THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Quarterback Jared Goff and the struggling Los Angeles Rams offense found their way against the Arizona Cardinals.
The challenge now is to build on what they did when the Rams host one of the best teams in the NFC in the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night.
“The truest measure of performance is consistency,” coach Sean McVay said Monday night. “We haven’t been consistent enough, but what we can control is what we do this week.”
Everything worked in the 34-7 win over the Cardinals, led by Goff’s 424 yards passing and two touchdowns. They were Goff’s first scoring passes in North America since he had two at Atlanta on Oct. 20. Goff did not throw a touchdown in November, as his most recent tosses into the end zone had come in Week 8 when the Rams defeated Cincinnati in London.
He got back on track with a healthy dose of play-action and timing plays that allowed his receivers to gain yards after the catch.
“I think that is a very good reflection of the accuracy, the timing, the anticipation that you’re throwing the ball with,” McVay said. “I thought Jared did an especially good job of giving guys a chance to create afterwards, and then certainly, our guys, give them a lot of credit for being able to do some stuff on their own.”
With Goff leading the way, the Rams (7-5) scored at least 30 points for the fourth time this season. They reached that mark 12 times last season, and McVay understands that putting together that kind of output on a regular basis over the final four games is how Los Angeles can get back into playoff contention.
But even if the Rams win out to finish 11-5, that still might not be enough to make the postseason for the third straight season, something they have not done since 1999-2001 in the heyday of the Greatest Show on Turf.
“All we can control is trying to play really good football this last quarter of the season, and if that’s enough, then it’ll work itself out,” McVay said.
Excluding Baltimore’s 45-point outburst in Week 11, the Rams defense has been able to put the clamps on opponents lately. They held the Cardinals to 198 yards and 3.2 yards per play, recording six sacks among 11 total tackles for loss. Kyler Murray’s 15-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter was the fifth offensive touchdown allowed in their past five games that weren’t against the Ravens.
That success coincides with the arrival of cornerback Jalen Ramsey. The addition of Ramsey in a trade with Jacksonville on Oct. 15 might be what the Rams need to limit Seattle, as Russell Wilson threw for 268 yards and four touchdown passes in the Seahawks’ 30-29 win in Week 5.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
While the offense and defense were in a groove against Arizona, special teams was the one area where the Rams struggled as Greg Zuerlein missed a 41-yard field goal. Considering the recent history against Seattle, with the past three games decided by a total of eight points, the Rams cannot afford to give up ground anywhere.
Tight end Tyler Higbee had a career-high 107 yards and a touchdown on seven receptions, stepping up with starter Gerald Everett out because of a knee injury. Higbee came into the game with 26 catches for 212 yards and one touchdown this season. If Higbee can become a consistent option between the hashes, it provides another target that plays to Goff's strengths as a rhythm passer.
Not much went wrong for the Rams, but safety Taylor Rapp might have been left thinking his statement game should have been even more definitive. He finally got his first career interception in the third quarter, returning it 31 yards for a touchdown, but Rapp could have ended up with three picks if not for a drop and a pass interference penalty against Nickell Robey-Coleman awarded by replay that negated another.
Return specialist JoJo Natson sustained a hamstring injury that will keep him out 4-6 weeks, McVay said.
0 — Goff did not turn the ball over against the Cardinals. He threw five interceptions and lost a fumble in three games in November.
The Rams finally beat a division opponent this season, and it will have to be the start of a trend to keep their playoff hopes alive with games against NFC West foes Seattle, San Francisco and Arizona remaining, plus a trip to Dallas. Los Angeles is 1-2 in the division this season after going 10-2 in McVay's first two years.