Rams still getting big plays from special teams

The Times' Bill Plaschke, Gary Klein and Lindsey Thiry break down the Rams' 43-35 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Rams dropped to 9-4, the Eagles clinched the NFC East at 11-2.

Special teams came up big again, but it was not enough to help the Rams avoid a 43-35 defeat by the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday at the Coliseum

Early in the third quarter, after the Rams scored a touchdown to cut a 10-point halftime deficit, Mike Thomas blocked a punt and Blake Countess returned the ball for a touchdown to put the Rams ahead 28-24.

It was the third blocked kick by the Rams in the last two games. The Rams blocked an extra point and a field-goal attempt in last week's victory at Arizona.

The Rams also returned a blocked punt for a touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 6.

Thomas, a receiver, was a special teams standout last season as a rookie. But he sat out the first four games of this season because of a suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing substance policy.

On Sunday, he made his presence felt when a Eagles' lineman had to choose between cutting off Thomas or Countess.

"He chose Blake and let me loose," Thomas said, adding that he got the block "and Blake did the clean-up. We definitely executed."

The play happened "just how we drew it up," Countess said.


"We didn't know which way he was going to go," Countess said of the Eagles' lineman, "but we knew wherever he went, the other guy was going to come free."

Praise for Wentz

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz completed 23 of 41 passes for 291 yards and four touchdowns (with an interception) before suffering a potentially serious knee injury late in the third quarter.

Rams quarterback Jared Goff, who was chosen No. 1 in the 2016 draft, said he sent a text to Wentz, who was chosen No. 2.

"Hoping for the best for him," Goff said. "It's tough, especially a guy I'm close with, young guy. … Praying for the best, but if there's anyone that'll bounce back it'll be him."

Rams coach Sean McVay said Wentz was impressive.

"Just look at his ability to extend plays, the toughness, eyes down the field when things are there in rhythm," McVay said. "So you see why he's had the season he's had."

Short again

Todd Gurley notched a 100-yard rushing game early in the fourth quarter — before he went backward.

Gurley finished with 96 yards and two touchdowns in 13 carries. He averaged 7.4 yards per carry.

"The big boys up front, they did good," Gurley said, adding, "We've just got to finish a little bit more."

Gurley also caught three passes for 39 yards, including one for 20 yards.

Gurley has not rushed for more than 100 yards since an Oct. 22 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in London.

Penalty stricken

The Rams were penalized seven times for 102 yards.

Several were costly.

"It provides an opportunity for us to learn from," McVay said. "We can't beat ourselves."

In the first quarter, linebacker Alec Ogletree was flagged for pass interference in the red zone. The Eagles scored three plays later to tie the score 7-7.

In the third quarter, Trumaine Johnson broke up a deep pass to Alshon Jeffery.

Johnson exchanged words with Jeffrey after the play and drew a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. The defense remained on the field as the Eagles continued their drive.

Jeffery said that he and Johnson knew each other.

"When he makes a play, he's going to make some noise," Jeffery said. "When I make a play, I'm going to make some noise."

Later in the drive, rookie linebacker Samson Ebukam was called for unnecessary roughness, providing the Eagles with another first down.

"We were just playing hard," Ebukam said.

The Eagles scored to take a 31-28 lead.

In the fourth quarter, with the Rams leading 35-34, Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald was flagged for leverage on the center during a 54-yard field goal. The penalty was initially called against Ebukam but corrected in the official statistics.

Three plays later, the Eagles kicked a 33-yard field goal to take a 37-35 lead.

"We gave them some free first downs because of things that we can control," McVay said.

Foiled by Foles

The Rams traded with the Eagles for quarterback Nick Foles in 2015 and signed him to a two-year, $24.5 million extension.

After drafting Goff last year, the Rams released Foles before training camp.

He spent the 2016 season with the Kansas City Chiefs and rejoined the Eagles this season.

Foles came back to haunt the Rams, stepping in for Wentz in the fourth quarter and leading the Eagles to a victory that clinched the NFC East title.

"It's honestly just one of those things where you don't think too much about it," Foles said of his history. "You're really just thinking about getting a win."

Said McVay: "You have a lot of respect for Nick Foles. He's had a lot of success in this league. Certainly, Carson is special for a reason, but I think it's just he made a handful of plays at the end and they were able to pull it out and hats off to Nick right there."


Receiver Cooper Kupp caught five passes for 118 yards and a touchdown, establishing a team record for most receptions by a rookie. Kupp has 56 catches, breaking the mark of 54 set by Eddie Kennison in 1996. Kupp had 783 yards receiving and four touchdowns. … Receiver Robert Woods, running backs Lance Dunbar and Justin Davis and linebacker Connor Barwin were among inactive players

Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein

Follow Lindsey Thiry on Facebook and Twitter @LindseyThiry