It was edge rusher Dante Fowler’s second game with the Rams last season, and he was trying to make a good impression. But those plans appeared to have gone awry in the matchup against the Seattle Seahawks at the Coliseum.
A facemask penalty committed by Fowler in the first quarter helped set up a Seahawks touchdown. An unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty by him in the third quarter set up another.
“I was like, ‘Oh, I got to make up for this,’ ” Fowler recalled this week.
Fowler got his chance in the fourth quarter. On third down, he sacked quarterback Russell Wilson, forcing a fumble that Fowler recovered. The play set up what turned out to be the deciding touchdown in a 36-31 Rams victory.
Defensive lineman Michael Brockers congratulated Fowler for gaining quick redemption.
“Brock was like, ‘Damn, bro, you really made up for it,’ ” Fowler said. “I thought about it and I was like, ‘I did. I definitely did.’ ”
Fowler aims to make more big plays Sunday when the Seahawks and Wilson return to the Coliseum for a key NFC West game.
The Rams (7-5) are chasing the Seahawks (10-2) and the San Francisco 49ers (10-2) in the division, but their quarry is more realistically the Minnesota Vikings (8-4) in the race for an NFC wild-card playoff spot.
The Seahawks helped the Rams by defeating the Vikings on Monday night, but the Rams know they probably need to win all four remaining games for a chance to earn a third consecutive postseason berth.
“Not a time to panic,” Fowler said, “just keep winning out.”
Fowler, acquired last season in a trade deadline deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars, has 7 1/2 sacks for a team that kept alive its playoff chances with a 34-7 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
Fowler, who is playing on a one-year, $14-million contract, had one of the Rams’ six sacks of Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray. Fowler also broke up two screen passes.
“He plays fast, he plays violent, he’s explosive when he arrives at the point of attack,” Rams coach Sean McVay said of the 6-foot-3, 255-pound Fowler. “He’s making sacks, he’s influencing and affecting the quarterback in a variety of different ways.”
Two weeks ago, the Rams did little to slow Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson in a 45-6 defeat at the Coliseum. They did neutralize Murray, however, another dual threat.
Wilson, an eighth-year pro who has won a Super Bowl, also is mobile.
“He’s in his own league,” Fowler said. “He’s probably like the most elusive one out of all of them.”
The Rams failed to contain Wilson this season in an Oct. 3 game at CenturyLink Field. He completed 17 of 23 passes for 268 yards and four touchdowns, and rushed for 32 yards, sending the Rams to a 30-29 defeat.
The Rams sacked Wilson once.
“I had him like four times and I didn’t get him down,” Fowler said. “So we got to do a better job of just getting him down when we can, and not let him extend those big plays, because when he gets out of the pocket he’s so dangerous.”
Despite Wilson’s performance, the Rams still were in position to win. With 1 minute 38 seconds left, quarterback Jared Goff directed a drive from the Rams’ seven-yard line to the Seahawks’ 26, but Greg Zuerlein missed a 44-yard field-goal attempt with 15 seconds remaining.
Wilson was dynamic again Monday night against the Vikings. He overcame an interception that was returned for a touchdown and passed for two second-half touchdowns en route to a 37-30 victory.
With little pressure from the rush, Wilson delivered a 60-yard touchdown pass to wide-open receiver David Moore. He tossed a screen pass to running back Rashaad Penny for the other touchdown.
If the Rams are to stay alive in their drive for a playoff spot, they must pressure Wilson and get him to the ground when they have opportunities.
“He can make those explosive plays that you don’t want to happen,” Fowler said, “so as long as we can do that I think it will be a really good game.”
The Rams placed kick returner JoJo Natson on injured reserve because of a hamstring injury suffered against the Cardinals. Natson, 25, has averaged 22.2 yards per kickoff return, and 7.8 per punt return. Rookie running back Darrell Henderson is expected to replace Natson for kickoff returns, and rookie Nsimba Webster for punt returns. ... The Rams were off Tuesday. They resume practice Wednesday.