Bobby Wagner inspires Rams against old team Seattle but not enough as skid continues
In the days leading up to it, Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner said he would approach Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks like any other.
The six-time All-Pro linebacker’s unceremonious release from a team he spent a decade with did not spark extra motivation.
His maturity enabled him not to hold on to hard feelings.
Once the game started at SoFi Stadium, the noticeably emotional Wagner played like a future Hall of Famer. He intercepted a pass and sacked Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith twice.
But as has been the case so often in this lost season for the defending Super Bowl-champion Rams, it was part of a lost cause.
The bill has come due on the Rams’ Super Bowl win, and it has made for an ugly and challenging season. At least Cam Akers provided a bit a relief Sunday.
The Rams gave up a late touchdown pass in a 27-23 defeat that extended their losing streak to six games, dropped their record to 3-9 and moved them to the brink of official elimination from playoff consideration.
Wagner was stoic in his disappointment.
“I’m a master at controlling my emotions,” he said, adding, “I controlled them during the week and let them out during the game.”
Coaches and teammates were also visibly distraught that they could not help Wagner defeat the Seahawks, a team he helped lead to a Super Bowl title and consecutive Super Bowl appearances.
“There was nothing that we wanted more as a team, as a coaching staff, and really everybody in that locker room, to be able to try to get that done and try and get him that game ball that he deserved,” coach Sean McVay said. “But we came up short.”
The Rams remained short-handed of star players.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford and receiver Cooper Kupp, both on injured reserve, stood on the sideline in sweats and white Rams ball caps. Lineman Aaron Donald, out because of a high-ankle sprain, presumably watched from home.
Before kickoff, the animated avatars of Stafford, Kupp and Donald were featured on the stadium’s giant videoboard as part of an augmented reality experience.
The reality for the Rams is that none of those stars is likely to play another snap this season.
McVay said after the game that Stafford has a spinal cord contusion.
Is the 14th-year pro done for the season?
“There’s a good chance that that’s probably the case,” McVay said.
John Wolford started at quarterback against the Seahawks. He helped put the Rams in position to win by engineering a drive that ended with running back Cam Akers rushing for his second touchdown and a 23-20 lead.
Now it was on the Rams defense that played well the previous week in a defeat by the high-powered Kansas City Chiefs, and for much of Sunday in support of Wagner.
In April, after he signed with the Rams, Wagner spoke of looking forward to playing the Seahawks.
“I’ll make sure [the Seahawks] see me every time we play them,” he said, “so they’ll know where I’m at — and I’ll make sure I tell them.
“It won’t be a quiet game for me.”
During warmups, Seahawks coaches and players greeted Wagner.
“A lot of people came up and said, ‘Wassup,’ and I show love,” he said. “But, you know, I lock back in.”
Wagner sacked Smith during the first series. Unfortunately for the Rams, on the next play Smith sidestepped edge rusher Leonard Floyd and fired a touchdown pass to Tyler Lockett.
After sacking Smith in the second quarter, Wagner struck an emphatic pose, his arms clenched in front of him. The play forced the Seahawks to punt, and the Rams capitalized with a field goal to pull within 14-13.
Wagner animatedly jawed with receiver DK Metcalf and other Seahawks players in the third quarter.
“Your little brothers start talking trash to you,” he said, “so you start talking trash back.”
After his interception late in the third quarter — and throughout a review that upheld the play — Wagner gestured at the Seahawks’ sideline. His interception set up another field-goal drive that pulled the Rams to within 17-16 early in the fourth quarter.
Rams teammates felt Wagner’s intensity.
“You could see just the fire that he had in his eyes,” said linebacker Michael Hoecht, who sacked Smith and forced a fumble in the third quarter.
Said rookie cornerback Derion Kendrick: “He always has energy, but it was just turned up a notch.”
But the Rams could not finish — not with Smith operating in an offense designed by former Rams assistant Shane Waldron, a scheme that harked to the Rams of 2017 and 2018, when receivers were seemingly wide open on every play.
With less than three minutes left, Smith engineered a 10-play drive that included a 30-yard pass to Lockett and the dart for the decisive touchdown to Metcalf.
Rams center Matt Skura is honoring his father, who died by suicide, while his teammates will highlight other groups on “My Cause My Cleats” Sunday.
“It’s a game that you could have won — a game that you should have won,” Wagner said. “And you allowed a good team to make plays, and they did.”
Afterward, Seahawks players and coaches lined up on the field to embrace Wagner.
“During the game, we compete,” he said. “After the game, regardless of the outcome, they’re still my brothers over there.”
Wagner will get another shot at the Seahawks when the Rams travel to Seattle for the regular-season finale. He is expected to receive a warm welcome from fans at Lumen Field.
He only felt disappointment Sunday.
“It’s frustrating,” he said. “It’s unfortunate. You want to try and get the win.”
Go beyond the scoreboard
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