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In ‘throws’ of defeat, Rams prove they still can deliver win behind Matthew Stafford

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) throws a pass during the second half against the Minnesota Vikings.
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford did not have a great game against the Minnesota Vikings last week, but did enough to win the game.
(Bruce Kluckhohn / Associated Press)

After three weeks of disjointed game preparation because of a coronavirus outbreak, the Rams are back on a regular schedule as they prepare for a road game on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.

Other than coach Sean McVay, no one might be more pleased than quarterback Matthew Stafford.

“I am excited to have a little bit of normalcy,” Stafford said Wednesday.

Normal is not what the Rams pulled off last Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.

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Despite Stafford’s three interceptions, the Rams won the game, clinched a playoff berth and moved into first place in the NFC West.

If the Rams can win Sunday at Baltimore and their finale vs. San Francisco, they will win the NFC West. The Chargers’ playoff hopes are not as solid.

When NFL teams — or football teams at any level — commit three turnovers, they usually lose.

But the Rams, with Stafford’s help down the stretch, found a way to win.

“It is good to know that we are capable of doing that,” Stafford said during a video conference with reporters. “I hope not to have to do it anymore.”

Stafford, 33, was acquired by the Rams last January to be the centerpiece of a team that has a mandate to play in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium in February.

In the first eight games, he lived up to the billing, passing for 22 touchdowns, with four interceptions. In the last seven games, he has passed for 14 touchdowns, with nine interceptions.

Five interceptions, and a lost fumble, came during the Rams’ winless November against the Tennessee Titans, San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers — all among currently seeded teams for the playoffs.

Stafford appeared to have put most of those problems behind during victories over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks.

Rams Pro Bowl left tackle Andrew Whitworth shared what it was like watching his teammates play the Vikings while he was at home on the COVID list.

But they resurfaced against the Vikings.

“Games like last game happen,” the quarterback said. “I was happy that we were resilient enough as a team, ran the ball well enough to get the win.”

The Rams also got another solid effort from the defense, and a rare punt return for a touchdown.

“We threw three picks — should have been five interceptions,” outside linebacker Von Miller said Wednesday, adding, “It just shows you the type of special teams that we play, the type of defense that we play, and how resilient the offense is for sure.”

Now the Rams will travel to Baltimore riding their second four-game winning streak. This one began with a 37-7 victory over the Jaguars that featured an efficient, turnover-free performance by Stafford.

“He’s our guy,” McVay said after the game. “We go as he goes.”

On Wednesday, Stafford acknowledged the responsibility.

“The better your quarterback plays in this league, the better a chance you have at winning games — that’s not lost on me,” he said. “So, I put a lot of pressure on myself and just expect a lot out of myself to be honest with you.

“I expect to play a whole lot better than I played last weekend, and hope to do that in Baltimore.”

NFL legend John Madden was more than a star coach, broadcaster and video-game innovator. He was a funny, generous friend to everyone he met.

Stafford is regarded as on the of the NFL’s most gifted passers. And he relied on that arm talent to make impressive plays during 12 seasons with the Detroit Lions, and this season with the Rams.

But he said, “I’m not perfect,” and that there have been times this season that he should have thrown away a pass, run the ball or “done something else with the football.”

But given his success on other impactful plays, there remains a temptation to repeat them.

“Most of the time I’m aware that some of those plays that do go in our favor are somewhat — I don’t even know the word to be honest with you, maybe risky or whatever is,” he said. “Some people might see it that way, or outside the framework of our offense.

“But I’m just going to do everything I can to try to play within it. We got enough good players to go out there and score a bunch of points on a lot of people if I just do my job at a high level and just stay within myself.”


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