The Los Angeles Rams lost their starting quarterback early in the first half, and their two-time reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year to start the second half.
Nonetheless, they found a way to win without them.
Playing with a broken thumb, just 12 days after he underwent surgery that placed two screws inside the bone, Jared Goff threw for 155 yards and a touchdown, and the Rams stunned the Seahawks, 30-20, in the NFC Wild Card game on Saturday.
In a season in which the Rams defense has often times carried the team, they were called upon again in the playoffs, as the unit known as the “Mob Squad” held Seattle’s offense to 2-for-13 on third down and forced two turnovers.
Darious Williams intercepted Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in the second quarter and returned it 42 yards to the house for the Rams first touchdown of the game. It was Williams third interception against Wilson this season.
The defensive touchdown was the second by the Rams in three weeks, and to put that in perspective, the Rams offense only had one touchdown over that same span, a combination of 33 drives.
The Rams ended the regular season with the NFL’s number one rated defense for the first time since 1978.
The third matchup between the two NFC West division foes was a defensive battle that saw both teams struggling to score points.
In a surprising move, with Goff activated and able to play, Rams’ head coach Sean McVay opted to start John Wolford in his first career playoff start, and just the second start of his career overall.
With the decision, Wolford became just the second quarterback in NFL history to start a playoff game with zero touchdowns in his career. Former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback was the first to do so in 1975.
However, Wolford’s start was shortened after he was hit in the head by the shoulder of Jamal Adams early in the first quarter. Wolford remained on the field in agonizing pain, and was later rushed to the hospital for precautionary reasons with a neck injury.
The injury thrust Goff into action, clearly limited because of his broken thumb.
Goff did not look great, but he did lead the Rams to their first offensive touchdown of the game in the second quarter, thanks to a five-yard scamper by rookie running back Cam Akers.
The touchdown was the first for the Rams in their last nine trips to the red zone, and helped set multiple records for the 21-year-old rookie out of Florida State.
Akers set a playoff record for the most touches in the first half of a game with 21, and became the first Rams rookie to rush for over 100 yards in a playoff game. He finished with 131 yards on the ground, and two catches for 45 yards. Akers176 scrimmage yards were the most by a rookie in a single playoff game in the Super Bowl era.
The Rams entered the locker room with a 20-10 lead, and improved to 37-0 under McVay when leading at halftime.
The Seahawks scored a field goal on their first possession of the second half, thanks to a 58-yard kickoff return by D.J. Reed Jr.
The Rams injury woes took a devastating turn on the Seahawks second possession of the second half. Two-time reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award winner, Aaron Donald threw Wilson to the ground on a third down incompletion, but grabbed his abs after the play. He would go back to the locker room with a rib injury and did not return.
Seattle scored their first touchdown of the game on a broken play by Wilson, who evaded defenders and found D.K. Metcalf down the field for a 51-yard touchdown pass.
The biggest play of the game perhaps came midway through the fourth quarter. Facing fourth and inches from their own 27-yard line, McVay opted to punt and put the ball back in Wilson’s hands.
However, on the return, Reed Jr. fumbled and it was recovered by the Rams, giving them the ball deep in Seahawks territory with a 10-point lead. Four plays later, Goff found a wide-open Robert Woods across the middle for a 15-yard score that put the nail in the Seahawks’ coffin.
Goff’s 155 yards passing were the post by any player off the bench in a playoff game since Jay Fielder replaced Dan marino and threw for 172 yards for the Dolphins in the AFC Divisional Round in 1999.
The Seahawks would strike back on their ensuing drive, when Wilson found Metcalf again on a slant for the 12-yard score. However, it was too little too late as the Rams defense sacked Wilson, forcing a turnover on downs on the Seahawks final possession.
Wilson completed only 44 percent of his passes and finished 8-of-18 for 130 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Wilson’s completion percentage was the lowest he’s had in a game since 2017 when he also completed 44 percent of his passes against the Rams.
The Rams will face the winner of the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears game on Sunday.
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