Rams are satisfied trading touchdowns for field goals – or nothing at all – after working so hard to get into an area of the football field where they contenders distinguish themselves from the pretenders.

    It’s not touchdowns or bust, mind you. But the Rams are leaving themselves extremely vulnerable if they can’t improve the field goal/touchdown ratio they’ve managed the last two weeks. The question is, is it a playcalling issue, an execution issue or a talent issue?

    “I think you’ve got to first of all look at … it starts with me and I’ve got to make sure that I’m looking at myself critically,” said McVay, who calls the plays. “Are we running plays that are conducive for giving our players a chance to have success? So, those are things that after wins or losses you’ve got to look at yourself first and then we’ve got to evaluate some of the things that we’re doing.”

    It did seem there were some instances against the Seahawks in which McVay, a highly creative offensive mind, may have over-thought things a bit in trying to stay a step ahead of Carroll, the de facto Seahawks defensive coordinator who seemed inspired by the chess match going on between himself and the Rams’ 32-year-old wonder kid.

    “I’ve been extremely impressed with the young coaches out there, Sean McVay in particular,” Carroll said. “I mentioned to him afterward, everything I said (complimentary) about (him) during the week I meant it. He’s done a fantastic job and he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with.”

    But the old master might have gotten in the young gun’s head a few times.

    That certainly seemed to be the case when the Rams reached the Seahawks 16-yard-line in the fourth quarter trailing 16-10.

    McVay opted to go away from what’s been a Rams strength — putting the ball in Todd Gurley’s hands — on first and second down by turning to Tavon Austin instead. Maybe McVay wanted to avoid the obvious or break from a tendency, but the results could not have been worse as a first-down pass to Austin fell incomplete and an Austin off-tackle run was blown up for a two-yard loss.

    That set up a third and long — never a good thing for an offense — and while Goff’s throw into to tight end Gerald Everett against man-on-man coverage was accurate, Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor was still able to swat the ball away.

    “Kam Chancellor makes a play and we didn’t,” McVay said.

    The double whammy being Zuerlein missing on a 36-yard field goal to leave the score 16-10.

    The sequence was even more glaring given Gurley touched the ball just 16 times on Sunday after dominating the previous two weeks to earn NFC Offensive Player of the Month honors for September and Offensive Player of the Week honors the first week of October.

    Not to mention how Sammy Watkins, whom the Rams traded for to be a difference maker, was largely ignored all afternoon Sunday after catching just one ball the week before against the Cowboys.

    Gurley and Watkins are the Rams most dynamic playmakers, and it seems only logical they should be featured more than they were on Sunday. Especially in the Red Zone.

    “There are certain opportunities where maybe we could have gotten Sammy involved,” said McVay. “That, to me, is on me as a playcaller because we try to call plays to get players involved, to attack certain coverages.”

    But while play-calling will certainly be evaluated, much of the focus is on the Rams being sharper and more efficient. Something they weren’t on two other trips to the Red Zone on Sunday.

    That included Gurley losing his grip on the football at the Seahawks’ goal line on the Rams first drive — resulting in an automatic touchback with the ball being awarded to Seattle, rather than the Rams setting up shop at the 1-yard line. And later, Gurley and Goff getting their feet tied up on first down from the Seattle 15-yard-line to set back the Rams 10 yards.

    Trailing 13-10 late in the third quarter, Goff threw incomplete on second and long, and, much worse, slightly overthrew Gurley on a third-down screen pass that tipped off Gurley’s outstretched hand and hung in the air just long enough for Sheldon Richardson to come up with a crushing interception.

    The two turnovers cost the Rams valuable points that would have changed the whole complexion of the game. Even two field goals rather than two turnovers would have meant a 16-16 game, rather than 16-10.

    “I think you just go back to seeing how important it is to take care of the football,” said Goff. “There’s a couple plays that stick out. The screen to Todd that, you know, I just maybe got a little lazy on and let it sail a little bit over his head, turned into an interception that took points off the board.”

    The good news is this isn’t like last year when the Rams were grasping for answers trying to figure out ways to simply move the ball — let alone get in the end zone more consistently. As we know, there simply were no available answers last year.

    That isn’t the case this year. The answers are right in front of the Rams, and the talent is on hand to implement them.

    Now they just need to fix that faulty compass.

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