LOS ANGELES -- Jared Goff stepped up into the pocket and unloaded a deep ball to Sammy Watkins, his best vertical threat. But Watkins stopped midway through his route, the ball sailing over his head with nobody in sight. That play encapsulated a weird Sunday afternoon for the Los Angeles Rams' offense, because of the five turnovers that doomed them and because of a game plan that went away from their two best offensive players for long stretches.
Watkins was targeted only four times and finished with zero catches for the second time in his 42-game career, seven days after drawing only two targets against the Dallas Cowboys. Todd Gurley, who led the NFC in scrimmage yards and touchdowns through the first four weeks, received a season-low 16 touches and often found himself off the field during early downs.
"The flow of the game kind of dictates and determines whatever plays we feel like are going to work best," Rams coach Sean McVay said after a 16-10 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. "Obviously, we know what a special player Todd is, but given some of the things that they were presenting, we felt like there were some other chances with some different things. But nothing that Todd wasn’t doing."
Gurley ran well early, gaining 9 yards on the Rams' second offensive snap, then turning the corner for what was initially ruled a 12-yard touchdown run. But replay overturned the call, ruling that Gurley was down at the 1-yard line and also fumbled the ball into the end zone and out of bounds, giving the Seahawks the ball on a touchback. It was Gurley's fifth fumble of the season, matching his total from all of 2015 and 2016.
He carried the ball seven times in the first quarter and only seven times over the final three.
"It's kind of what it is," said Gurley, who finished with 50 scrimmage yards. "You can't get the ball every time. We have a lot of great playmakers. Even though I didn't get the ball, you see the situation we were still in [with a chance to win the game in the final seconds]. And I have to do a better job of just going out there and making plays. If I make plays, then I get the ball."
Tavon Austin, who could barely sniff the field in the season's first quarter, saw an uptick in workload on offense, running the ball six times for 27 yards -- the same yardage total as his touchdown run -- and catching three passes for another 14. Tyler Higbee had a career-high 98 receiving yards, Robert Woods made five catches for 66 yards and Cooper Kupp, who couldn't come up with a tough catch on the potential winning touchdown, totaled three receptions for 44 yards.
But Watkins, acquired from the Bills to be the Rams' primary receiver, has only one catch for 17 yards over the past two weeks. Later on social media, he retweeted fans who vouched for him to get more targets and had an interesting exchange with prolific former Rams receiver Torry Holt.
Something gotta be going on 🤐— King Me (@sammywatkins) October 9, 2017
In an interview with ESPN last week, Watkins admitted that two years ago he probably would have complained to the media about his lack of targets. He talked about how his mindset has changed, because his foot injury made him see things differently and because he understands that the Rams have a lot of weapons. But he also said, "We’re winning, so it’s not a bad thing. Now, if we lose, I might be upset."
The Rams lost on Sunday, falling to 3-2, now tied with the Seahawks for first place in the NFC West. Afterward, Goff said getting Gurley and Watkins the ball is usually in the back of his mind.
"But by no means do I want to force them the ball," Goff said. "Just continue to let them get open in the framework of the play and work the ball around."
Two and a half weeks removed from putting up 106 yards and two touchdowns against the 49ers, Watkins spent most of Sunday being hounded by four-time Pro Bowler Richard Sherman. On one deep shot, Watkins couldn't get his arm extended on a pass that sailed beyond him. On another, he didn't complete his route. He and Goff talked about it.
"He was a little bit confused on what we were doing," Goff said. "But we're good, and it’s nothing that can’t be fixed overnight. It’s not characteristic from him at all. I don’t expect that to happen."