Rams knock out Carson Wentz but fail to hold on to the ball and the lead in loss to NFC-leading Eagles
He sprinted out of the Coliseum tunnel, leading teammates onto the field for pregame introductions before a hyped-up anticipatory crowd.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff never stopped running. He made a hard right to the sideline, and continued at full speed to the far end zone, as if to collect his thoughts or relish the moment before he played the Philadelphia Eagles and quarterback Carson Wentz.
“It was a really good atmosphere out there,” Goff said. “It felt like a playoff game.”
Sunday’s matchup between Goff, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NFL draft, and Wentz, the No. 2 pick, mostly lived up to its billing. Wentz passed for four touchdowns before suffering a potentially serious knee injury late in the third quarter. Goff passed for two touchdowns and helped give the Rams an early fourth-quarter lead.
But Goff made a critical mistake that killed one late drive and failed to lift his team on another as the Eagles defeated the Rams, 43-35, before an estimated crowd of 67,000.
“We just got to do a better job getting pressure on the quarterback and winning matchups,” said Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree, who played through the elbow injury he suffered last week at Arizona. “They did enough to win the game and we did enough to lose it.”
It was a tough loss for a Rams team that appeared poised for its appearance on the biggest NFL stage.
It was a game between two division leaders, the league’s highest-scoring offenses, and featured the Goff-Wentz matchup. It was the Rams’ opportunity to show they belong in the NFC elite.
The Rams overcame a 10-point halftime deficit and a three-point fourth-quarter deficit, but they could not overcome a Goff fumble and numerous penalties and injuries while falling to 9-4.
“Against a team like that there [are] things that you can’t do,” Rams coach Sean McVay said, adding, “Unfortunately, you do have to learn some lessons the hard way, myself included.”
The Rams also lost a chance to put some distance between themselves and the Seattle Seahawks, who lost at Jacksonville. The Rams lead the Seahawks (8-5) by a game in the NFC West heading into next week’s game in Seattle.
“There’s nothing to worry about,” Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald said. “We’re still in a good position.”
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)
Wentz was without his favorite target, tight end Zach Ertz, because of a concussion, but he found tight ends Brent Celek and Trey Burton for three first-half touchdowns as the Eagles built a 24-14 lead.
The Rams opened the third quarter with two quick touchdowns, one on a one-yard pass to receiver Sammy Watkins and another when Mike Thomas blocked a punt and Blake Countess scooped up the ball and returned it 16 yards to the end zone.
Wentz’s fourth touchdown pass, a two-yarder to receiver Alshon Jeffery late in the third quarter, put the Eagles ahead, 31-28. Wentz, however, had been hit hard on a previous play, a scramble into the end zone that was nullified because of a penalty, and he did not return.
The Rams pulled ahead in the fourth quarter on Todd Gurley’s second touchdown run. But a trio of former Rams — defensive end Chris Long, safety Rodney McLeod and quarterback Nick Foles — all made huge plays in Wentz’s absence to help the Eagles improve to 11-2 and clinch the NFC East.
Foles, whom the Rams had released before training camp in 2016, engineered a field-goal drive that pulled the Eagles to within a point with 9:34 left.
And that’s when Goff made a crucial mistake.
On first down at their own 35, with the Rams trying to put together a long drive to take time off the clock and pad their slim lead, Long burst off the left side and stripped Goff of the ball. McLeod recovered it and the Eagles kicked a field goal to retake the lead.
The Rams got the ball back but went three and out, Goff’s third-down pass to Watkins falling incomplete.
“I probably just held onto it a bit too long,” said Goff, who completed 16 of 26 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns. “Stepped in the pocket there, Chris Long came around, made a great play. Probably [needed to] get rid of it a little bit earlier there, and one thing that you can learn from for sure.”
The Eagles got the ball with just over two minutes left, and Foles extended the possession with a key third-down pass to former USC receiver Nelson Agholor. By the time the Rams got the ball, only one second remained.
Goff passed to Pharoh Cooper, who lateraled to Tavon Austin, but Austin’s attempted lateral was picked off by Eagles end Brandon Graham, who returned it for a touchdown as time expired.
“This is one of those heavyweight fights,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “The Rams are a great football team. We knew that coming in here. Give them a lot of credit. They are playoff-caliber team and we found a way.”
Now it’s on to the Seattle, where the Rams will have a chance to split with the Seahawks and gain — or lose — ground in their quest for their first playoff berth since 2004.
“As big as this game was, and as many implications as there were, [the Eagles] played a great game,” Goff said. “We played pretty well up until the end.
“Ultimately, next week, we’ve got to come back and try to do that same thing and play a really good game and finish it off.”
Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein
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