Rams’ Kevin Peterson intercepts two passes against 49ers in his first start at cornerback
Rams cornerback Kevin Peterson made the most of his opportunity in his first NFL start, intercepting two passes Sunday in the team’s 34-13 loss to the San Francisco 49ers at the Coliseum.
Peterson, an undrafted free agent in 2016 from Oklahoma State, started in place of Trumaine Johnson, who played sparingly as coach Sean McVay rested starters ahead of next Saturday’s NFC wild-card playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons.
“They said we were going to get a lot of opportunity this game and moving forward into the playoffs to see what we can do,” said Peterson, who picked off Jimmy Garoppolo passes in the first and second quarters. “I just tried to put a bunch of stuff on tape.”
Peterson is the first Rams player to intercept two passes in a game since Johnson in 2014. The Rams converted both of Peterson’s takeaways into field goals.
Earlier this season, Peterson was promoted from the practice squad against the Washington Redskins but allowed Kirk Cousins to complete a pass over him for a game-winning touchdown.
He was released but later re-signed and has played in six games.
On Sunday, he returned his first-quarter interception 38 yards to the 49ers’ 22-yard line.
“I actually didn’t see it until the last second when I caught it,” said Peterson, who also recovered a fumble. “Threw my hands up, prayed that I caught it and then I caught it and did what I had to do.”
Peterson’s experience will help the Rams as they prepare for their first playoff appearance since 2004.
“That opportunity and those experiences are going to be invaluable,” McVay said.
The status of cornerback Troy Hill, who has started the last three games in place of injured Kayvon Webster, is uncertain after he was placed into concussion protocol Sunday.
Safety Blake Countess also went into concussion protocol after delivering a hit against receiver Marquise Goodwin.
Goodwin was carted off the field, placed into concussion protocol and transported to a local hospital for evaluation. Niners coach Kyle Shanahan said Goodwin was “going to be all right” and would fly back to the Bay Area with the team.
Garoppolo said Countess’ hit was “a dirty play.”
“Unbelievable that the safety did that,” Garoppolo said. “It’s not good for our sport, it’s not good for anybody.”
Countess was fined $24,309 this season for a helmet-to-helmet hit on New Orleans Saints tight end Coby Fleener.
In his first NFL start, Rams quarterback Sean Mannion completed 20 of 34 passes for 169 yards.
But with most starters held out to rest or avoid injury, the offense struggled, generating only 251 yards and 15 first downs.
“Obviously, would’ve liked to have won the game — that’s the only objective that really matters,” said Mannion, a third-year pro. “I was happy with a lot of stuff we did, but obviously some things to clean up.”
Mannion completed a 50-yard pass to receiver Mike Thomas near the end of the first half to set up a field goal. He also directed a 15-play drive in the fourth quarter that ended with Lance Dunbar’s eight-yard touchdown run.
“I certainly feel more prepared now than I was a week ago, but that’s not to say that I feel that much different,” Mannion said. “I think you try to do everything you can mentally to prepare during the week.
“I take a lot of pride in that when I’m not getting a chance to start, but there’s no substitute for game experience and I’ll certainly take away some things to learn from this game.”
Running back Todd Gurley did not play, losing a chance to make a final statement in his bid for the NFL most valuable player award.
Gurley has scored an NFL-best 19 touchdowns.
“They vote for me, they vote for me,” he said, jokingly adding, “Please. If not, it’s all good.”
Gurley went into Sunday leading the NFL with 1,305 yards rushing, but Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt scored on a 35-yard touchdown run against the Denver Broncos, giving him 1,327 yards.
Asked if he was disappointed, Gurley said, “Nah …I’m good.”
“Congratulations to him though, man, that’s big. Two rookies, back to back, [win the] rushing title [Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott won in 2016].
“So, you know, he played his tail off this whole season. Most definitely deserving.”
Thomas caught three passes for 75 yards, including the 50-yard reception near the end of the first half.
“It was a good opportunity to put a lot of good stuff on film,” said Thomas, a 2016 sixth-round pick who started for the first time. “The starters had to rest, so the twos had to step up.”
Thomas did not play the first four games because he was suspended for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.
He has five receptions for 93 yards.
Safety Cody Davis returned from injured reserve and played for the first time since suffering a Week 7 thigh injury. Davis, a fifth-year pro, came off the bench, made three tackles and deflected a pass. … Linebacker Bryce Hager recovered a fumble late in the fourth quarter. … Dunbar’s touchdown was his first for the Rams and the second of his six-year career.
Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein
Go beyond the scoreboard
Get the latest on L.A.'s teams in the daily Sports Report newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.