What seemed like a certain St. Louis Rams defeat Sunday turned into a shocking overtime victory over the defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks.
The Rams got a 37-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein in overtime, then stopped Marshawn Lynch for a loss in the backfield on a fourth-and-short play at the Rams’ 42 to clinch a thrilling 34-31 victory.
A crowd obviously a few thousand shy of the announced total of 51,792 tickets distributed for the 66,000-seat Edward Jones Dome roared its approval as Rams players celebrated on the field.
“To me, all the talks in the future about what’s going on with the team doesn’t even matter,” Rams guard Rodger Saffold said, referring to the distinct possibility the team could move to Los Angeles after this season. “Right now we’re here and we’re going to play to the best of our ability. The fact that we still had fans coming out to see us and were really loud ... I challenge all of our fans to fill this dome up when we come back here against Pittsburgh.”
On the game’s final play, the Seahawks were facing fourth down and less than a yard to go at the Rams’ 42. With Marshawn Lynch in the backfield, the Rams did not expect a repeat of the final play of the Super Bowl when the Seahawks, facing a similar situation near the goal line, threw an interception against New England that cost them a victory.
Rams defensive tackles Michael Brockers and Aaron Donald were all over Lynch, hauling him down in the backfield.
“We were thinking run,” said Donald, who had two of the Rams’ six sacks and was credited with nine tackles. “It’s short yardage and we know they’ve got Lynch back there and we knew they were going to give it to him. We were just attacking, doing what we do and getting off the ball. ‘Brock’ got him and slowed him down and I just jumped on him.
The Rams had a 24-13 lead in the third quarter, then were trailing 31-24 with under a minute remaining in regulation.
Enter quarterback Nick Foles, who was making his Rams regular-seaso debut. Foles made that debut a success as he hooked up with tight end Lance Kendricks on a 37-yard touchdown pass with 53 seconds remaining that helped get the game tied and into overtime.
Kendricks beat Seahawks safety Dion Bailey on the play, making a move that left him all alone down the left side.
“I’m very fortunate to have some tremendous tight ends,” said Foles, who also completed six passes to tight end Jared Cook for 85 yards. “They make a lot of plays. So to me, I had a matchup. It’s a matchup I took and Lance gave him a little move and ran right by him.”
Foles was 18-of-27 for 297 yards and one TD while Seahawks quarterback Russell WIlson was 32-of-41 for 251 yards and one TD with one interception.
This was a second-half nightmare seen too many times by Rams fans in recent seasons. But this time the nightmare had a happy ending instead of the “same old Rams” routine.
“We didn’t play particularly well. We did the things that cost you games: the penalties, the turnovers, those kinds of things,” said Rams coach Jeff Fisher, now 3-1 against Seattle in St. Louis. “But we overcame them, which is pretty good considering we’re the youngest team in the league again. This win should take us a ways, particularly if we learn from our mistakes - and there were some.”
Seattle coach Pete Carroll had his team try what looked to be onside kick to begin overtime, catching many off guard except for the Rams rookie receiver Bradley Marquez. He recovered the onside kick and after the officials’ first announced a presumed penalty against the Rams for an illegal fair catch, they reversed the call and the Rams took over.
Carroll said the play was supposed to be a “pooch” kick much further down the field.
“That is not what was supposed to happen,” Carroll said. “We were kicking the ball to a certain area of the field and we didn’t hit it right.”
A 22-yard pass from Foles to Stedman Bailey helped set up what became the game-winning 37-yard field goal by Zuerlein.
The Seahawks came flying back into the game quickly after being down 24-13 late in the third quarter. They grabbed a 31-24 lead blitzing cornerback Cary Williams forced a fumble with a hard hit on Foles before picking up the loose ball for an 8-yard touchdown run with 4:39 remaining.
Tavon Austin scored the Rams’ first touchdown of the season on a 16-yard run five seconds into the second quarter, helping them tie it 7-7, later adding a scintillating 74-yard punt return for another TD.
The Rams lost starting cornerback Trumaine Johnson to a concussion not long after he made a diving interception early in the second quarter. Johnson jumped the route of tight end Cooper Helfet and came up with the ball, helping set up a 33-yard field goal by Zuerlein that have the Rams a 10-7 lead.
After a pair of field goals by Seattle’s Steven Hauschka, Foles put the Rams on top when he faked a handoff and rolled right before making his way into the end zone from 1-yard out. Zuerlein’s extra-point put the Rams on top 17-13.
The Rams’ 24-13 lead didn’t last long as the Seahawks struck back quickly on a 7-yard pass from Wilson to tight end Jimmy Graham. Lynch ran for the 2-point conversion to cut the Rams’ lead to 24-21.
The Rams were driving toward another score when running back Isaiah Pead fumbled the and Seahawks’ Bruce Irvin recovered at the Seattle 25.
The Rams’ defense held and forced Hauschka into another field goal that tied it 24-24, but the Seahawks came up with a big defensive play to turn things around on the blitz by Williams.
Donald and Quinn each had two sacks for a Rams defense that brought down Wilson six times, each time bringing the crowd noise level even higher.