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Rams’ high-flying passing game fueling midseason resurgence

Rams wide receiver Robert Woods, right, celebrates with quarterback Jared Goff after catching a touchdown pass.
Rams wide receiver Robert Woods, right, celebrates with quarterback Jared Goff after catching a touchdown pass in a 27-24 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday.
(Jason Behnken / Associated Press)

For several weeks the timing seemed off. The hallmarks of a Rams passing offense that relied on the catch-and-run skills of receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp were curiously absent.

That no longer appears to be a problem.

The Rams will go into Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers at SoFi Stadium with growing confidence and momentum after quarterback Jared Goff and his top receivers regained their rhythm during Monday night’s 27-24 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Woods caught 12 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown. Kupp had 11 receptions for 145 yards.

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It marked the first time in franchise history that two receivers had 10 catches each in the same game, according to the Rams.

“When you’re really in rhythm it doesn’t matter who’s in front of you,” Woods said after the game, “you’re just going out there and it turns to route versus air when you’re in a rhythm like that.”

Andrew Whitworth dubs it “the night of rookies” as Jordan Fuller, Van Jefferson and Cam Akers play pivotal roles in Rams’ 27-24 win over the Bucs.

Before the season, the Rams gave Kupp a three-year, $47.25-million extension that included $20.6 million in guarantees, according to overthecap.com. After the first game, the Rams gave Woods a four-year, $65-million extension that included $31.7 million in guarantees.

The investments paid dividends against the Buccaneers.

On a night when the Buccaneers shut down the Rams rushing attack, Woods and Kupp each had four receptions of 16 yards or longer. Woods’ longest play covered 35 yards, Kupp’s 27.

Receiver Josh Reynolds and tight end Gerald Everett each had 18-yard receptions, and rookie Van Jefferson scored his first NFL touchdown.

Goff said he could sense it would be a big night for Kupp and Woods midway through the second quarter.

“When Cooper was breaking tackles and getting more [yards] after the catch — and Robert for that matter — you kind of get a good feeling of how the game is going to go,” said Goff, who passed for 376 yards and three touchdowns.

Kupp now has a team-best 64 catches, two for touchdowns. Woods has 54 catches, five for touchdowns.

The reemergence of Woods and Kupp comes at an opportune time. Though the injury-ravaged 49ers have a 4-6 record, they could welcome back players such as star cornerback Richard Sherman, receiver Deebo Samuel and running backs Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert this week.

Jared Goff passes for 376 yards and rookie safety Jordan Fuller has two interceptions, including one late, to help the Rams prevail 27-24 at Tampa Bay.

Even without Sherman, the 49ers on Oct. 18 neutralized the Rams offense in a 24-16 victory at Levi’s Stadium. Woods was targeted 10 times, but caught only four passes. Kupp was targeted nine times, but had only three receptions.

But after Monday night’s performance, Goff and his receivers appear to have rediscovered their rhythm.

Woods and Kupp turned short and midrange passes into long gains. Kupp had nine catches for 109 yards in the first half.

“He was dinking and dunking those bad boys,” Buccaneers defensive lineman William Gholston said of Goff, “but he was popping them and getting them off.”

Said Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians: “I don’t think [Goff] attempted one past 10 yards until the second half. Good, short passes and we didn’t tackle Kupp very well.”

During the Rams’ game-winning drive in the fourth quarter, Goff started by connecting with Woods for 23 yards. He just missed Reynolds on the next play and then passed for nine yards to Woods. On third down, he found Kupp for 19 yards.

“You talk about guys creating their own tough catches in crunch-time moments,” coach Sean McVay said.

The Rams eventually called upon kicker Matt Gay to deliver a field goal that gave them a 27-24 lead. Rams safety Jordan Fuller sealed the victory with his second interception.

The Rams (7-3) are back atop the NFC West with six games remaining.

Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady appeared to snub Rams QB Jared Goff after losing Monday night. It’s not the first time the GOAT has behaved that way.

Woods said that if the Rams “want to be that No. 1 team,” the offense must reduce untimely penalties and finish games convincingly.

“Really just play dominant when we have those opportunities to close a game, seal a game,” he said.

The Rams defense has been solid and sometimes dominant. Goff said the offense is “really close to being where we want to be” and that the game against the Buccaneers was “a step in the right direction.”

A better balance between the rushing and passing attack is ideal, but if another opponent stuffs the run, Goff sounded confident that the Rams could still prevail.

“If that happens and we have to lean on the pass game, I’m all for it and ready for it,” he said.

Etc.

The Rams claimed defensive end Derek Rivers off waivers from the New England Patriots. Rivers, 26, played in college at Youngstown State and was a third-round draft pick in 2017. He had four tackles and 1½ sacks in eight games this season…. The Rams were off Tuesday. They are scheduled to have a walkthrough Wednesday.


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