When 39 isn't enough: Rams concerned over lingering red zone woes

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Rams scored 39 points against the San Francisco 49ers to remain undefeated this season.

But even as Jared Goff passed for two touchdowns, including one to Todd Gurley II -- who also rushed for two more -- they wanted to hang a bigger number on the 49ers.

“So many plays out there that I can even think of right now that we kind of just left on the field,” Goff said after the game. “And could’ve had a little more.”

Even with the top-ranked offense in the NFL going into Week 7, the Rams went into Sunday’s game ranked 12th in red zone efficiency, scoring on 56.7 percent of their trips inside their opponents’ 20-yard line.

Against the 49ers, they were four of seven in the red zone, hovering around their average at 57 percent.

“We started off slow,” coach Sean McVay said about the offense. “Again, those are things that, I think it starts with me. I really do mean that.”

The Rams’ offense couldn't find its rhythm in the first quarter, but was aided by the defense’s ability to create turnovers and more opportunities. And part of the offense’s inefficiency was a direct result of 49ers defense, which initially presented a few looks that the Rams previously had not seen on tape.

“Early on they did a nice job with some different things,” McVay said. “They played a couple of defensive structures. We had a couple of things, whether it was the run or the pass, that I can do a better job of.”

In the first quarter, the offense stalled in its second series at the 49ers’ 17-yard line. Goff attempted a short pass to Gurley, but it bounced off his hands, resulting in a rare drop by the defending NFL Offensive Player of the Year. Then early in the second quarter, a puzzling playcall resulted in a second stalled drive in the red zone. Seldom-used tight end Gerald Everett went in motion and took a shovel pass from Goff before he was dropped for a five-yard loss on a perfect read by defensive lineman Ronald Blair III.

And the final red zone stall came in the third quarter, when Gurley was brought down in the backfield for a two-yard loss on third-and-2 at the 49ers’ 13-yard line.

The Rams’ offense ranks third in the NFL in scoring, averaging 33.6 points per game, and doesn’t expect perfection. But their offense has the tools and playmakers to deliver more consistently inside the 20.

“Offensively, there were a lot of things we can do better, which is good,” said Goff, who completed 18 of 24 passes for 202 yards. “Good to score 39 points and have your defense play like that and say that after a game like that. A lot of things that we can clean up and do better and that we'll always try to work on throughout the week.”

Even as the Rams were unable to convert on each of their trips to the red zone, they were happy to rely on the return of Pro Bowl kicker Greg Zuerlein, who has been sidelined since Week 2 because of a groin injury.

“Getting Greg back was huge,” Goff said. “It kind of takes a little of the uncertainty out of it when you get inside of a certain number for him. He’s so good.”

Zuerlein connected on each of his three field goal attempts from 35, 37 and 33 yards.

But even with Zuerlein’s return, Goff and McVay would like to score touchdowns, and not settle for field goals.

And they’ll likely need to next Sunday, when they return home after a three-game road trip to host Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum.

“We’re not the only team that has some issues down there,” Goff said. “We want to finish drives in the end zone, of course, but we scored 39 points. We’ll continue to look at it and work at it. I know Sean’s going to be hard on himself. I’m going to be hard on myself. I want to be better down there. Continue to finish with touchdowns.”