INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — After a week of COVID-19 chaos, the Los Angeles Rams went into their rescheduled showdown against Seattle with no full practices and major questions about who would be in uniform until a few hours before kickoff.
The Rams still came out of a tremendously uncertain week with another win because Cooper Kupp and Matthew Stafford have a rock-solid connection.
Kupp caught two touchdown passes from Stafford in the second half, and the Rams held off the Seahawks 20-10 Tuesday night in a game between two COVID-depleted teams.
Kupp broke Isaac Bruce’s single-season Rams receptions record in the third quarter with a 6-yard TD catch that was also the 120th of his spectacular year. The NFL’s receiving leader then scored a tiebreaking 29-yard touchdown with 10:48 to play on a picture-perfect throw over the middle from Stafford to cap an 88-yard drive.
Stafford passed for 244 yards and Sony Michel rushed for 92 for the Rams (10-4) in a game postponed from Sunday, while Kupp had nine catches for 136 yards in Los Angeles’ third straight victory following a winless November. The Rams hadn’t had a normal day since they beat NFC West-leading Arizona last Monday, but their postgame celebration felt joyously familiar.
“Coming off a very big game against the Cardinals and then having all the stuff go on … it’s just being able to navigate the changes in your routine and still put together a game plan and execute when you don’t even know who’s going to play,” said Kupp, a Washington native. “I just thought we did a good job handling that and walking out with a ‘W.’”
With its third victory over Seattle in 2021, Los Angeles pulled even with Arizona atop the NFC West with three games to play, although the Cards hold the tiebreaker on division record.
The Rams were without starting right tackle Rob Havenstein, leading tackler Jordan Fuller, tight end Tyler Higbee and a host of backups after 10 days of roster turmoil, while the Seahawks were without leading receiver Tyler Lockett, starting cornerback D.J. Reed and leading rusher Alex Collins.
“Up until this morning, you really don’t know if you’re getting some key players (back),” said Sean McVay, who became the third coach in Rams history to post four 10-win seasons. “(Recently) I didn’t even know if we had enough guys to be able to field a team.”
DeeJay Dallas rushed for a touchdown for the Seahawks (5-9), whose streak of nine consecutive winning seasons under coach Pete Carroll ended. Seattle is still mathematically alive for its ninth playoff appearance in those 10 seasons, but will regret losing an eminently winnable game at SoFi Stadium.
“There’s so many moments in that game I felt like we could have capitalized,” said Russell Wilson, who passed for 156 yards. “I think that we’ve always created such a high standard of playing and found ways to win these close games, and this year, unfortunately, we weren’t able to do it.”
Carlos Dunlap had three of the Seahawks’ four sacks, but they couldn’t get enough late stops or big plays from Wilson, who went 17 of 31 and underthrew DK Metcalf on a key play in the fourth quarter, allowing Jalen Ramsey to break it up.
“There were some opportunities in there that we needed to go the other way, and they didn’t for one reason or another,” Carroll said. “We felt like we kind of kept them under wraps (defensively), but we needed to score again and get ahead.”
After Kupp’s second TD, Los Angeles stopped Seattle on downs at midfield with 3:21 left when Greg Gaines forced Wilson to throw quickly and officials didn’t call possible pass interference committed against Dallas. Matt Gay made his second field goal for Los Angeles with 1:51 left, and Taylor Rapp sealed it with an end zone interception in the final seconds.
“It happened quickly, and it didn’t look very good on the little replay that somebody showed me, but I don’t know,” Carroll said when asked about the no-call. “I’m not bellyaching about that call. We needed to win the game in all the other ways we could win the game.”
KUPP AND STAFFORD
The Rams hung on in a frustrating game with big performances from their remarkable quarterback-receiver combo. Kupp had his 10th consecutive game with at least 90 yards receiving, a first in the NFL in the past 70 years.
“He’s a great player, (and) he’s having a fantastic season,” Stafford said. “He’s such a huge part of what we do as a team, not only on offense. I’m just happy that I get a chance to play with a guy like that. I know a lot of other guys on our team feel the same way. We’re just proud of him, watching him do his thing.”
Earlier, Stafford became the fastest quarterback in NFL history to rack up 50,000 yards passing when playoff totals are included. His second TD throw to Kupp was a thing of beauty that Kupp broke down thusly: “Matthew is a really good football player, and that’s my analysis for that touchdown.”