Rams lose to Bills after costly pass interference call derails record comeback
They stumbled at the start and throughout the first half. They roared back and dominated through most of the final two quarters.
But in the end, the Rams fell short a long way from home.
Perhaps as the season goes on, if they can put together a string of victories that returns them to the playoffs, the Rams will look back on Sunday’s 35-32 loss to the Buffalo Bills as a defeat that helped them build confidence, if not a perfect record after three games.
The Rams overcame a 25-point deficit — the largest comeback in franchise history — but Bills quarterback Josh Allen sent them home defeated by passing for his fourth touchdown with 15 seconds remaining at Bills Stadium.
The winning play came after several defensive breakdowns in the final minutes and a pass-interference penalty on fourth down that left many Rams players shaking their heads in disbelief.
But the Rams (2-1) departed the East Coast for the second consecutive week feeling as if they are a team that can contend for the NFC West title and more.
The Bills’ Josh Allen throws four touchdown passes and runs for a score in win over the Rams and has accounted for 12 touchdowns in first three games.
“We can use that as a real opportunity to gain some strength and some momentum,” coach Sean McVay said during a video conference. “Fortunately, these are some things that if they occur early enough in the season and you’re able to respond the right way, they can be great learning opportunities that don’t cost you in the long run.”
After routing the Philadelphia Eagles, the Rams said this week they would have no problem adapting to another early kickoff several time zones away from the West Coast.
But the unbeaten Bills (3-0) are a better team at this point than the 0-2-1 Eagles. The Rams came out flat, Allen picked apart a secondary that lost safety Jordan Fuller early because of a shoulder injury, and the Rams trailed, 28-3, early in the third quarter.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff passed for 321 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another, Darrell Henderson rushed for a career-high 114 yards and a touchdown, and the Rams got big defensive plays from safety John Johnson and tackle Aaron Donald en route to scoring 29 consecutive points and taking the lead with four-and-half minutes left.
But Allen completed several clutch throws during the winning drive, and a pass-interception penalty on fourth down against cornerback Darious Williams ultimately doomed the Rams.
“Would have loved to win that game and finish it with a great win and a big comeback for us and be hooting and hollering right now,” said Goff, who completed 23 of 32 passes, with an interception. “But … I think you learn that we’re never out of it no matter what the situation is.”
The Rams trailed, 21-3, at halftime after Allen passed for two touchdowns and ran for another. Allen’s touchdown pass to receiver Stefon Diggs early in the third quarter extended the lead to 25 points.
The Rams did not panic.
“We knew we had plenty of time,” receiver Robert Woods said. “Really, it was just finding that one play to finally kick-start us and go.”
Goff’s sneak for a touchdown pulled the Rams within 28-10, and Johnson ripped a ball from the hands of Bills tight end Tyler Kraft for a controversial interception that was upheld upon review.
Goff’s touchdown passes to Woods and Cooper Kupp, and a two-point conversion pass to tight end Tyler Higbee pulled the Rams within three points. Donald then sacked Allen, stripped the ball and recovered the fumble to set up Henderson’s touchdown run that put the Rams ahead, 32-28, with 4:30 left.
The Rams, however, could not close out the victory.
On a third-and-22 play, Allen fired a pass to receiver Cole Beasley for a first down. Allen’s 17-yard strike to Diggs on a third-and-25 play set up the final fourth-down drama.
Rams safety Jordan Fuller injured his shoulder, so Taylor Rapp took over at safety and finished with seven tackles.
Allen’s pass to Gabriel Davis was incomplete, but Williams was called for pass interference. On the next play, Allen tossed a touchdown pass to Kraft.
Johnson said the officials made the wrong call against Williams, but added “you can’t really go down just to that one play.”
Said Goff: ”There’s calls that went our way that game and there’s calls that went their way. … Unfortunately, that one was at the end of the game like that, but it’s part of the game.”
The loss prevented the Rams from starting 3-0 for the third season in a row. They finish the first quarter of the season next Sunday against the New York Giants at SoFi Stadium.
“We would have loved to have closed this out and be 3-0,” Goff said. “But we’re 2-1, and move on to the Giants.”
Staff writer Gary Klein reported from Los Angeles.
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