The Rams showed their mettle throughout a difficult week.
They mourned with Thousand Oaks residents after a mass shooting not far from their Cal Lutheran University practice facility. Then they, along with thousands of residents in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, endured wildfires that forced many players, coaches and support staff to evacuate their homes.
But for a few hours Sunday at the Coliseum, they put those issues aside and came back to defeat the Seattle Seahawks 36-31 in front of 72,755.
“It’s been a tough week,” coach Sean McVay said, “where there’s a lot of things that are lot bigger than football going on.”
Jared Goff passed for two touchdowns, Greg Zuerlein kicked three field goals and the defense made key stops and forced a fumble late in the game as the Rams improved to 9-1.
Goff, one of about two dozen players who were evacuated from their homes, echoed McVay and said the Rams were playing with the beleaguered region on their mind.
“Hoping today provided a little bit of joy and regularity for those people,” said Goff, who completed 28 of 39 passes for 318 yards.
The Rams were much happier than the previous Sunday, when they lost 45-35 at New Orleans.
Sunday’s victory was not secured until a fourth-down pass by Russell Wilson fell incomplete in Rams territory with 18 seconds left.
The Rams seemed to revel in the release.
“A weight lifted off,” cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman said, “because of what we’ve been going through this whole week.”
Said receiver Robert Woods: “Guys are trying to see what’s going on with their homes and their families. But for these three, four hours we were able to focus on this game and get this win.”
The victory sets up a marquee showdown against the high-flying Kansas City Chiefs on Nov. 19 in Mexico City. The Rams are scheduled to leave Monday for Colorado Springs, Colo., where they will spend a week acclimating to the high-altitude conditions they will encounter in Mexico.
But the Rams left the Coliseum on Sunday still processing the tragic events of the previous five days, and what will continue to be a challenge going forward.
“We’ve all been affected by it,” said tackle Aaron Donald, who had two-and-a-half sacks. “To win a game like this, a divisional game, and give people something to smile about,” is worthwhile.
Sunday was “definitely a heavy-hearted day to play,” said offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth, a 13th-year pro who donated his game check to a fund set up for the 12 families who lost relatives in the shooting.
“We felt sorry for our community,” he said, “and came out and played our best we could to try and win.”
McVay’s satisfaction with the victory was muted by his anger over multiple personal-foul and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties that nearly prevented the Rams from winning. He said it was not “indicative” of what he wants the team to be.
“Fortunately, we got away with it,” he said, “and we can learn without having to truly learn the hard way.”
The Rams led 17-14 at halftime but fell behind 21-20 when Wilson connected with receiver Tyler Lockett for a touchdown pass late in the third quarter.
Goff’s touchdown pass to tight end Tyler Higbee on the first play of the fourth quarter gave the Rams the lead. The teams traded field goals, and then Rams edge rusher Dante Fowler made perhaps the play of the game when he sacked Wilson and forced a fumble.
The Rams acquired Fowler at the trade deadline for that kind of disruption.
“He made a good play,” Wilson said. “I mean that’s why they brought him here.”
The Rams converted the turnover into Brandin Cooks’ touchdown, and Wilson answered with a touchdown pass to running back Mike Davis.
Wilson got one more chance with less than 90 seconds left and drove the Seahawks to the Rams’ 35, but the defense forced three incomplete passes to clinch the victory.
Goff sounded relieved, but said the Rams’ work had only begun.
“We’re thinking about those people,” he said, “and want to get out in the community and help as much as we can in the next few weeks, especially with Thanksgiving and the holiday season coming up.