GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — The Los Angeles Rams have piled up far more injuries than wins during a Super Bowl title defense that never really had much chance of success.
They wasted no time adding to that injury list Monday night while setting a dubious mark with their 10th loss.
Rams center Brian Allen injured a calf on the first play from scrimmage in a 24-12 loss to the Green Bay Packers. The latest setback dropped the Rams’ record to 4-10, matching the highest loss total by any defending Super Bowl champ.
When John Elway retired after leading Denver to consecutive Super Bowl titles in the 1997 and 1998 seasons, the Broncos finished 6-10 in 1999.
“It’s a very humbling season for sure,” Rams coach Sean McVay said.
Injuries have decimated the Rams’ depth and prevented them from approaching their success from last season. Without Allen on the line, Rams quarterback Baker Mayfield was sacked five times by a Green Bay (6-8) defense that had struggled to establish a pass rush for much of the season.
Mayfield was starting in part because of injuries to quarterbacks Matthew Stafford and John Wolford. Stafford, who led the Rams to the Super Bowl title last season, is expected to miss the rest of the season with a spinal cord bruise.
“It was just one of those games where not a whole lot was going our way," Mayfield said.
Many of the Rams’ other big names also are missing.
Three-time NFL defensive player of the year Aaron Donald missed a third straight game Monday with a high ankle sprain. All-Pro wide receiver Cooper Kupp is expected to miss the rest of the season with a sprained ankle.
The Rams also ruled defensive tackle Marquise Copeland (ankle), linebacker Travin Howard (hip) and defensive back David Long Jr. (groin) out for Monday's game.
“We’ve had a winning record every year I’ve been here, so this year’s definitely a weird feeling for me,” Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey said. "I haven’t had this feeling since I played for Jacksonville. Just weird, I would say. Not what we envisioned; not what we hoped for.”
Los Angeles showed its moxie in its last game, overcoming all its injuries to rally for a 17-16 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders, with Mayfield sparking the comeback less than 48 hours after the Rams claimed him off waivers from Carolina.
But the injury to Allen left the Rams with a makeshift line that didn’t give Mayfield enough time to perform a similar magic act Monday night. The Rams replaced Allen by moving Coleman Shelton from right guard to center and having Oday Aboushi fill Shelton's old spot.
Mayfield did perform much better than he did the last time he visited Lambeau Field. He threw four interceptions last season when his Cleveland Browns lost a Christmas Day game 24-22 at Green Bay. Rasul Douglas, who had two interceptions plus a pick-6 in that game, picked Mayfield off again.
“You like playing against people who love competing, and I think that’s what he’s been doing since I’ve been watching him in college,” Douglas said. “He always got that mindset that he can win a game, he can control a game. He can make passes. It’s always good to play a competitor.”
In his return to Lambeau, Mayfield went 12 of 21 for 111 yards with the one interception plus an 8-yard touchdown to Tyler Higbee, the first touchdown by a Rams tight end all season.
“Obviously, not good enough, we didn’t win," Mayfield said. “A lot of stuff out there. I think we’re going to look at the tape and see how close we were on a few of those plays that really would have been game-changing plays.”
Higbee’s touchdown cut Green Bay’s lead to 24-12 late in the third quarter. Mayfield drove the Rams across midfield early in the fourth as they attempted to pull off an improbable comeback for a second straight week.
Then the lack of pass protection without Allen sealed the Rams’ fate.
Preston Smith’s second sack of the night put the Rams back on the wrong side of the 50. The Rams punted with just under nine minutes left after their next two plays netted just 1 yard.
They wouldn’t get the ball back the rest of the night.
“This has been a real struggle in a lot of instances, a lot of adversity that we’ve gone through,” McVay said. “But I think what we’ve seen from our guys is that they’re going to continue to battle. They’re going to finish up these last three games the right way, with the right mindset and mentality and we’ll compete to the best of our ability. That’s all I know how to do, and I trust that that’s exactly what we’ll do collectively as a group.”
Rams running back Cam Akers backed up his coach.
“Playoff contenders, whoever we can knock out, make it harder for (teams), that’s what we want to do,” he said. "Go play our game. We’ve got three more left, we want to win all three of them.”
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