Standing on the Coliseum sideline, Rams coach Sean McVay could see the past, the present and the future pass before his eyes.
Kirk Cousins, the quarterback McVay helped develop as the Washington Redskins’ offensive coordinator, masterfully moved his team down the field and passed for a go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
Jared Goff, the young Rams quarterback McVay is charged with developing, then came onto the field with a chance to engineer a game-winning drive.
Goff had extended plays throughout Sunday’s game and made some good throws. But on the first play of their final drive, linebacker Mason Foster intercepted Goff’s pass, sealing the Rams’ 27-20 defeat before a crowd of 56,612.
“I probably could have given us a better play,” McVay said, “and we could have made a better decision with the football.”
The Rams also could have done a much better job stopping Washington’s rushing attack and eliminating penalties and fumbles.
That’s probably a good thing for team that showed it is neither the juggernaut that routed the undermanned Indianapolis Colts in its opener, nor a group that will be overmatched by a top quarterback.
The loss ended an emotional week for McVay, who claimed there was no extra motivation for defeating a team he spent seven seasons working for before the Rams made him the youngest coach in modern NFL history.
Rams players have talked for months about how McVay has infused the organization with an ethos of accountability. McVay displayed it on Sunday, taking responsibility for the loss — and just about everything else — when the Rams came up short against an opponent the coach knows better than any other.
“It starts with me,” he said.
The penalties and other mistakes?
“We’ll look at ourselves critically in the mirror, coaches included, starting with me,” he said.
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will need to examine the rush defense. Even with the return of star lineman Aaron Donald, who ended his holdout last week, the Rams gave up 229 rushing yards. Donald had two tackles, including one for a loss.
“Just need to knock out the cobwebs and get out there and play a lot better to help my team try and pull out close games like this,” Donald said.
Washington running back Robert Kelley gained 78 yards in the first half before being sidelined by a rib injury. Chris Thompson rushed for 77 yards and two touchdowns. And Samaje Perine gained 67 yards.
“They executed really well in what they were doing and kind of caught us in some bad calls sometimes,’’ linebacker Alec Ogletree said. “And also we just weren’t playing physical enough to stop the run.
“And when you don’t, that’s the kind of yards they’re going to put up.”
A Rams defense that produced multiple turnovers and 16 points last week against the Colts could not force Cousins into a turnover. The veteran completed 18 of 27 passes for 179 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Grant with 1 minute 49 seconds left that put Washington ahead, 27-20.
“Always want to make plays in the passing game,” Cousins said. “Make no mistake, I also like to just hand it off to Chris Thompson and watch him go 50, 60 yards for a touchdown.
“So I’ve got no complaints with that either.”
Goff was not as sharp as he was last week against the Colts, but he completed 15 of 25 passes for 224 yards and helped the Rams come back from a 13-0, first-half deficit.
Goff kept alive plays for substantial gains, running back Todd Gurley ran for a short touchdown and turned a short pass into a spectacular scoring play, and Greg Zuerlein stayed perfect on field-goal attempts this season.
The Redskins led 20-17 in the fourth quarter when Rams punter Johnny Hekker completed a pass to rookie Josh Reynolds for a first down at Washington’s 17-yard line. But the Rams committed multiple penalties that forced them to settle for Zuerlein’s game-tying field goal.
Washington got the ball with 7:16 left and Cousins moved down the field with several clutch passes to Terrelle Pryor and Jamison Crowder.
Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson left the field during the drive because of what McVay said were cramps. Cousins made the Rams pay, finding Grant in a matchup with rookie cornerback Kevin Peterson, who had been activated from the practice squad on Saturday.
Grant got open in the left corner of the end zone and hauled in the pass for a 27-20 lead.
Washington linebacker Mason Foster then intercepted Goff’s pass on the ensuing drive.
“Tough way to end it,” Goff said, “but I think there’s a lot of good things to learn from.”
Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein