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Matthew Stafford-Robert Woods connection propels Rams to victory over Seahawks

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) passes under pressure from the Seahawks defense.
(Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)

The Rams had only three days to prepare for their pivotal NFC West game against the Seattle Seahawks.

But even with the short turnaround, receiver Robert Woods prioritized initiating a conversation with coach Sean McVay.

Through four games — most notably a loss to the Arizona Cardinals —Woods’ role in the offense was minimal.

“Had a little talk, just trying to get involved in the offense,” Woods said Thursday night. “He said he was going to give me some touches.”

McVay made good on his promise.

The Rams’ 27-16 win over the Seattle Seahawks had plenty of peculiar moments, including injuries to both starting quarterbacks and a Geno Smith TD pass.

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Woods was quarterback Matthew Stafford’s main target in a 26-17 victory before 68,747 at Lumen Field.

Woods caught 12 passes for 150 yards and made numerous key plays as the Rams bounced back from Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals and improved to 4-1 overall and 1-1 in the division.

The victory sets up the Rams nicely. They have an open date this weekend before embarking on a three-game stretch against struggling teams — the New York Giants (1-3), Detroit Lions (0-4) and Houston Texans (1-3).

“We’ll take 4-1 at the little mini-bye,” McVay said.

The Rams can thank Stafford, who played through an injury to his right index finger, Woods, and a defense that intercepted two passes, sacked Russell Wilson twice and knocked the seven-time Pro Bowl quarterback out of the game because of a right middle finger injury.

“We’d love to be 5-0,” said Stafford, who overcame a slow first half to complete 25 of 37 passes for 365 yards and a touchdown, with an interception. “The fun thing is being 4-1 and knowing that our best game of football has not been played yet.”

The Rams have ample weapons on offense. It is one of the main reasons they are once again regarded as contenders to play in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium in February.
McVay’s challenge is keeping all of those playmakers happy with their roles.

Rams wide receiver Robert Woods runs the ball during the first half of a 26-17 win.
Rams wide receiver Robert Woods runs the ball during the first half of a 26-17 win over the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday.
(Craig Mitchelldyer / Associated Press)

During the first four games, Stafford relied mainly on receiver Cooper Kupp. Receiver DeSean Jackson, signed by the Rams to provide a deep threat, had a sit-down with McVay after the first two games and then subsequently starred in a victory over the defending Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Second-year pro Van Jefferson and tight end Tyler Higbee also raised their profiles.

That left Woods, a team captain, selfless blocker and proven performer in McVay’s offense the last four seasons, on the outside looking in. Woods caught a touchdown pass at the end of the 37-20 loss to the Cardinals, but it was clear from his body language that he was not thrilled with the outcome of the game or his role to this point.

McVay said this week that it was his responsibility as the play-caller to get Woods more opportunities. On Thursday night, he did just that. “We were definitely trying to get him involved,” McVay said after the victory. “Tonight he delivered in a big way.”

Said Stafford: “He does everything we ask of him … and just knows that his opportunities are going to come, and when they come he has a huge night on the road in a hostile environment in a division game where we really needed somebody to step up.”

So did running backs Darrell Henderson and Sony Michel. Henderson rushed for 82 yards and a touchdown in 17 carries. Michel rushed for 37 yards and a touchdown in 11 carries.

Rams linebacker Troy Reeder (51) celebrates after he intercepted a pass against the Seattle Seahawks in the first half.
(Craig Mitchelldyer))

Defensive lineman Aaron Donald had a sack to increase his career total to 87½ and surpass Leonard Little as the Rams’ modern-day all-time leader.

Stafford was in the NFL most valuable player conversation through the first three games, but he had struggled in the loss to the Cardinals.

On Thursday, he inexplicably threw a pass into the corner of the end zone. No Rams receiver was near the ball. Seahawks safety Quandre Diggs intercepted it.

“I’m throwing the ball away,” Stafford said, “Just got to throw it away, away.”

The Rams capitalized on a late interception by Nick Scott on Seahawks backup QB Geno Smith to secure a 26-17 win and improve to 4-1 on the season.

Stafford said he noticed in the second quarter that something was wrong with his finger.

“Just a little bit out of place,” he said, “and was able to push it back in.”

But the 13th-year pro found a rhythm in the third quarter. Trailing 7-3, Stafford connected with Jackson for a 68-yard play that set up Henderson’s five-yard touchdown run. But Matt Gay’s extra-point attempt hit the right upright, leaving the Rams with a 9-7 lead.

On the next possession, Stafford connected with Woods for 20 yards on consecutive plays before Henderson broke free for a 29-yard gain. On the next play, Stafford found Higbee for a touchdown and a 16-7 lead.

The Rams seemingly got a break when Geno Smith replaced Wilson early in the fourth quarter. But the journeyman led the Seahawks on a 98-yard drive that he capped with a touchdown pass to receiver DK Metcalf. Stafford, however, completed a 24-yard pass to Woods and a 33-yard strike to Kupp, setting up Michel’s short touchdown run for a 23-14 lead.

Rams’ 26-17 victory over the Seattle Seahawks by the numbers. Scoring, statistics.

The Seahawks added a field goal, and then forced the Rams to punt with just more than two minutes left. But Rams safety Nick Scott all but sealed the victory by intercepting a pass. Gay kicked a field goal for the final margin.

McVay will spend the weekend evaluating his team and preparing for the next stretch.

“I just thought there was so many good things that I can point out,” he said, “and then there’s going to be so many things that we can take a deep breath, digest this and really improve on.”


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