Desperate times, these are, for the Los Angeles Rams.
Coming off their worst loss of Sean McVay’s three seasons in L.A. — a 45-6 thumping by the Baltimore Ravens — the Rams (7-5) responded Sunday with a complete performance in a 34-7 victory at Arizona, a win they had to have to keep alive their slim playoff chances.
“Being able to show that we can respond and show that we do have the resiliency among us, it’s great,” Rams quarterback Jared Goff said, via ESPN. “We’ve had some rocky times in the past few weeks.”
The reigning NFC champions probably need to win at least three of their final four games to earn a wild-card bid — with games against the Seahawks, at Dallas, at San Francisco and against Arizona. ESPN’s Football Power Index ranks the Rams’ remaining schedule as the third-most difficult in the NFL.
The Rams enter this weekend one game back of Minnesota (8-4) for the NFC’s sixth and final playoff spot.
The Seahawks, meanwhile, can clinch a playoff berth with a victory in L.A. on Sunday night.
Five things to know about this Sunday-night matchup:
1. Week 5 rewind
In what veteran linebacker K.J. Wright described as “one of the greatest games I’ve ever been a part of,” the Seahawks held on to beat the Rams, 30-29, in their first meeting of the season on Oct. 3.
It was as dramatic and as emotional as any Thursday-night game imaginable — a game the Seahawks secured only after Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein missed a 44-yard field goal in the closing seconds.
Russell Wilson capped perhaps the best game of his career with a short touchdown throw to Chris Carson, who made a juggling catch in the end zone to give the Seahawks the lead with 2:28 left.
“There a lot of things to look forward to,” McVay said after the game. “Is it disappointing? Absolutely. But it’s not something that’s going to be debilitating and going to prohibit our ability to move forward as a team.”
2. Goff is coming off his best game of the season
Goff threw for 424 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions against Arizona on Sunday, and he also threw a key block to spring Robert Woods’ 48-yard catch-and-run in the third quarter.
Woods had a career-high 172 yards receiving, and the Rams finished with 275 receiving yards after the catch — the most by any team in the past four seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information data.
This is where we have to note that Arizona has the worst defense in the NFL — and the worst pass defense, by a wide margin.
Still, Goff and the Rams had to have that kind of bounce-back performance heading into the final month of the season.
“To respond and play the way he did, play free, it just shows you the confidence he has in the system and the confidence he has in the guys around him,” wide receiver Cooper Kupp told reporters. “It was incredible to see him play the way he did.”
3. It was a bounce-back day for Todd Gurley too
The Rams running back has not had a 100-yard rushing game this season, but he did have 95 yards on 19 carries and a 20-yard reception against Arizona.
The Rams are 3-0 this season in games in which Gurley has had 18 carries or more. He had 25 carries for 97 yards in a win over Chicago last month and 18 carries for 41 yards against Atlanta on Oct. 20.
4. Pressure’s on
The Rams know they must do a better job defending and containing Wilson than they did on Oct. 3. That night, Wilson threw four touchdown passes and ran for 30 yards at CenturyLink Field.
“He’s in his own league,” Rams edge rusher Dante Fowler told The Los Angeles Times this week. “He’s probably like the most elusive one out of all of them.”
The Rams sacked Wilson only one time in that first meeting.
“I had him like four times and I didn’t get him down,” Fowler said. “So we got to do a better job of just getting him down when we can, and not let him extend those big plays, because when he gets out of the pocket he’s so dangerous.”
5. Taylor Rapp playing a key role for Rams defense
The rookie safety from Bellingham — the Rams’ second-round pick out of UW — had his first career interception Sunday off Arizona’s Kyler Murray, which Rapp returned 31 yards for a touchdown.
“First one being a pick-six is pretty special,” Rapp told The Los Angeles Times. “I’m going to remember it forever.”
Rapp had come down with an interception earlier in the game, but that play was nullified because of a penalty on another Rams player.