KANSAS CITY, Mo. —
During this lost season, Rams coach Sean McVay has absorbed numerous shots to his mental state.
His offense no longer soars, and his star quarterback has twice been in the concussion protocol. His star wide receiver also is out because of injury. And the Rams’ offensive line continues to be ravaged by injuries.
McVay, the coach of the defending Super Bowl champions, has worn the stress and anxiety caused by an unprecedented losing streak on his face.
Early in the Rams’ 26-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, McVay’s pain for the first time became physical.
As McVay walked up the sideline in 40-degree temperatures, Rams tight end Roger Carter ran onto the field to be part of the punt unit, accidentally slamming his right shoulder pad into McVay’s head. The blow knocked off McVay’s headset and caused the coach to clutch his jaw.
After his team dropped to 3-8 with its fifth consecutive loss, a purplish knot was forming on McVay’s left cheek.
“I’m thinking, ‘Have a little awareness running by me.’ I mean, oh my gosh,” McVay said. “It’s really not that big a deal. I think it probably looked worse when you end up replaying it. … I don’t think I broke my jaw, so I’ll be fine.”
Did a trainer examine McVay?
“We got enough guys that we need to attend to,” McVay said. “As long as it’s not [hurting] my ability to think and to be able to talk, we’ll be fine.”
Multiple players said they did not see the incident, but they voiced a similar refrain.
“Damn,” cornerback Troy Hill said, “that’s what type of season it is.”
The Rams no doubt similarly lamented news they received late Friday, when McVay said tests revealed that wide receiver Allen Robinson had a foot injury that will require season-ending surgery.
It was just the latest blow for a team already missing quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Cooper Kupp.
“Another tough loss for us,” McVay said.
The same also could be said of Sunday’s defeat.
Despite a strong effort by the defense and special teams and a no-quit performance from quarterback Bryce Perkins, the Rams continued down a road to elimination from playoff contention by losing for the seventh time in eight games.
Perkins, making his first NFL start, completed 13 of 23 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions. He also rushed for 44 yards in nine carries.
“Elevate and grow from this,” Perkins said of his goals going forward, “and keep on pushing and overall just play better.”
Among the bright spots: Robert Rochell recovered a fumbled punt return and safety Nick Scott intercepted a pass, the Rams’ first forced turnovers in five games.
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes passed for 320 yards and a touchdown, but the Rams gave up only one other touchdown to the NFL’s highest-scoring offense and forced the Chiefs to settle for four field goals.
“It’s a great offense over there,” linebacker Bobby Wagner said, adding that keeping the Chiefs out of the end zone “I don’t know how many times is definitely something you can build on.”
But the Rams could not keep the Chiefs from improving to 9-2.
Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark said the Rams played them tough.
“A lot of people had it wrote off as an easy win,” Clark said. “Everybody looking at it like, ‘Oh, this the Rams and they suck,’ and all this different stuff.
“Man, they are an NFL team with a great coach and they were last year’s Super Bowl champs, so you can’t take any team lightly.”
Clark said that although the Rams are playing with third-string players at several spots, they are “not showing no quit or surrender.”
The Rams have six games left, and they will use those as opportunities to evaluate young players such as Perkins, running back Kyren Williams and perhaps offensive lineman A.J. Arcuri, who became the fourth player to start at left tackle this season for the Rams.
“You’re playing more offensive line than probably anybody ever has in the history of this game,” McVay said. “You’re getting good evaluations, so that’s the only way you can look at it.”
Next Sunday, the Rams play the Seattle Seahawks (6-5) at SoFi Stadium. They finish the season against Las Vegas, at Green Bay, against Denver, at the Chargers at SoFi Stadium, and at Seattle.
“You don’t want to just go out there and just lay an egg,” wide receiver Van Jefferson said. “You want to fight till the end.
“Why not just go out there and keep swinging?”
McVay has said the same as the losses have mounted.
So he did not sound as if a blow to the jaw would stop him from continuing to repeat it like a mantra.
“I’m going to be just fine,” McVay said. “It was just a good shot, and you know I’ve got to be resilient, right?”