For most of the game on Monday Night Football against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Los Angeles Rams struggled to punch the ball into the end zone when they got inside the 20-yard line. Up until the final offensive drive, the offense was 0-for-3 in the red zone and finished 1-for-4.
The Rams have overall done well in the red zone this season, scoring touchdowns at a 60 percent clip which ranks 13th in the NFL through three weeks. However, TuTu Atwell is the only Rams wide receiver to score a touchdown in the red zone, and again, that didn’t happen until the final drive of the game against the Bengals.
Prior to Atwell’s touchdown, the only player who had scored a touchdown in the red zone was Kyren Williams. Williams had three rushing touchdowns and one receiving touchdown. It’s fair to note that the Rams should have ran the ball in the red zone on Monday Night Football. With that being said, the passing offense has also been mostly ineffective in that area of the field.
Matthew Stafford is just 4-for-13 when passing in the red zone this season. Windows in the red zone do tend to get tighter. However, in 2021, Stafford threw 40 red zone touchdowns and his 56.8 completion percentage ranked fourth among quarterbacks with at least 100 red zone passing attempts. Stafford wasn’t as effective last season, completing just 47.5 percent of his red zone passing attempts. Still, he threw seven touchdowns to zero interceptions.
Stafford’s 30.8 completion percentage in the red zone so far this season in the fourth-worst in the NFL. He’s ahead of only Brock Purdy, Zach Wilson, and Derek Carr. And again, while Puka Nacua has been one of the most effective wide receivers in the NFL, he has been held without a touchdown.
Through the first three weeks of the season, Nacua and Atwell have done a nice job filling in for Cooper Kupp. However, if it’s one area of the field where the Rams miss Kupp the most, it’s in the red zone.
In 2021, Kupp led the NFL with 33 receptions in the red zone and had 18 touchdowns. 35.4 percent of the Rams’ red zone targets went to Kupp. Kupp caught 71.7 percent of those targets which ranked fourth among wide receivers with at least 15 red zone targets.
Even in a down year in 2022, four of Kupp’s six touchdowns came in the red zone. He caught 72.7 percent of his red zone targets, which again, ranked fourth in the NFL among wide receivers that were targeted at least 10 times in the red zone.
This isn’t to say that McVay shouldn’t be running the ball more once the Rams get inside the 20-yard line. However, at the same time, Rams wide receivers have been mostly ineffective once the offense has entered the 20-yard line. Atwell is the only Rams wide receiver with more than one red zone target. Meanwhile, this is an area of the field in which Kupp has been one of the NFL’s best wide receivers. The Rams have been without their best offensive weapon in the red zone.
Facing the Colts on Sunday, the Rams will be without Kupp for at least one more week as he has to remain on injured reserve until Week 4. However, the hope is that he is back for Week 5’s matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles.