Rams falter against Bills, hope to defeat Giants
October 1, 2020
Sometimes the football gods taketh way. The Los Angeles Rams were on the verge of their greatest comeback in team history... only to be denied by a late flag flying from the corner of the end zone. Four seconds later, a 3-yard touchdown pass allowed the undefeated 3-0 Buffalo Bills to eke out a 35-32 victory on the last drive of the game, giving the 2-1 Rams their first painful loss of the season.
"There's calls that went our way that game and there's calls that went their way that game. Unfortunately, that one was at the end of the game like that, but it's part of the game," said quarterback Jared Goff, who engineered four touchdown drives to rally the Rams in the second half after trailing by 25 points midway through the third quarter. The team took a 32-28 lead late in the game but a valiant defensive effort failed to stop quarterback Josh Allen's game-winning drive.
After two consecutive East Coast road games, the Rams will host the winless New York Giants this Sunday, October 4, 1:05 p.m. at SoFi Stadium. The Giants, led by quarterback Daniel Jones, were fairly competitive in their first two games of the season, losing 26-16 to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the home opener and 17-13 at the Chicago Bears in Week 2. However, last Sunday, they were thrashed at home by the San Franciscon 49ers 36-13.
"Josh is a unique player," responded Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley when asked to compare the Bills quarterback to Jones of the Giants. "This will be the fourth quarterback in a row, like you mentioned that has legs. Daniel is an outstanding mover in the pocket. He's got real speed, he's a 4.5 (40-yard dash) guy and he's big. He's got good size. Josh has certainly earned his way in this league, as you guys saw."
Jones has completed 68 of 113 passes for 699 yards and two touchdowns this season. He's been under constant pressure with nine sacks and has thrown four interceptions. In his rookie year last season, Jones was sacked 38 times but threw 24 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions. In the loss to the 49ers, the Giants staff tried to minimize the pocket pressure by throwing quick and short. He was only sacked twice but threw for just 179 yards on 32 attempts.
But without the services of Sequon Barkley, Jones and the Giants offense will be under constant pressure at SoFi on Sunday. Barkey suffered a torn ACL and a partially torn MCL in the loss against the Bears and is out for the season. The 2018 NFL Offensive Rookie of the year rushed for over 1,000 in each of his first two seasons. With Jones at quarterback last season, his season touchdown total fell to eight compared to 15 as a rookie.
The Rams defense came to life against the Bills to help spark the second half comeback. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald registered two of the four sacks on Josh Allen. Yet, on the final drive with intense pressure from the Rams defense, Allen managed to move the Bills 75 yards in 11 plays. Down by 25 points midway through the third quarter, the team responded with a Goff 1-yard touchdown and a 25-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Robert Woods.
First, he completed a 22-yard pass on 3rd-and-22 from the Bills 31-yard line. With 31 seconds remaining he hit wide receiver Stefon Diggs with a 17 yard pass to the Rams 8-yard line. On the very next play Rams cornerback Darious Williams was called for pass interference on wide receiver Gabriel Davis. Allen threw a 3-yard pass to tight end Tyler Kroft to end the Rams comeback dreams.
"It felt like we certainly were operating how we wanted to, packing them up in those third-downs," said Staley about the Rams last defensive effort. "It happened twice where we got outstanding pressure. Really, the whole drive we had outstanding pressure. Throughout the game we had outstanding pressure on the quarterback."
The Rams were down 28-3 at halftime with rookie kicker Sam Sloman's 30-yard field goal the only score. Sloman put a damper on things earlier by missing a 53-yard field goal on the team's opening drive. It easily could have been a shorter field goal attempt except that Goff got sacked two plays in a row. After having the luxury of kicker Greg Zuerlein for the past eight seasons, the Rams are readjusting their special teams strategy.
"That was a terrible decision by me. I can't do that to Sam," said head coach Sean McVay. "We can't take a sack on third down either. We moved back eight yards. That's a play that we can't have, and we'll be better moving forward for that." But it was the inability of Rams offense and defense that put them in the hole in the first half.
McVay also mentioned Sloman's contribution in the comeback: "It truly was reflective of a team effort where you get two turnovers defensively, offense is able to capitalize, Sam was hitting his kicks deep where it was preventing an opportunity for a really good return on Andre Roberts to get his chances. Made a couple extra points and you convert on a two-point conversion."
Offensively, Darrell Henderson became the first Ram to rush for over 100 yards this season with 114 on 20 carries and one touchdown. Cooper Kupp led in receiving with 107 yards on nine receptions and one touchdown. Woods caught five passes for 74 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 30 yards on three reverses. Goff completed 23 of 32 passes for 321 yards, two touchdown passes and one rushing touchdown.
Despite the tough loss to the Bills, McVay is looking ahead to this weekend's clash with the Giants: "Whether we end up winning that game or not, you have to be able to get up and move forward accordingly. And that's the beauty of the NFL. Whether you have a good performance or a bad one, you get an opportunity to compete next week. You can't dwell on the good ones or the bad ones too long."