The Rams aren’t ready.
They’re not ready for the bright lights, the big stage, the blinding pressure.
They may be having the most surprising season in the NFL, but that season has reached the final exhaustive weeks, and greatness beckons, and they’re … just … not … quite … ready.
That’s the only explanation for Sunday at the raucous Coliseum in a game during which the Rams knocked out the league’s best player, knocked down the conference’s best team, knocked off a two-touchdown deficit … and still ended the afternoon on their backs.
The mighty Philadelphia Eagles were sitting ducks, and yet the Rams let them soar out of the Coliseum with a 43-35 victory that could have been so much different.
“We’ve got to win those games,’’ center John Sullivan said.
It indeed should have been the Rams celebrating with their loudest crowd of the season after taking a fourth-quarter lead with Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz in the locker room after suffering an apparently serious knee injury.
Yeah, that’s right, the celebrated duel between No. 1 overall pick Goff and No. 2 Wentz ended with Goff going against the Eagles’ backup. And for Goff, it didn’t end well. While Foles led three mistake-free drives, Goff was stripped of the ball by former Ram Chris Long and lost a fumble that led to a field goal that clinched the loss.
Wentz threw for four touchdowns, two more than Goff, and accumulated nearly 100 more passing yards in a most powerful and mature performance. But late in the third quarter, Wentz limped into the Coliseum tunnel with a towel over his head after being crushed by defenders in a hit loud enough to be heard in the press box.
Wentz amazingly stayed in after the hit to throw a two-yard touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery. But he could no longer stand strong, and now the Eagles championship hopes likely rest on the severity of an injury that initial reports claim as pretty awful.
So, really, Goff versus Wentz ended in a nasty draw.
“Well, it’s good and bad,’’ Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said of the game and the injury.
Eagles safety Rodney McLeod picks up a fumble by Rams quarterback Jared Goff (not pictured) in the 4th quarter.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times )
Rams running back Todd Gurley is tackled short of the goal line by Eagles Patrick Robinson during the fourth quarter. Gurley would score on the next play.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz walks off the field after injuring his leg aganst the Rams during the third quarter.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz possibly has a torn ACL.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffery celebrates his touchdown catch along with teammate Trey Burton in front of Rams defenders Lamarcus Joyner and John Johnson (43) during the third quarter.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Rams quarterback Jared Goff avoids a sack as he’s pressured by Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman levels Eagles running back Jay Ajayi during the fourth quarter.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffery makes a finger-tip catch for a touchdown against Rams safety Lamarcus Joyner in the thrd quarter.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
A referee steps in between Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffery and Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree after a touchdown.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Rams head coach Sean McVay, left, gives support as cornerback Kayvon Webster grimaces in pain after injuring his foot.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Rams cornerback Tre Johnson is called for pass interference as Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffery tries to catch a pass during the first quarter.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Eagles tight end Brent Celek celebrates his touchdown with teammatesduring the first quarter.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Rams receiver Cooper Kupp scores a touchdown against Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills in the second quarter.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Eagles tight end Brent Celek celebrates his touchdown with teammates by mimicking an Eagle in the first quarter.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Eagles tight end Trey Burton celebrates his touchdown catch against the Rams during the second quarter.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Eagles tight end Trey Burton catches a touchdown pass in front of Rams John Johnson (43) and Alec Ogletree during the first quarter.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Rams running back Todd Gurley reaches for the end zone but comes up short against the Eagles during the first quarter.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Ram quarterback Jared Goff leaves the locker room to take the field before the game against the Eagles.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
For the Rams, it was all bad. They should be sharing the best record in the NFC today with serious hopes of gaining home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Instead, it is the Eagles who are 11-2 and empowered enough to run through the end zone flapping their arms after touchdowns while running around the field afterward as if they owned it.
“It just feels good the way we won it,’’ said defensive end Brandon Graham, who finalized the score on a 16-yard fumble return on the last play of the game. “[We] could’ve easily gave up, but we didn’t.’’
The Rams (9-4) are facing a must-win game in nobody-wins-there Seattle next week to keep their playoff hopes strong. They could learn a thing or two from the Eagles.
‘When you are in these types of games with a playoff atmosphere and your backs a little bit against the wall, you need guys to step up, players to make plays,’’ Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. ‘’It’s a gut check.’’
The Eagles checked that box with two fourth-quarter field goals and a time-killing final drive to steal the win. The Rams need to check themselves after Goff lost the ball with a fumble that led to the winning 33-yard field goal by Jake Elliott on an Eagles drive extended by a leverage penalty that cost the Rams a precious two minutes on the clock.
“There’s a handful of things that took place in that game that we will learn from,’’ coach Sean McVay said. “We’ll learn from our mistakes, including me, starting with me.’’
It wasn’t McVay who gave up 455 yards in a defensive effort that led to the Rams running an amazing 40 fewer plays than the Eagles — 85-45 — while possessing the ball for nearly 19 fewer minutes.
But give McVay credit for his honesty and accountability, because it was the coach who called the pass play that led to the strip of Goff midway through the fourth quarter with the Rams nursing a one-point lead.
It was first down. They were on their 35-yard line. They have one of the game’s best running backs in Todd Gurley, who had already run for nearly 100 yards. Why put Goff in that risky position? Why pass?
Afterward, McVay was honorably asking that himself, as he said, “Certainly, not a great play selection by me. I’ve got to do a better job of putting our ofense in better situations, be smart, have a little bit of situational awareness there and that’s a mistake on my part.’’
When asked about the quote, Goff said, “He told me the same thing. He shouldn’t do that. He’s been doing a great job all year calling plays. Once the play comes in, it’s my job to execute it and unfortunately we didn’t.’’
Gurley, who only finished with 13 carries, didn’t really want to address the Rams’ questionable fourth-quarter philosophy, saying, ‘’I don’t know, man, I’m not a coach, I can’t really tell you. … So much going on out there, it’s crazy.’’
What’s not crazy is McVay’s honesty and transparency. He might be the youngest coach in the league at 31, but he handled his error like a true pro. By hearing their leader admit a mistake, the Rams and their fans can trust that he will learn from it.
The Rams aren’t ready. But at least they know it. And there’s still time — albeit precious little time — to fix it.