Cooper Kupp sat hunched on the Rams bench, right elbow on his knee, his head dejectedly in his hand.
A few moments later, the star receiver stood and then limped on an injured ankle up the tunnel to the locker room.
Kupp’s day was over.
The Rams’ season might be as well.
A 27-17 defeat to the struggling Arizona Cardinals on Sunday — the Rams’ third loss in a row — dropped their record to 3-6 and sent them spiraling to last place in the NFC West.
The Rams’ Super Bowl hangover has them stumbling toward the edge — tetering on the brink of falling out of postseason contention and into irrelevance.
They have gone all in a year ago to all but eliminated.
From boom or bust to booed at SoFi Stadium.
From proclaiming their intent to “run it back,” to running out of excuses.
And coach Sean McVay, though insisting he would find a way, sounded as if he had run out of ideas.
“I don’t know exactly what those answers are,” he said before identifying several areas requiring immediate improvement. “It’s not one fix.”
This would not be the first time a Super Bowl champion could not muster — mentally or physically — what it takes to repeat. A repeat has not happened in nearly two decades.
Two weeks ago, the San Francisco 49ers beat up the Rams for the second time this season. Then Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady dissected them in the final minute.
But the Rams were optimistic they could defeat the similarly struggling Cardinals, turn around their season and possibly start a run to their fifth playoff appearance in six seasons under McVay.
Brady even did them a favor of sorts Sunday by leading his team to victory over the division-leading Seattle Seahawks in Munich.
But — continuing a seasonlong trend — the Rams failed to capitalize on a break.
With quarterback Matthew Stafford sidelined because of a concussion, they failed to rally around backups John Wolford and Bryce Perkins.
They failed to beat a team that McVay has dominated.
They failed to show there is reason for hope going into a stretch that includes consecutive road games at New Orleans and Kansas City, and a home date against the Seahawks.
“Not a lot of positives that you can take away from this,” said McVay, whose team has lost five of its last six games, “There’s just a lot of different reasons that we’re in this position.”
Kupp, the reigning NFL offensive player of the year, has been one of the few bright spots this season. He was injured in the fourth quarter when he rolled under a Cardinals defensive back on an incomplete pass near the Rams sideline.
“It didn’t look good,” McVay said when asked for an update, “It didn’t sound good.”
Wolford could not duplicate his 2020 performance against the Cardinals when he started for the first time and led the Rams to an 18-7 victory that clinched a playoff spot.
On Sunday, Wolford passed for 212 yards and a touchdown, but he lost a fumble and had a pass intercepted.
Meanwhile, Cardinals backup quarterback Colt McCoy — starting in place of injured Kyler Murray (hamstring) — looked every bit the 11th-year pro while coolly leading his team to victory.
The Rams defense once again failed to force a turnover.
For weeks, the Rams claimed it was still early. Time remained to get things right.
“At this point in time, it’s no more maybes, it’s no more what ifs, it’s no more woulda-coulda-shouldas,” linebacker Terrell Lewis said.
Said edge rusher Leonard Floyd: “We still fighting to save the season somehow.”
The Rams missed the playoffs only once under McVay. That was in 2019, the season after they lost to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII.
They appear to be headed that way again.
They were swept by the 49ers and split with the Cardinals. Along with their upcoming road trips, they also must travel to play the Green Bay Packers and Seahawks, and play games at SoFi Stadium against the Las Vegas Raiders, Denver Broncos and the Chargers.
“Each week that we come out here and we keep not getting the job done, time is going by,” linebacker Ernest Jones said. “We got to change it now and get it together.”
Offensive lineman Rob Havenstein, in his eighth season with the Rams, said he has been in situations where players have quit on the season.
“Then it’s over — put it in the body bag, it’s over,” he said. “I’m sure that is not the locker room we have. We have guys that are going to battle.”
Linebacker Bobby Wagner, a six-time All-Pro in his 11th season, is optimistic the Rams can find a way to win again.
“Everybody has had adversity in their life,” he said, “and in those moments we chose to stay positive.
“This is one of those moments.”