View Original Notice ? Rams gained something from their losing streak
THOUSAND OAKS — The midseason additions of Odell Beckham Jr. and Von Miller were supposed to top off a superstar Rams roster and supercharge the team’s drive to a championship.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the Super Bowl next door to the Forum.
Miller’s and Beckham’s Rams careers began with a three-game losing streak.
“There was a lot of, you know, the jokes of ‘I come to the team and … blah-blah-blah … and then we’re losing,’” Beckham said Friday after the Rams’ last practice session before the NFC championship game against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday at SoFi Stadium.
The Rams’ 0-3 November, with losses to the Tennessee Titans, 49ers and Green Bay Packers dropping them from 7-1 to 7-4 amid a fall flurry of Matthew Stafford turnovers, left some people wondering if they could miss the playoffs entirely.
Instead, the Rams’ recovery from that slide, to go 7-1 since and pull out an NFC West title, has become a source of pride for the team.
“Resilient” is a favorite word of Rams coach Sean McVay, who likes four-syllable words as much as four-letter words.
Asked Friday what stands out about the Rams’ recovery from the three-game losing streak, McVay said, “Mental toughness.”
“The trust in themselves and the people around them that our players and our coaches have displayed in the midst of some of those adverse moments,” McVay went on. “The ability to respond, to get back up, to try to find a way to learn from your mistakes, take extreme ownership and accountability within the framework of each individual role and responsibility, and then be better moving forward for the collective.”
When they lost to the Packers on Nov. 28, the Rams looked far from the NFC’s best.
“It seems like it was a long time ago that we were sitting in that Green Bay locker room, having had that disappointment of losing three straight,” McVay said. “Our guys bounced back the right way and reeled off a handful of wins. And then I love the way that we’ve responded from a very disappointing loss against the Niners to end the regular season. You use those as learning opportunities.”
As jarring as the slump was, it was hardly unusual, even for a good team.
The 49ers themselves lost four games in a row and five of six before winning nine of 11.
“I can’t say I was surprised how we rebounded,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said Wednesday. “You go (in) expecting that, and that’s why we try to stick to the course.”
The Kansas City Chiefs, who go into Sunday’s AFC title game against the Cincinnati Bengals as favorites to win the Super Bowl on Feb. 13, lost three of four and four of six early in the season.
Of the 21 Super Bowl champions in the Tom Brady era, five overcame three- or four-game losing streaks, usually in the season’s middle or later stages. Four others lost three of four at some point, including the 2019 Chiefs and 2020 Buccaneers.
It’s hard to stay sharp for 16 games, and harder when the regular-season schedule grew to 17 games this season. The Rams’ stumbles came as they dealt with wide receiver Robert Woods’ season-ending knee injury. And with working Beckham into the receiving corps and Miller into the pass rush.
The turnaround came when the Rams routed the Jacksonville Jaguars, the NFL’s worst team, and started using heavy blocking formations, turning Sony Michel loose in the running game.
“I think it was just that time in the season where some teams had beat us, and we were still figuring things out of how we were gonna move forward,” Beckham said at the Rams’ practice facility at Cal Lutheran University.
“Here we are now, and it’s just a true testament (to) just how this building is, how they approach situations and ultimately the grit and determination to fight and get back to where we’re at.”
That sort of pride might not ordinarily be much help in the playoffs, where you don’t get a chance to bounce back from a loss.
But a self-image of resilience might be useful this week. In the 49ers, the Rams face a team that has won the last six regular-season meetings between the division rivals. It’s another losing streak for the Rams to try to end.
“We’ve got to execute better,” wide receiver Cooper Kupp said of how to beat San Francisco for the first time since 2018, the Rams’ latest Super Bowl season. “It’s not like there’s some crazy formula that we’ve got to draw up or anything like that.
“Play in, play out, play a complete game. If we do that, we feel confident in how the game’s going to end up.”
Three straight losses in November. Six straight losses to the 49ers. One streak ended. Now the other?
“I think at this point it’s just a story,” Beckham said of the 49ers hex. “And either you choose to buy into it, or you choose to rewrite it. I just feel like this is all a part of God’s divine plan, and what better way to rewrite the story than to win the NFC championship against the team who you’re 0-6 against, or whatever the record is?
“It just doesn’t seem to have a better ending than to make it to the Super Bowl and have the opportunity to play there.”
The Rams’ injury report listed backup offensive lineman Joe Noteboom (chest) as doubtful and wide receiver Van Jefferson (knee) and safety Taylor Rapp (concussion) as questionable for Sunday’s game. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth (knee) is good to go, and linebacker Ernest Jones (ankle) is expected to come off IR. No. 2 quarterback John Wolford (ill Thursday) practiced Friday. …If Whitworth were to get hurt and Noteboom were unavailable, left tackle duties could fall to Alaric Jackson. The rookie played 74% of the offensive snaps when Whitworth and Noteboom were both on the COVID-19 list for the win at Minnesota in Week 16. … 49ers left tackle Trent Williams (ankle) was listed as questionable.