Matthew Stafford and Rams can’t rekindle any late-game magic in loss to Eagles
But the Rams are still a 2-3 team missing opportunities that might make them legitimate postseason contenders.
The Philadelphia Eagles are nearly unstoppable in short-yardage situations because of the “Brotherly Shove,” but the play’s days could be numbered.
Despite the return of star receiver Cooper Kupp, the Rams failed to make the plays needed to take down an unbeaten team.
“We had some chances,” coach Sean McVay said. “And I’m just excited about figuring out how the hell we get some of this stuff fixed.”
Then McVay pounded the lectern with his fist.
“Because I know we can get this stuff done,” he said.
A week after winning in Indianapolis with a touchdown drive in overtime, the Rams and quarterback Matthew Stafford could not work similar late-game magic.
With the Rams trailing by nine points with just more than four minutes left, the Eagles unloaded on Stafford and extinguished any hope of a comeback.
“There were opportunities for both sides of the ball to just grab the momentum and kind of run with it,” said Stafford, who completed 21 of 37 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns, “and we weren’t able to do it.”
Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon intercepted a pass, but the Rams could not turn it into points.
“We’re just too talented of a group to keep losing these type of games, coming up close against good opponents,” Witherspoon said. “It’s time to start cashing in on Ws, and I think we have the group that can do it.”
With a thunderous ovation accompanying every stride, Kupp sprinted onto the field as the last Rams player announced during pregame introductions.
The 2021 NFL offensive player of the year was playing for the first time this season after recovering from a hamstring injury that landed him on injured reserve.
Kupp’s presence buoyed the Rams, but it was not enough to carry them to victory over an unbeaten Eagles team on a mission to return to the Super Bowl.
Kupp caught eight passes for 118 yards, but he and Stafford missed connecting on several plays.
1. Philadelphia Eagles safety Justin Evans brings down Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp in the first quarter Sunday at SoFi Stadium. 2. Cooper Kupp runs with the ball past Philadelphia Eagles defenders in the second half. 3. Cooper Kupp is tackled by Philadelphia cornerback Darius Slay in the first half. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
“There were a few things I’m sure I’m going to look at [Monday] and just feel like, ‘Man, it’s just got to happen a little bit faster,’” Kupp said. “But man, it felt good to be out there playing football again.”
Stafford and the Rams felt good about their chances for most of the first half, but Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts and the Eagles’ defense were too much.
Hurts, who led his team to the Super Bowl last season, signed a five-year extension before this season that reportedly includes nearly $180 million in guarantees.
And for most of Sunday’s game, he looked as if he was worth every penny.
Hurts completed 25 of 38 passes for 303 yards and two touchdowns, with an interception. He rushed for 72 yards and a touchdown in 15 carries.
“We got him in a lot of third-and-long situations — exactly where we wanted to be,” Rams defensive tackle Kobie Turner said, “and he’s able to extend plays and make plays that keep the chains moving.”
Hurts looked often to receiver A.J. Brown, who caught six passes for 127 yards, and tight end Dallas Goedert, who had eight catches for 117 yards and a touchdown.
The Eagles converted 13 of 18 third downs, were successful four of six times they ran their trademark “Brotherly Shove” short-yardage play, and shut out the Rams in the second half.
The defeat sapped the momentum of the Rams in the first of what will be three consecutive home games. Next week they play the Arizona Cardinals and then the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Rams went into the game having finished the first quarter of the season as a .500 team. But the Eagles, like the unbeaten 49ers, are an NFC favorite for a reason.
A team built on outstanding offensive and defensive lines proved too much for the young Rams.
Stafford was sacked four times.
Rookie Puka Nacua had seven receptions for 71 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown. Tutu Atwell also had a touchdown catch.
1. Rams wide receiver Puka Nacua hauls in a second quarter touchdown pass over Eagles cornerback James Bradberry on Sunday. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Both Stafford touchdown passes came in the first half, but the Rams trailed 17-14 at the break after Hurts engineered a touchdown drive with 32 seconds left.
The Rams were in danger of falling even further behind when Hurts moved the Eagles from their six-yard line to the Rams’ 20 on the ensuing possession.
But Witherspoon intercepted a pass in the end zone. It was the third time in three games that Witherspoon came up with a big play. He intercepted a pass against the Bengals and recovered a fumble against the Colts.
Stafford wasted no time capitalizing. He completed a 15-yard pass to Nacua, and a horse-collar penalty added 15 more yards. But the drive stalled, and the Rams were forced to punt.
“We just kind of stalled out there and didn’t execute as well as we should,” Kupp said, adding: “It felt like it was right there for us.”
Seth Makowsky has worked with athletes such as the Eagles’ Jalen Hurts on concentration skills, using the game of chess as an avenue for decision making.
Hurts’ 17-yard scramble on a third-and-one play set up his 24-yard pass to A.J. Brown. The Eagles moved to the eight-yard line, but Rams reserve cornerback Duke Shelley broke up a pass in the end zone, forcing the Eagles to settle for a field goal and a 20-14 lead with 12:29 left.
Stafford missed Tutu Atwell on a crossing route and Kupp on the next play and the Rams were forced to punt.
Hurts’ 36-yard strike to Brown and D’Andre Swift’s 17-yard run set up another field goal that put the Eagles ahead, 23-14.
Stafford had an opportunity to engineer a comeback, but the Eagles were not having it. Linebacker Haason Reddick sacked Stafford violently on third and fourth down. Philadelphia ran the clock down to 1:01 before the Rams took over on downs at their eight-yard line.
But this time, there was no coming back.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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