LOS ANGELES (AP)Matthew Stafford has a sprained thumb ligament, and another season appears to be slipping through the Los Angeles Rams’ fingers.

Stafford got hurt Sunday while fighting for extra points on two plays in the Rams’ 40-23 loss at Dallas. Coach Sean McVay wasn’t ready to rule out Stafford for any games after the diagnosis of a UCL sprain, preferring to wait and see how Stafford feels Wednesday.

But any significant absence for the Rams’ franchise quarterback would seriously imperil any hope the team avoiding its second straight losing season.

“We were encouraged that it was a sprain,” McVay said of Stafford, who had surgery on his thumb in April 2021. “So hopefully it was just a good scare. That’s what the scans revealed, and then we’ll see how quickly some of the stuff that’s key and critical to being able to throw the football and some of those symptoms subside.”

Even with a healthy Stafford, the Rams (3-5) have lost two straight measuring-stick games to the Steelers and the Cowboys, two opponents that appear to belong in the playoff race. That’s where the Rams thought they could be last month before they were brought back to reality by the consequences of their offseason roster gutting.

Instead, the Rams have lost five of their last seven games, beating only the Colts and Cardinals. They were blown out by the Cowboys, falling behind 26-3 before they had even touched the ball four times.

Stafford’s backup is Brett Rypien, who joined the club in May. The Rams don’t have a third quarterback because fourth-round pick Stetson Bennett has been away from the team since the preseason for undisclosed reasons. McVay acknowledged Monday that it’s unlikely Bennett will play for the Rams this season, and the team is planning to add a quarterback to the roster before Wednesday’s practice.

Even with Stafford in their lineup, the Rams’ shortcomings on the offensive line and throughout the defense have been made increasingly obvious in the last month when their opponents had more game video to digest. The early-season optimism has given way to the reality that the Rams don’t have enough top-level players and coaching acumen to make up for their talent deficiency across the roster.

But even with injury woes and a long-term slump, the Rams haven’t given up on getting back into competitive form.

“I think the past seven games before this, we’ve been able to do a really good job holding ourselves in games and playing more complete ball,” safety Quentin Lake said. “I think things got out of hand with the momentum shifts (in Dallas) and other things in all three phases of ball. But these things are fixable. We’re going to come back to work Wednesday and lock in on the details and clean it up, but we have to hold ourselves to a better standard.”

WHAT’S WORKING

Royce Freeman has prevented a bad situation at running back from becoming much worse by performing fairly well in his first two games with LA. He has 110 yards and a touchdown while averaging 5.2 yards per carry in place of injured Kyren Williams and Ronnie Rivers.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

An already unimpressive offensive line played without injured right tackle Rob Havenstein, and Stafford was hit five times and sacked twice. The numbers would have been worse if Stafford hadn’t been focused on getting the ball out quickly – but when speed is the most important metric, it leads to mistakes like Stafford’s pass to Cooper Kupp that was turned into a pick-6 by DaRon Bland. Not much works in the Rams’ current offense without strong offensive line play.

STOCK UP

Kicker Lucas Havrisik looked sharp in his NFL debut, making two field goals from 47 and 33 yards.

STOCK DOWN

Los Angeles’ secondary continues to struggle, even with Aaron Donald generating pressure and two sacks. Embattled cornerback Derion Kendrick had yet another rough day in coverage while Dak Prescott racked up 304 yards passing and four touchdowns – numbers that could have been even bigger if the game hadn’t been a blowout.

INJURED

Havenstein’s late-week calf injury deprived Stafford of his most dependable veteran lineman, and McVay isn’t sure whether the right tackle’s injury will prevent the University of Wisconsin product from playing at Green Bay. … Starting CB Cobie Durant incurred a stinger in Dallas, likely limiting him in practice this week. … Rookie P Ethan Evans sprained his ankle, likely on a Cowboys punt return for a touchdown that was erased by a penalty in the fourth quarter.

KEY NUMBER

3 – The career-low reception total for Puka Nacua, who caught just one ball after halftime. Nacua also took a bunch of big hits from the Cowboys’ defense, undoubtedly adding to the minor injuries that have built up during his incredible rookie season. McVay said Monday that Nacua has knee swelling and could miss some practice this week.

NEXT STEPS

Another eminently winnable game at Green Bay before the Rams’ bye week provides them with a chance to preserve their playoff dreams into mid-November. But if Rypien is behind center, the offense will be limited.

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