GREEN BAY, Wis. —
Baker Mayfield’s short-lived magic touch expired.
So did the Rams’ near-impossible playoff hopes.
Both were put in the freezer Monday night after a 24-12 loss to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.
On a night when it was 15 degrees at kickoff — with a windchill factor of seven — the defending Super Bowl champion Rams dropped to 4-10 and the inevitable finally became official:
The Rams will not pull off a miracle and play in the postseason.
Could coach Sean McVay have imagined that after winning the title the Rams would be 4-10?
“You certainly can’t,” he said, “but this is the reality that we’re in. And this is where we’re at.”
The Rams’ fate had been apparent for weeks as a seemingly endless stream of offensive linemen continued to fall and star players such as quarterback Matthew Stafford, receiver Cooper Kupp and defensive lineman Aaron Donald suffered injuries.
Mayfield gave the Rams a glimmer of hope with a heroic performance against the Las Vegas Raiders. But that faded into the darkness and chill of perhaps the NFL’s most iconic stadium.
It was fitting that the Rams were eliminated with a defeat in frigid conditions.
The cold reality is that the winners of Super Bowl LVI are on their way to one of the most historic post-championship nosedives in NFL history.
It is only the second time since the then-30-year-old McVay was hired in 2017 that the Rams missed the playoffs.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) signals a rushing touchdown for AJ Dillon (28) against the Rams.
(Morry Gash/Associated Press)
The first time was 2019, not coincidentally after the Rams played in Super Bowl LIII and lost to the New England Patriots.
But compared to this season, that qualified as a mild Super Bowl hangover.
“There have been a lot of things that I’ve kind of thought about that I think can make sense of why you’ve gotten here,” McVay said. “But it still doesn’t make it any easier and it’s a very humbling season for sure.”
The Rams got routed by the Buffalo Bills in the season opener and never recovered.
“Feels a little weird, not going to the playoffs as a Ram,” cornerback Jalen Ramsey said. “It sucks, but it’s part of it. You’re not going to have a winning season every single year.”
Rams tight end Tyler Higbee (89) makes a touchdown catch despite coverage by the Packers’ Adrian Amos (31).
(Matt Ludtke/Associated Press)
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the reigning league most valuable player, completed 22 of 30 passes for 229 yards and a touchdown with an interception as the Packers improved to 6-8 and kept McVay winless against Packers coach Matt LaFleur, his close friend and former Rams assistant.
After losing a divisional-round playoff game in the 2020 season with Jared Goff at quarterback, and a game last season with Stafford under center, McVay lost again, this time with Mayfield.
Mayfield completed 12 of 21 passes for 111 yards and a touchdown. He threw one interception and was sacked five times.
“Just one of those games where not a whole lot was going our way,” Mayfield said.
Monday night was a much different scene than Dec. 8 when Mayfield pulled off one of the most improbable feats in NFL history by leading the Rams to victory two days after the Rams claimed him off waivers from the Carolina Panthers.
In that game, the no. 1 pick in the 2018 draft led two late scoring drives, including one that covered 98 yards with no timeouts and less than two minutes left.
Mayfield was back at Lambeau Field for the first time since last Dec. 25, when he played for the Cleveland Browns and had four passes intercepted in a 24-22 defeat. But even in that game, Mayfield had his team on the move before the final turnover in the last minute.
On Monday, the Packers led 10-6 at halftime on a short touchdown run by AJ Dillon and a field goal while the Rams managed only two field goals.
Rodgers came out firing in the third quarter, moving the Packers to the nine-yard line. Rookie cornerback Cobie Durant broke up a third-down pass in the end zone, but Ramsey was penalized for illegal contact, and Dillon took advantage of the extra opportunity by scoring on his second touchdown run.
Mayfield answered with a touchdown pass to tight end Tyler Higbee, but Matt Gay missed the extra-point attempt, leaving the Rams with a 24-12 deficit.
The Rams got the ball back with about 13 minutes left, giving Mayfield a chance to engineer another comeback.
Packers cornerback Rasul Douglas intercepted a Mayfield pass, seemingly ending any threat. But on the ensuing possession, the Rams forced a fumble, giving Mayfield another chance with slightly less than 11 minutes left.
“When we got it back, just thinking the same thing,” Mayfield said. “’One play at time. Let’s see what we can do.’”
A pass-interference penalty against the Packers resulted in a 40-yard gain, but Mayfield and the Rams could not capitalize.
Rodgers directed a methodical drive to burn all of the remaining nine minutes and the Rams were done. The Packers drove to the two-yard line and then mercifully ran out the clock.
“Just one of those years for us,” linebacker Ernest Jones said.
The Rams have three remaining games. They play their next two at SoFi Stadium against the Denver Broncos and the Chargers before finishing the season at Seattle.
The only thing they have left to play for is pride.