Can the Los Angeles Rams’ offense turn up production in time for Super Bowl run?


THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. reached up to make a two-handed grab in the end zone, then went high for a celebratory bump with teammate Cooper Kupp before dropping to the ground.

“I didn’t know what he was doing,” a puzzled coach Sean McVay said, smiling. “I thought he was doing some ab crunches or something like that at first.”

Beckham’s 1-yard touchdown reception in a victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars was his second in as many games, giving the eighth-year receiver his first scores in back-to-back games since the 2019 season.

Extra crunches? Not needed.

When Beckham went to turf, he enacted a self-revival jab, marking a career reboot since the Rams signed him to a one-year, $1.25 million free-agent deal last month.

“It’s just from Call of Duty,” Beckham said with a grin. “Sometimes you get down in life and it’s always good to have a self-revive.”

Now, if only the Rams can revive an offense that spent November dealing with significant regression that included a three-game losing streak, the loss of receivers DeSean Jackson and Robert Woods and a plethora of turnovers from quarterback Matthew Stafford.

“The later you get into the season, the games, you don’t have that many left,” Stafford said. “You got to go out there and make them count.”

The Rams (8-4) play the Arizona Cardinals (10-2) at State Farm Stadium on Monday Night Football (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN) in a game that certainly means a lot in terms of the playoffs and seedings.

The rematch against quarterback Kyler Murray and the NFC conference leaders, who soundly defeated the Rams in Week 4, will provide a chance to prove that their star-powered roster is one that’s capable of big wins and remains in contention to make a Super Bowl run. The Rams are 2-4 against teams with winning records, including four straight losses, and 6-0 against everybody else.

“Without a doubt,” McVay acknowledged, “this offers a great opportunity to measure ourselves.”

It also will provide a chance to prove they’ve established an offensive identity 12 games into Stafford’s tenure.

“What I want to be able to see is not only for Matthew, but our whole offense, just sharp, clean execution and an operation where you stay on track,” McVay said. “What does that look like? It might be in the run game, it might be in the pass game, but there’s a lot of different things that are going to be imperative.”

The Rams proved to be explosive during their 7-1 start by relying on Stafford’s arm, averaging a league-high 6.53 yards per play as the 13th-year quarterback passed for 22 touchdowns and four interceptions.

However, in three consecutive losses to the Tennessee Titans, San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers, the Rams’ interior line got pushed around, and Stafford committed six turnovers, including throwing three interceptions that were returned for touchdowns. After registering a league-best 78.7 total quarterback rating in his first eight games, his QBR was 35.1 over the past four.

The Rams ended their three-game skid this past Sunday with a 37-7 rout of the 2-10 Jaguars on the legs of running back Sony Michel, who rushed for a season-high 121 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries in a run-heavy game plan that was once expected to be a key feature of this season’s offense, providing Stafford run support he rarely had in 12 seasons with the Detroit Lions.

But there’s no guarantee that formula will be utilized going forward.

“Hopefully. We all wish we get more opportunities in our profession,” Michel said about the possibility of a featured run game ahead. “But my mindset is to continue what I’ve been doing.”

As far as what the Rams’ offense will be doing, there will likely be a continued reliance on Stafford while he gains more comfort with a reworked receiving corps and with Darrell Henderson Jr‘s recent injury and health status uncertain. He has been dealing with a thigh injury and was placed on the reserve/COVID list Saturday.

Once known for his masterful use of play-action with quarterback Jared Goff, McVay has moved away from what had been the Rams’ bread-and-butter, with their play-action rate dropping from 32% the past four seasons to 23% with Stafford.

Instead, McVay has set Stafford with a bevy of passing options out of an empty formation 21% of the time — up from 11% with Goff the past four seasons.

“We’re just trying to do what we feel like we’re best at,” said Stafford, when asked if a conscious decision was made entering the season to move away from play-action and rely more on his arm.

The Rams opened the season with receiving corps that included Kupp — who leads the NFL with 100 receptions, 1,366 receiving yards and 11 receiving touchdowns — Woods, Jackson, Van Jefferson and Tutu Atwell.

They’re down to Kupp, Jefferson and Beckham after Atwell and Woods were placed on injured reserve, and Jackson was released.

“You’ve got a lot of moving pieces,” said Kupp, who has increasingly become the focus of defensive schemes that have emphasized limiting his productivity. “It just comes down to the details and executing what we’re asked, every single play is about being intentional about doing your job to the best of your ability — good, bad or ugly — move on to the next one and do it again.”

Though Woods suffered a season-ending ACL injury to his left knee on the same day Beckham signed his deal, their entirely different skill sets prevented the Rams from inserting Beckham into Woods’ spot.

“If it was that simple,” offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell said, “we’d be definitely getting home a lot earlier at night.”

Instead, second-year pro Jefferson has shifted into Woods’ role and has caught nine passes on 17 targets for 134 yards and two touchdowns the past two games — including a 79-yard touchdown reception in the loss to the Packers.

“He’s doing good,” Stafford said about Jefferson. “Van has got a ton of talent. He’s got the right work ethic, the right mindset.”

Meanwhile, Beckham has been forced to learn the offense and playbook at warp speed.

“Right now, you simplify it so that you could play it, you can line up fast and know what you have to do,” said Beckham, who has caught nine passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns in three games. “But as time keeps progressing, you want to know what everyone’s doing, that way it can help you do your job even better.”

Stafford said the offense, and specifically the passing game, remain a work in progress.

“It’s about details and execution from everybody involved,” he said. “The more detailed that we can get and the better execution that we have as a unit, the more successful we’ll be.”

By Monday night, McVay would like to be able to provide an answer when asked what the offense’s identity could be moving forward.

“Hopefully when I’m talking to you guys [reporters] after the game we’re saying, ‘This is the identity that we want to show,'” McVay said. “And it will end up leading to a good result for us.”

Revival mode, engaged.

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