When the Rams fell to the Bills in the first game of the 2022 NFL season, the road to a repeat championship seemed as if it might be especially difficult. Nearly three months later, the road is officially closed. And it’s closed historically early. In falling to the Packers on Monday night, Los Angeles didn’t just confirm its first double-digit losing season in more than a half-decade. It also tied the 1999 Broncos for the earliest playoff elimination of any defending Super Bowl champion, according to NFL Research.
After a 14-2 record and Lombardi Trophy in 1998, Denver fell to 6-10 the following year, missing the postseason entirely. The Rams, 12-5 before their 2021 title run, are now 4-10 after Monday’s defeat, with three games yet to play. The 10 losses also match the Broncos for the worst total by any reigning Super Bowl champion.
Only three other times in NFL history has a defending champion been eliminated from playoff contention with more than a single week left in the regular season. Should the Rams fail to register another win this year, their potential 4-13 mark would represent the worst ever recorded by a defending champ. Other notable title-winners to fall drastically the following season include the 1986 49ers, who went 3-6 in a strike-shortened season; and the 1981 Raiders, who went 7-9 and missed the playoffs.
The Rams, of course, look a lot different than they did when they hoisted the trophy in February. A handful of big-name starters, including quarterback Matthew Stafford, wide receiver Cooper Kupp and defensive tackle Aaron Donald, have all missed multiple games due to injury and aren’t likely to return this year.