They have failed to consistently produce explosive plays. Struggled mightily to score touchdowns from inside the 20-yard line. Seemingly searched in vain for a way to jump-start the offense.
So, is this the week the Rams finally turn to, and establish, a rushing attack?
Coach Sean McVay’s offense has always been most effective — and entertaining — when the rushing game created play-action opportunities for the quarterback, whether it was Jared Goff or Matthew Stafford.
On Sunday at SoFi Stadium, the Rams (2-2) face a Dallas Cowboys defense that ranks among the best in the NFL, especially because of a pass rush led by All-Pro linebacker Micah Parsons and two-time Pro Bowl end DeMarcus Lawrence.
In Monday’s 24-9 defeat by the San Francisco 49ers, Stafford was sacked seven times while operating behind an injury-riddled, patchwork offensive line.
The Rams can take pressure off Stafford — and set up the passing attack — if running backs Darrell Henderson Jr., Cam Akers and Malcolm Brown can run effectively behind a patchwork offensive line.
The key to accomplishing that?
“Probably just sticking with it, not getting away from it, being true to the run,” Akers said. “I think that’s the biggest thing.”
The Rams rank 29th among 32 teams in rushing, averaging only 68.5 yards per game.
The Cowboys are 27th in rushing defense, giving up 137.5 yards per game. But that might be a reflection of opponents petrified by the prospect of putting their quarterback in harm’s way against the pass rush.
The typically pass-happy McVay has history pivoting to the run to get his team out of a funk.
In 2018, after star running back Todd Gurley aggravated a knee injury in a late-season loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Rams signed C.J. Anderson and ran the ball more than 40 times in victories over the Arizona Cardinals and 49ers. The Rams then went on a playoff run to the Super Bowl.
Last season, after losing three consecutive games, the Rams went to run-heavy formations and put the ball in the hands of running back Sony Michel.
The commitment to the run, and Michel’s production, helped the Rams and, especially, Stafford emerge from a winless November with a five-game winning streak that carried them to another NFC West title and, eventually, a Super Bowl win.
This season, McVay has used receiver Ben Skowronek as a fullback, so his role could grow against the Cowboys. So might the workload of Brown, who played only a few snaps and did not carry the ball against the 49ers. Receivers Cooper Kupp and Brandon Powell also could get more jet sweep opportunities.
An effective rushing attack would surely help Stafford.
The Rams need the 14th-year pro to return to his early-season 2021 form, when his efficient and productive play put him in the initial MVP conversation.
Yet the offense has not performed well against strong defenses. The Buffalo Bills sacked Stafford seven times in a 31-10 season-opening rout. The 49ers duplicated the effort.
The Cowboys defense is not the only challenge facing the Rams.
Since Cowboys fans are expected to descend en masse upon SoFi Stadium, the Rams this week turned up the music volume on speakers at practice to prepare for operating with a silent count.
Last season, 49ers fans seemingly took over the stadium and forced the Rams to go to a silent count. Bills fans did the same during the season opener.
Kupp has come to accept that opposing fans could make it tough on the Rams in their home stadium.
“It’s a transplant city,” he said. “You’ve got people from all over the nation, all over the world, and it’s also a fun place to travel to. So, if you’re going to come to a game you might as well come to one in L.A. We built a cool stadium for you to come check out too.
“So, I think it makes sense.”