LOS ANGELES (AP) — Matthew Stafford has an injured thumb, and another season appears to be slipping through the Los Angeles Rams' fingers.
Stafford hurt himself while fighting for extra points on two plays in the Rams' 40-23 loss at Dallas on Sunday. The Rams didn't give an official update on his condition early Monday, but a significant absence for their franchise quarterback would seriously imperil any hope of avoiding their second straight losing season under Sean McVay.
That's because the Rams (3-5) have lost two straight measuring-stick games to the Steelers and the Cowboys, two opponents that appear to belong in the playoff race. That's where the Rams thought they could be last month before they were brought back to reality by the consequences of their offseason roster gutting.
Instead, the Rams have lost five of their last seven games, beating only the Colts and Cardinals. They were blown out by the Cowboys, falling behind 26-3 before they had even touched the ball four times.
Stafford's backup is Brett Rypien, who joined the club in May. The Rams don't have a third quarterback because fourth-round pick Stetson Bennett has been away from the team since the preseason for undisclosed reasons, and McVay decided not to sign another quarterback in the meantime.
Even with Stafford in their lineup, the Rams' shortcomings on the offensive line and throughout the defense have been made increasingly obvious in the last month when their opponents had more game film to digest. The early-season optimism has given way to the reality that the Rams don't have enough top-level players and coaching acumen to make up for their talent deficiency across the roster.
Royce Freeman has prevented a bad situation at running back from becoming much worse by performing fairly well in his first two games with LA. He has 110 yards and a touchdown while averaging 5.2 yards per carry in place of injured Kyren Williams and Ronnie Rivers.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
An already unimpressive offensive line played without injured right tackle Rob Havenstein, and Stafford was hit five times and sacked twice. The numbers would have been worse if Stafford hadn't been focused on getting the ball out quickly — but when speed is the most important metric, it leads to mistakes like Stafford's pass to Cooper Kupp that was turned into a pick-6 by DaRon Bland. Not much works in the Rams' current offense without strong offensive line play.
Kicker Lucas Havrisik looked sharp in his NFL debut, making two field goals from 47 and 33 yards.
Los Angeles' secondary continues to struggle, even with Aaron Donald generating pressure and two sacks. Embattled cornerback Derion Kendrick had yet another rough day in coverage while Dak Prescott racked up 304 yards passing and four touchdowns — numbers that could have been even bigger if the game hadn't been a blowout.
Havenstein's late-week calf injury deprived Stafford of his most dependable veteran lineman. Starting CB Cobie Durant also missed time with a shoulder injury.
3 — The career-low reception total for Puka Nacua, who caught just one ball after halftime. Nacua also took a bunch of big hits from the Cowboys' defense, undoubtedly adding to the minor injuries that have built up during his incredible rookie season.
Another eminently winnable game at Green Bay before the Rams' bye week provides them with a chance to preserve their playoff dreams into mid-November. But if Rypien is behind center, the offense will be limited.
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Greg Beacham, The Associated Press