After three turnovers, Matthew Stafford turns final drive into Rams’ win over Ravens
Matthew Stafford stood quietly in the corner, hands jammed into his pockets, cap pulled low, staring blankly at the floor.
The Rams quarterback looked like a player morosely processing the fallout from three costly turnovers Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.
But when Rams coach Sean McVay stepped down from the lectern in the postgame interview room at M&T Bank Stadium, Stafford raised his gaze. As McVay grabbed his hand and pulled him in for a bro-hug, Stafford broke into a huge smile.
The 13th-year pro, seemingly against all odds, had done it again: For the second week in a row, Stafford overcame his mistakes and came through at the most crucial time.
Stafford’s touchdown pass to Odell Beckham Jr. with less than a minute left gave the Rams a 20-19 victory that extended their winning streak to a season-best five games and moved them closer to clinching the NFC West.
“Matthew Stafford doesn’t flinch, he doesn’t blink,” McVay said after his team improved its record to 12-4. “I think we’ve seen that each of the last two weeks.”
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The Rams headed to the airport while waiting for the result of the game involving the Arizona Cardinals and the Dallas Cowboys. If the Cardinals had lost, the Rams would have been division champions.
Instead, the Cardinals won 25-22. To win the division for the third time under McVay, the Rams must defeat the San Francisco 49ers next Sunday at SoFi Stadium, or the Cardinals must lose to the Seattle Seahawks. If the teams finish with the same record, the Cardinals would win the West because of a better division record.
“It’s going to be a fun plane ride home either way,” said linebacker Von Miller, who clinched Sunday’s victory with a sack.
The Rams are getting accustomed to long celebratory flights.
Just as they did last week when they overcame three interceptions to defeat the Minnesota Vikings, the Rams survived Stafford’s miscues to defeat a Ravens team that was without injured quarterback Lamar Jackson.
The question is whether a team built with a mandate to play in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium can continue to do so.
“There were some things we’ve got to be better at, and Matthew will be the first person to tell you that,” McVay said. “But I thought he was at his best when his best was required.”
The Rams needed Stafford to perform down the stretch because he put them in hole with his mistakes.
They included a first-quarter interception Ravens safety Chuck Clark returned for a touchdown, another interception by Clark in the second quarter and a lost fumble in the third quarter that the Ravens converted into field goals.
“Little up and down, obviously,” said Stafford, who completed 26 of 35 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns.
Stafford wasn’t the only Rams player experiencing early problems.
During the first series, star cornerback Jalen Ramsey struck teammate Taylor Rapp in the face while they were in the huddle.
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McVay chalked it up to a brotherly scuffle. Safety Jordan Fuller did the same.
“Just two competitors who had a bit of disagreement,” said Fuller, who helped keep the Rams in the game with a second-quarter interception. “But we’re all good now.”
That’s how the Rams felt after Stafford came through.
The Rams trailed 19-14 late in the fourth quarter after Justin Tucker kicked his fourth field goal for the Ravens.
With 4 minutes 30 seconds left, Stafford trotted onto the field to begin a series at the 25-yard line. Stafford had been in the situation dozens of times during his career, including 12 seasons with the Detroit Lions.
This season, he led a fourth-quarter drive to defeat the Indianapolis Colts.
So he welcomed another opportunity.
“Feel real confident not only in myself but in the players around me,” he said. “I knew it was going to be kind of a pass-heavy situation, but I love that.”
Stafford connected with tight end Tyler Higbee, and then completed two passes in a row to Cooper Kupp. A pass to rookie Ben Skowronek moved the Rams inside the Ravens’ 20-yard line.
“He was in complete control,” Beckham said. “It felt like that in the huddle. It felt like, ‘We’re going to do go down and score and win this game.’ Those were the words I felt like I heard him saying each and every time.”
Running back Sony Michel was dropped for loss on a third-and-one play at the eight, setting up a fourth down.
Stafford found Beckham, who made a tough catch away from his torso for a first down.
“I got it tatted in the offseason; it says, ‘Pressure — I live for it,’” Beckham said.
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On the next play, Stafford went back to Beckham for a touchdown, Beckham’s fifth in seven games.
“He made big throw after big throw in a clutch situation and that’s what the great players do,” McVay said.
Stafford cited his experience, of 12-plus years of games coming down to the fourth quarter.
“Here’s the ball — go ahead and see what you can do,” he said. “You know, it’s on your shoulders. ... I love that situation, to be honest with you.
“I like to take a knee in the fourth quarter a whole lot more. There is no question about that. But second to that, is that situation. I love being able to do that on the road, even better.”
Go beyond the scoreboard
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