Rams move on as defense stifles Russ, Seahawks

  • Covered Rams for two years for Los Angeles Times
  • Previously covered the Falcons
  • Has covered the NBA and college football and basketball

Less than two weeks after Jared Goff broke his thumb at Lumen Field, the Los Angeles Rams quarterback returned to Seattle, came off the bench and led the Rams to a gutsy 30-20 victory over the division-champion Seahawks in Saturday’s wild-card game.

The win avenges a Week 16 loss to the Seahawks that kept the Rams from playing for the NFC West title and advances Los Angeles to the next round of the playoffs.

The Rams will play next weekend at the top-seeded Green Bay Packers, if the New Orleans Saints beat the visiting Chicago Bears on Sunday. If the Bears prevail, the Rams will play the winner of Saturday’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Washington Football Team matchup.

The Rams’ triumph breaks the Seahawks’ string of 10 straight home playoff wins, which was the third-longest such streak in NFL postseason history. No fans were allowed in attendance at Saturday’s game because of the coronavirus pandemic.

With Goff continuing to recover from a Dec. 28 surgery on his throwing-hand thumb, John Wolford made his second career start on Saturday. However, it ended abruptly with 5:40 to play in the first quarter.

Wolford rushed for a 2-yard gain on a designed run, but he suffered a neck injury when he was tackled and was transported to a local hospital for precautionary measures. Wolford was later released and celebrated with the team in the locker room after the game, according to Rams coach Sean McVay.

With a small bandage on his surgically repaired thumb, Goff entered the game and completed 9 of 19 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown as the Rams broke a two-game streak without an offensive score.

Running back Cam Akers rushed for 131 yards — the most by a Rams rookie in playoff history — and a touchdown on 28 carries and also caught 2 passes for 45 yards.

Under first-year coordinator Brandon Staley, the Rams’ top-ranked defense again stifled Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and frustrated leading wide receiver DK Metcalf.

Rams cornerback Darious Williams read a screenplay by Wilson, intercepted his pass and returned it 42 yards for a touchdown to give the Rams a 13-3 lead in the second quarter. Leaguewide, there were 784 screen passes targeting wide receivers this regular season and zero interceptions, according to ESPN Stats and Information research.

Williams’ pick was his third against Wilson and his fifth this season.

In the second half, the Rams were able to limit Wilson to one touchdown pass despite two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald leaving the game early in the third quarter because of a rib injury. Donald returned to the sideline but did not reenter the game.

Wilson was sacked five times and finished 11-of-27 passing for 174 yards and two touchdowns, both to Metcalf.

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