Rams suffer another quarterback injury, but defense delivers playoff win over Seahawks
Turns out, it did not matter whom Rams coach Sean McVay decided to start at quarterback.
The Rams’ defense was the NFL’s best unit during the regular season, so there was reason to expect it would continue to dominate — and score — in the postseason.
On Saturday, when quarterback Jared Goff came off the bench in relief of John Wolford, and rookie running back Cam Akers rushed for more than 100 yards, the defense carried the Rams to a 30-20 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in an NFC wild-card playoff game at Lumen Field in Seattle.
“We just are like glue,” cornerback Darious Williams, who returned an interception for a touchdown, said of the defense. “We stick together, we all believe in each other and we just go out and play for each other.”
Matt Gay kicked three field goals, and the punt coverage team also forced a turnover as the Rams improved to 11-6 and advanced to the divisional round.
“We’re excited about really competing to see who we play next, and see if we can keep this thing rolling,” McVay said.
The Rams will not know their opponent until Sunday. It could be the top-seeded Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, but if the seventh-seeded Chicago Bears defeat the second-seeded New Orleans Saints, the Rams would play on the road against the fifth-seeded Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff emerges from his benching and gives a performance that’s both scary and solid in Saturday’s playoff win at Seattle.
But the Rams do not care who or where they will play after getting a confidence-boosting victory over the NFC West-champion Seahawks, a team that defeated the Rams two weeks ago in Seattle.
For the first time in three games, the offense scored a touchdown. That alone probably was worthy of celebration for a unit that rarely has flashed the form of the 2017 and 2018 Rams playoff teams.
McVay this week is expected to repeat the gamesmanship dance he performed in the days leading up to wild-card game by declining to say whether Goff or Wolford will start.
Goff, who underwent right thumb surgery Dec. 28, was on the bench at the outset Saturday. McVay said he decided early last week to start Wolford for a second consecutive game and informed the entire team of his plan.
But Wolford, who led the Rams to victory over the Arizona Cardinals in the regular-season finale, suffered a neck injury with 5 minutes 40 seconds left in the first quarter when he was hit in the head by Seahawks safety Jamal Adams after carrying the ball on a running play.
Wolford was taken to the hospital by ambulance for further evaluation. McVay said Wolford suffered a “stinger” and was back in the locker room celebrating with teammates afterward.
Goff came on to complete nine of 19 passes for 155 yards, including a clinching touchdown pass to Robert Woods in the final minutes after the punt coverage unit forced and recovered a fumble.
Goff’s thumb includes three screws that were implanted for stability. He said he is not 100% but was otherwise fine.
“My whole mind-set throughout the week was to stay ready — you never know what can happen,” said Goff, who led the Rams to the Super Bowl in 2018. “I’ve played in big games before. I’ve played in playoff games before, and have that experience, so I tried to draw on some of that with the lack of reps and just trust myself.”
Donald, with two of the Rams’ five sacks, suffered a rib injury. Kupp appeared to injure his right knee.
The Rams’ 30-20 playoff victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday by the numbers.
The Rams weathered their departures behind Akers and the defense.
Akers rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown in 28 carries. He also caught two passes, one for 44 yards. The play set up his five-yard, second-quarter touchdown run that, along with Williams’ 42-yard interception return, staked the Rams to a 20-10 halftime lead.
“They’ve played us enough, and they found out where they wanted to go,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of the Rams’ rushing attack. “We just didn’t stop it.”
The Rams led 23-13 with just more than seven minutes left when Rams linebacker Samson Ebukam forced punt returner D.J. Reed to fumble. Linebacker Micah Kiser recovered the ball for the Rams, setting up Goff’s touchdown pass.
Russell Wilson’s second touchdown pass to DK Metcalf cut the lead, and the Seahawks quarterback got the ball back with less than two minutes left. But the Rams defense clamped down again to seal the win.
Tom Brady threw for 381 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers past Washington 31-23 in their NFC wild-card game Saturday night.
“You can see how the season’s gone on, they love to be able to have that pressure of the expectations of living up to what they’ve done, being the top unit in the league,” McVay said. “I thought they answered the bell in a big way.”
Williams’ interception was the fifth touchdown scored by a defense that is under the direction of Brandon Staley.
The first-year coordinator is expected to interview this week for coaching vacancies with the Chargers and New York Jets.
“What they’ve been doing this year is amazing,” Goff said of the defense, “and we’ve been able to rely on them in spots. And I’m sure at some point they’ll have to rely on us.”
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