See You Next Year
Rams Beat Cardinals But Fall Short of Playoffs
January 2, 2020
The Rams wrapped up their final game ever at historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in a very satisfying way. The 31-24 victory over the Arizona Cardinals was a tribute to the 37 seasons the team played at the iconic stadium but also to the 68,665 faithful who showed up for the curtain closer. The Rams next chapter begins next season in Inglewood when they christen the state-of-the-art SoFi Stadium in Inglewood.
"To be able to finish up and have our last game in the Coliseum with a win in front of our fans who are great is a real positive," said Rams head coach Sean McVay. "There was a lot of bright spots from some of our core leaders and then some younger guys really stepping up and making an impact. Ultimately, it was about finding a way to finish out with a win and the guys did that today."
The Rams finished the 2019 season with a disappointing 9-7 record as they failed to live up to their own expectations after having made it to Super Bowl LIII last February. Yet, it was the third consecutive winning season under McVay in his three years as the team's head coach. It also marked the first time since the 2004, when the team was located in St. Louis, that the Rams had three straight winning seasons.
There were excellent performances offensively and defensively for the Rams but the Cardinals still had one last chance to tie the game in the last minute. It never materialized as the crowd gave the Rams players and coaching staff a farewell ovation and a final salute to the decades of championship entertainment at the Coliseum... and really, more importantly, for bringing the Rams back to Los Angeles with a bright future ahead.
"We want to win the division, we want to make the playoffs and we did neither of those this year," said Rams quarterback Jared Goff. "It still hurts that it's over at this point, but finishing the way we did in the Coliseum, there are some good things to take away."
"I'm really excited for SoFi, ... but I will miss the Coliseum and will miss the history of it, the lighting of the torch, the fireworks, the whole thing. The fans, the fanbase we've built here, how much louder it was this year compared to my first year and just seeing it grow is really cool. That's the biggest part I'll miss."
Rams wide receiver Robert Woods, who also excelled in the Coliseum while playing for USC: "Just a dream. Playing in here, just seeing the stadium lit up. Just remember the big games, big moments. Then to come here as an NFL player, being able to play in the same stadium, make plays in it. It's really just like playing in your backyard because you've been here so many years."
Linebacker Clay Matthews, who joined the Rams this season and also played in the Coliseum while starring at USC: "Just so historic... this is kind of where I started my career and to finish it here too is a fun story that the kids will ask about when I'm older. Looking forward to next year in the new stadium and hopefully a new record."
The Rams took an early 3-0 lead on kicker Greg Zuerlein's 47-yard field goal. The Cardinals responded with a 23-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kyler Murray to wide receiver Dan Arnold late in the first quarter. Running back Malcolm Brown's 3-yard touchdown run and a 6-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Cooper Kupp gave the Rams a 17-7 lead.
It was the 10th touchdown pass of the season from Goff to Kupp. It was also Goff's fourth clean game of the season without an interception or a fumble, all of them victories. Two of the clean games came against the Cardinals. Arizona kicker Zane Gonzalez cut the lead with a 31-yard field goal just before halftime.
Murray connected with wide receiver Damiere Byrd with a 3-yard touchdown pass to tie the game late in the third quarter. A 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tyler Higbee and an 11-yard touchdown pass to Woods increased the Rams' lead to 31-17 on two consecutive scoring drives in the fourth quarter. Cardinal running back Kenyon Drake ran for a one-yard touchdown with 3:53 left for the game's final score.
A key in the victory was the Rams defense keeping quarterback Kyler Murray and the Arizona offense inconsistent and off-balanced with frontline pressure that resulted in four turnovers. Cornerbacks Taylor Rapp and Darius Williams each had an interception while linebackers Cory Littleton and Samson Ebukam each recovered a fumble. Littleton also had the only quarterback sack of the game.
"That's big for us," said Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald. "Any time you get the ball back to the offense, get them opportunities to score points, it's big. I think a lot of guys on the back end made big plays for us. The quarterback, he made some good throws downfield. But I think overall, our guys did a great job."
The Rams started off the season with three wins before things started to unravel with three straight losses. A couple of "road" wins over the Atlanta Falcons and Cincinnati Bengals put the team back on a playoff before losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers dashed their NFL Playoff dreams. Just one more win would have completed the mission.
"I think it's really just getting a chance to step away, be able to really digest everything and look at yourself, number one. And figure out, all right, how can we develop consistent processes, standards, so hopefully we can play more consistent week in, and week out," commented McVay on what he takes away from this season.
"But we've got to find a way to commit to doing things consistently and obviously it always starts with me... Once you catch your breath, and then implement some of those things that will hopefully lead to us playing up to our potential week in and week out and that's your job as a coach."