INGLEWOOD – The Rams depended on their defense to win games over and over again this season. The nagging question was whether they could live like this until the playoffs.
The blunt answer came on Sunday with a 23-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers at SoFi Stadium, knocking them out of first place in the NFC West and ruining the momentum they gained by beating contenders over the past two weeks .
The defense had led a 17-point Rams comeback that put them three points ahead early in the fourth quarter.
But it couldn’t prevent the 49ers’ two field goals from Robbie Gould in the last 3:11, a 44-year-old draw and a 42-year-old on the last game to win it.
In fact, it was the defense that scored one of the Rams’ two touchdowns for quarterback Jared Goff on a terrible day and the offense, which had two interceptions and two fumbles.
The Rams dropped to 7-4 and dropped to second place in the division behind 7-3 Seattle, pending the outcome of the Seahawks game in Philadelphia on Monday night. The 49ers are 5-6 but have won four consecutive meetings with the Rams.
“You’re not going to win many games if you take care of football like that,” said Rams coach Sean McVay. “Give them credit, but in many cases we haven’t done enough to win the football game, I don’t care who you play against.”
The Rams were 17-3 behind in the third quarter.
Goff’s second interception and third turn-over in just over half were 27 yards back before a touchdown by Javon Kinlaw early in the third quarter.
Gould’s 46-yard field goal had then brought the 49ers’ lead to 14, before Rams kicker Matt Gay hit a 41-yarder.
The Rams were happy with the reliable new kicker. But they didn’t want him to be the whole offense.
At that point, the defense woke up the whole team.
Aaron Donald knocked the ball free from Raheem Mostert and Troy Hill ran the fumble in from 20 yards.
In the next series, Donald Nick Mullens fired first, and Troy Reeder retired twice for short wins.
After the kick, Cam Akers broke a 61-meter run to the San Francisco 7, the Rams’ longest win from scrimmage this season. Akers then entered the end zone 6 yards and 1 yard. The Rams had gone down from 14 points to three points in 5:13.
They had been behind since giving up a 3-0 lead early.
The Rams intended not to repeat the slow start, blundering to a 24-16 loss during the teams’ first meeting in Santa Clara last month. The Rams came out and promptly handed the ball over to the 49ers on their first and third drives.
The 49ers immediately returned the ball both times, matching the Rams’ fumble and interception.
In between, the Rams took a 3-0 lead in the middle of the first quarter on a 48-yard field goal from Gay, after Goff and Robert Woods briefly resumed last week’s big-play connection with a 30-yard gain that put the ball in 49ers . territory for the first time.
But San Francisco immediately came back to lead 7-3 when Mostert beat Troy Hill to the left from 8 yards after Mullens hit Deebo Samuel for two more of the long wins that plagued the Rams against the 49ers.
The first half of the rams ended in a fumble, field goal, interception, kick, kick, kick and fumble.
Cooper Kupp, who was thrown less frequently than usual on Sunday and had only two receptions for 41 yards, said the Rams’ early sloppiness didn’t mean they had failed in their stated goal of starting with more energy.
“The (bad) results don’t always mean that the energy isn’t there,” said Kupp, who two weeks ago had had five catches for 50 yards in the Rams’ 23-16 win over Seattle and 11 for 145 yards in The 27. -24 win last Monday in Tampa Bay.
The Rams’ third turnover, a Goff fumble at the end of a Niners ’39 scramble, with the most of a minute to work with, turned into another gift that was politely declined by the guests. Gould’s shot for a field goal of 50 meters fluttered short and wide to the right.
When the second half started, it formed like a game the Rams had withdrawn for this season, with a great second half through the defense saving the day.
“We expect that,” said Donald. “We just keep trying to play, trying to find ways to get things going, trying to find ways to win.”
But the transgression should do something, and it got worse instead.
Goff finished with a score of 52.9, his lowest since the December 2018 loss against Chicago, with 19 completes in 31 tries for 198 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. He was fired twice.
“Our defense played great all night, they kept us in,” said Goff. “We didn’t do much offensive, especially in the beginning.
‘It starts with me. Just taking care of the ball, eliminating sales, and that usually leads to good luck, especially for us.
“We have another game next week (in Arizona). Just go after it from tomorrow. I’ve had to bounce back from several things before, and this is just one of those hurdles. ”