Time for L.A. to Consider Replacing Their Placekicker

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The Rams lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 24-17, on Sunday at SoFi Stadium. Takeaways from a defeat that dropped the Rams’ record to 3-4:

Rams kicker shopping?

Rams placekicker Brett Maher (8) attempts a field goal against Pittsburgh.

Rams placekicker Brett Maher (8) missed three kicks against the Steelers. (Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

It’s a tough job. We get it.

Usually, kickers are not the focus unless they’ve made a dramatic game–winning kick — or struggles cost their team victories.

Brett Maher’s miscues — two missed field-goal attempts and an extra-point miss — cost the Rams seven points, which turned out to be the Steelers’ margin of victory.

Maher is not to blame for the Rams’ defeat, but he appears to have tried coach Sean McVay’s patience.

“We’ll look at it — we’ll see,” McVay said when asked about Maher, who has made 17 of 22 field-goal attempts. “He’s got to be better. That’s seven points that we missed out on that were key and critical.”

History suggests that when McVay calls out a player publicly, it usually portends their exit. See former quarterback Jared Goff and former running back Cam Akers.

Cooper Kupp (10) celebrates a touchdown catch by Rams teammate Tutu Atwell (5) against the Steelers.

He was the 2021 NFL offensive player of the year and the most valuable player of Super Bowl LVI.

A few weeks ago, he came back from a hamstring injury and produced two consecutive 100-yard performances. But Sunday, Kupp shockingly dropped the first pass that came his way. He also dropped the second.

Kupp finished with two catches for 29 yards. Kupp has been limited to two catches only a few times since 2017, the last in a 2020 defeat by the 49ers.

Darrell Henderson showed up game-ready

The Rams' Darrell Henderson Jr. (27) finds a running lane against the Steelers.

The Rams’ Darrell Henderson Jr. (27), signed this week, finds a running lane against the Steelers. (Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

The Rams signed Henderson last week as a possible replacement for starter Kyren Williams, who was placed on injured reserve because of an ankle injury.

Henderson had not played in a game since last November, when the Rams released him after three-plus seasons often marred by injuries.

Henderson started against the Steelers and broke off a 16-yard run on his first carry. He finished with 61 yards and a touchdown in 18 carries. He also caught a pass.

Royce Freeman rushed for 66 yards in 12 carries, including a 15-yard run.

McVay’s game-management goes awry

Sean McVay had no way of knowing he might need a timeout to challenge a spot after the Steelers ran a sneak on a fourth-and-one play with 2 minutes 24 seconds left. However, by using his final timeout with 3:03 remaining, McVay lost that opportunity.

If the play had occurred with less than two minutes left, the spot would have been reviewed by officials.

Outside linebacker Hoecht had shared a sack in a season-opening victory over the Seattle Seahawks, but was shut out in the next five games.

On Sunday, he sacked Kenny Pickett on the second play, helped force a fumble the next series, and got another sack before the end of the first quarter.

Hoecht finished with a team-best seven tackles.

Edge rusher Byron Young had one tackle for a loss and two quarterback hits.

Kendrick did play

Cornerback Derion Kendrick’s off-the-field situation did not appear to significantly alter his playing time.

Kendrick, who faces two misdemeanor gun charges, practiced only once last week after his arrest Monday.

Cobie Durant started on the outside in place of Kendrick but Kendrick was soon in the game and played significant snaps.

Kendrick, however, did not make a tackle.

Read more: Column: No burnout? Amid formidable challenges, Sean McVay ‘having a whole lot of fun’

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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