The Los Angeles Rams, champions of Super Bowl LVI, consummated in week 15 of the 2022 NFL season the most disappointing year for a champion in the present century by failing to qualify for the playoffs.
Last Monday’s 10th loss of the campaign to the Green Bay Packers consummated the elimination of the Rams, who tied the 1999 Denver Broncos for the most losses by a defending Super Bowl champion in NFL history.
The stumble also represented the fourth time in the Vince Lombardi Trophy era that a monarch has been eliminated from the playoffs with more than one game to play, with three games remaining in the 2022 season.
Los Angeles, last place in the National Football Conference (NFC) West division with four wins and 10 losses, had a nightmare season plagued by injuries to the men who led them to the NFL title last February.
In week 10, during the loss to the Arizona Cardinals, they lost Cooper Kupp, winner of the triple crown in 2021 for being the receiver with the most yards, receptions and touchdowns; he was also named the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of Super Bowl LVI.
Kupp suffered a high ankle sprain that sidelined him for the season and the Rams were without their most dangerous man.
The loss of their star receiver was compounded by the loss of senior quarterback Matthew Stafford in the Week 11 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
Stafford suffered a concussion against the Saints that placed him in concussion protocol in the Week 9 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The quarterback felt numbness in his legs that took him out of the game; he did not return to the controls for the team that signed former Panthers tight end Baker Mayfield for the season finale.
The depleted Rams offense also dealt with injuries to nearly its entire offensive line; tackle Alaric Jackson suffered a blood clot problem, guard Chandler Brewer suffered a torn medial collateral ligament, both of whom are out for the year, and center Brian Allen hurt his thumb.
That’s not counting injuries to offensive tackle Joe Noteboom, guard Logan Bruss and linemen Tremayne Anchrum and Jeremiah Kolone.
As if that wasn’t enough, the defense also had to look for solutions due to the injury of Aaron Donald, their main man, who has an ankle problem.
Without so many players, coach Sean McVay’s team became the worst offense in the NFL, a situation that the coach acknowledged after the loss to the Packers and said it affected them and left them with no chance of defending the title.
“I want to say that this has been a real struggle of a lot of adversity, despite that, our guys are going to continue to fight. We will finish these last three games with the right mindset and compete the best we can,” McVay confided.
So many absences mean that these Rams bear little or no resemblance to those who lifted the Vince Lombardi Trophy with a 23-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on February 13 and are now the worst defending champion in the 21st century.