The Rams lost to the Eagles on Sunday night because Nick Foles averaged 8.7 yards per attempt, Alshon Jeffery exploded for 160 yards, JoJo Natson muffed a punt return, Jared Goff threw two interceptions, and the offense as a whole stunk it up for three quarters before turning it on late in the fourth quarter. There wasn't one individual play responsible for their loss. If any one player deserves the blame, it's Goff, who looked skittish and erratic the entire night. But it was a failure in all three phases of the game.
With all that being said, Todd Gurley's decision to stay in-bounds in order to pick up a few more yards instead of saving somewhere around 10 seconds will be the moment that sticks out from what was an ugly Rams loss. It might not be the only reason why they lost, but Gurley's bizarre move cost the Rams a chance at completing an improbable comeback.
After the Eagles missed a field goal to keep the Rams within seven points, the Rams mounted a potential game-tying drive without any timeouts. With 20 seconds left, Goff hit Gurley in the flat near the right sideline. Instead of darting to the sideline and getting out of bounds at the 25-yard line with a little more than 15 seconds remaining, Gurley cut back inside and got tackled at the 18-yard line. By the time the Rams lined up to spike the ball, only four seconds remained. They only had enough time to take one shot in the end zone, and on the ensuing play, Goff fired an incompletion over the outstretched arms of Josh Reynolds.
If Gurley had stepped out of bounds, which everyone presumed he was going to do as soon as he caught the pass, the Rams could've taken two or three shots into the end zone.
Adding insult to injury is that Gurley also picked up a knee injury earlier in the game. While Gurley was able to return to the field, scoring a touchdown to cut the deficit to seven and then contributing (albeit, negatively) on that final series, the injury is serious enough that McVay said after the game, "We will get that thing checked out." So, they're not out of the woods entirely yet.
Here's how easy it would've been for Gurley -- a player who has demonstrated heightened awareness for game management by-- to get out of bounds on that play:
It wasn't just Gurley. As a team, the Rams failed to manage the clock in a comeback situation. Rams coach Sean McVay used his timeouts inefficiently on the defensive possession before they got the ball back, and Gerald Everett also refused to get out of bounds on that last drive.
Rams called a timeout here, after 1st down. If you don’t call TO, Eagles snap 2nd down before 2:00 & Rams can call TO after that 3rd down play on the other side of 2:00. Instead, Eagles ran clock down to 1:13 & Rams got ball w 1:08 left. Cost them ~45-50 seconds. Coaching mistake pic.twitter.com/BdggDz0Kif— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) December 17, 2018
The Rams are suddenly only a game ahead of the Bears in the standings, and the Bears hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. That means the Rams could lose control over the second seed, which comes with the all-important first-round bye, if they lose to either the Cardinals or 49ers and if the Bears win out against the 49ers and Vikings. The Rams will be expected to win both of those games, but they were also expected to beat an Eagles team lacking Carson Wentz on Sunday night. For the past three weeks, during which they've gone 1-2 with their lone win coming against the Lions, the Rams have looked vulnerable as their offense struggles to reach the heights they attained during the first three months of the season.
Gurley's strange decision at the end of Sunday's loss only serves as the perfect encapsulation of the Rams' discombobulation as the playoffs approach.