One of the quarterbacks on the field Sunday at the Coliseum already has a Hall of Fame resume built on winning a Super Bowl and his penchant for delivering epic game-winning drives.
The other is a rising star, a third-year pro starting to show some of the MVP-caliber skills and cool under pressure that his counterpart has trademarked.
Jared Goff of the Rams took another big step in his ascent, passing for three touchdowns and guiding a late field-goal drive that provided the winning points in a 29-27 victory over the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers before a crowd of 75,822.
The Rams escaped possible last-second magic by Rodgers when Ramik Wilson forced and recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff return, allowing the Rams’ offense to run out the clock.
With running back Todd Gurley and Goff in the MVP conversation, the Rams reached the midpoint of the season as the NFL’s only unbeaten team at 8-0. And they show no signs of slowing down heading into next week’s game at New Orleans against another future Hall of Fame quarterback in Drew Brees.
“This team has demonstrated through eight games, while we have long way to go, there’s a variety of ways that we can win,” coach Sean McVay said.
The Rams won in Week 2 with a dominating overall effort against the Arizona Cardinals. They have since won various games with their high-scoring offense or timely late defense or key special teams plays.
“You know just guys are going to make plays — that’s why we’re the team that we are,” said Gurley, who rushed for 114 yards and caught six passes for 81 yards and a touchdown. “We have big-time guys who make big-time plays.”
On Sunday, the offense started slowly. The Rams punted five times in a row, and they trailed by 10 points in the second quarter.
Goff, 24, didn’t flinch.
“Why be worried?” he said. “Long game, and I think we do tend to score a lot of points.
“When we don’t, we can’t freak out.”
After the defense produced a safety, Goff threw touchdown passes to Josh Reynolds and Gurley for a 16-13 lead.
“Jared’s calm cool and collected all the time,” tight end Gerald Everett said. “He’s never flustered, never panicking. You know, the coolest guy on earth.”
Said Gurley: “Jared was Jared — nothing new.”
Goff overcame five sacks and multiple hits to complete 19 of 35 passes for 295 yards. He has passed for 17 touchdowns with five interceptions this season.
“Continues to demonstrate he’s got an even-keeled demeanor,” McVay said, adding, “No moment is too big.”
Late in the game, it looked as if the playoff-atmosphere crowd of boisterous Rams and Packers fans would be treated to another moment supplied by Rodgers, the 14th-year pro and two-time MVP.
Greg Zuerlein had given the Rams a six-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but Rodgers’ long touchdown pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling put the Packers ahead 27-26.
The Rams got the ball back midway through the quarter but were forced to punt, appearing to give Rodgers an opportunity to increase the lead.
But Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald sacked Rodgers on third down, forcing a punt.
“I came in unblocked and got the sack,” Donald said. “That never happened before. I got me a freebie and I ain’t going to complain about it.
“Hey, big time when we needed it.”
The Rams got the ball at the Packers’ 40, and tried to take time off the clock as they methodically worked for another Zuerlein field goal to give them a 29-27 lead.
That left Rodgers, who had passed for 286 yards and a touchdown, with about two minutes to engineer a comeback.
But Ty Montgomery brought Zuerlein’s kickoff out of the end zone, and Wilson hit him and forced a fumble.
“They left me unblocked,” Wilson said, “and I had to make them pay for it.”
The Rams ran out the clock, Gurley purposely going to the ground on a certain touchdown run so as to not give Rodgers another chance.
“That play didn’t lose the game,” Rodgers said of the fumble, “but it definitely took away an opportunity for us to go down and win it.”
That was fine with the Rams.
“I had no doubt in my mind that we would get off the field,” safety John Johnson said. “I think it would have been one, two, three four, done, the way we’ve been playing late in the game.