What happened!? Rams lose to previously winless Jets after desperate rally fizzles

Rams quarterback Jared Goff walks off the field after throwing an interception against the Jets.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff walks off the field after throwing an interception against the Jets in the second quarter of the Rams’ 23-20 loss Sunday at SoFi Stadium.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

As his team prepared to play the winless New York Jets, Rams coach Sean McVay said he was not concerned about a letdown, repeatedly citing his players’ “maturity.”

That was not evident for most of the game Sunday at SoFi Stadium.

The Rams came out flat, fell behind by 17 points early in the third quarter and could not come back in a 23-20 loss to a Jets team that won for the first time in 14 games.

“This is not the result, not the type of game that we expected,” McVay said.

The Rams lost a chance to clinch a playoff spot and fell to 9-5. They also dropped into second place in the NFC West behind the Seattle Seahawks (10-4), who won 20-15 Sunday over the Washington Football Team.


Wide receiver Robert Woods played a big role in helping the Rams get back into the game after the team’s dismal first half against the New York Jets.

Dec. 20, 2020

“We let an opportunity slip by,” offensive lineman Rob Havenstein said.

The Rams play the Seahawks in Seattle next Sunday. They finish the season with another division game against the Arizona Cardinals (8-6).

It does not bode well if the Rams play as they did Sunday.

The Jets were coming off a 40-3 loss to the Seahawks and had lost 13 games by an average of 16 points.

McVay and his players gave credit to the Jets and were quick to fall back on the “any given Sunday” nature of the NFL, but the magnitude of the defeat also registered.

“This loss will demoralize us only as much we allow it to,” McVay said. “It’s going to be embarrassing, sick to your stomach about it.”

Quarterback Jared Goff echoed McVay.

Jets safety Marcus Maye knocks the ball away from Rams tight end Gerald Everett.
Jets safety Marcus Maye knocks the ball away from Rams tight end Gerald Everett on a fourth-down play in the fourth quarter Sunday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

“Obviously, we’re disappointed with how the day went and embarrassed and sick to your stomach about it,” he said.

Did the Rams look past the Jets, a team that ranked near the bottom of the NFL in offense and defense?

“That question’s always going to be up in the air,” Havenstein said.

It sure looked that way in the first half, when the Rams fell behind 13-0, a situation that could have been markedly worse had the defense not forced the Jets to kick field goals after a blocked punt and an interception.

“Offensively, just unbelievably poor to start the game,” McVay said, lamenting poor execution and penalties and adding, “Dug ourselves in too deep of a hole. ... I’ve got to do a better job of having our team ready to go.”

The Rams nearly came back from a 20-3 deficit, but the offense failed to make enough plays.


The Miami Dolphins defeat New England to end the Patriots’ run of 11-consecutive playoff appearances, and Tom Brady once again ruins the Falcons’ day.

Dec. 20, 2020

“We didn’t execute. I didn’t execute,” said Goff, who completed 22 of 34 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. “We didn’t do a lot of the things that we had prepped to do, and that’s how you lose a game.”

The Rams’ defense entered the game ranked No. 1 in the NFL in fewest total yards allowed per game and fewest passing yards allowed.

The Jets scored touchdowns on their opening drives of the first and second halves, but the Rams forced them to settle for field goals on two of their trips into the red zone.

Turnovers, however, were noticeably lacking, especially from a defense that scored touchdowns on turnovers in each of the last three games.

“We didn’t make any spark plays,” defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day said.

Jets quarterback Sam Darnold completed 22 of 31 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown. The third-year pro from USC completed several key passes out of formations with receivers and running backs in motion.


“We didn’t really get our cleats in the ground,” Rams safety John Johnson said. “That’s when we play our best — when everyone’s ready to go and we’re all set to play. I think they just moved around, a lot of motion. ... It’s just something we’ve got to get better at.”

Rams Jared Goff is sacked by Jets defensive lineman Henry Anderson.
Rams Jared Goff is sacked by Jets defensive lineman Henry Anderson before he can get a pass off during the fourth quarter Sunday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The Rams trailed 20-3 early in the third quarter when the offense finally came alive.

Goff’s 15-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Robert Woods cut the deficit to 10 points. After the Jets added a field goal, Woods gained 40 yards on a fly sweep to set up Goff’s short touchdown pass to tight end Tyler Higbee.

Matt Gay’s 42-yard field goal with 6:35 left pulled the Rams to within 23-20.

The Rams got the ball back with less than six minutes remaining and drove to the Jets’ 37-yard line. On a fourth-and-four play, however, Jets safety Marcus Maye broke up a Goff pass intended for tight end Gerald Everett.

The Jets ran out the clock for the victory.

“That was something that, obviously, we haven’t done all year,” Darnold said of taking a knee in victory formation, “and to be able to execute and see it kind of come all into fruition, I think that was the biggest thing for us and it was an amazing feeling.”


McVay and his players said they would rebound and be ready for the Seahawks. But they could have traveled to the Pacific Northwest with a playoff berth already secured.

“Certain teams, you get that knack for winning,” Johnson said. “We’re still working on that. We’ve had success in the past, but games like that you’ve got to come away with.”

Breaking down the notable numbers behind the Rams’ 23-20 loss to the New York Jets at SoFi Stadium on Sunday.

Dec. 20, 2020