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Critical Fourth-Quarter Turnover a Key Factor in Loss

Posted Dec 10, 2017

Former Rams DE Chris Long recorded a strip-sack of QB Jared Goff, which another former Ram, S Rodney McLeod, recovered to put Philadelphia in position for a go-ahead field goal.

Running back Todd Gurley seemed like he was half-kidding when he referred to Sunday’s game against the Eagles as “a Rams family reunion” of sorts.

But on a critical play at a critical time in the fourth quarter, it was two former Rams doing the damage. Defensive end Chris Long sacked quarterback Jared Goff on 1st-and-10 from the Los Angeles 35, and safety Rodney McLeod fielded the loose ball, returning it nine yards to the L.A.  25.

It was a game-changing play that led to an Eagles go-ahead field goal in the visitors’ 43-35 victory over the Rams.

“Against a great team like that there is things that you can’t do,” head coach Sean McVay said postgame. “We cannot afford to beat ourselves. We’ve got to make sure that we always do a great job taking care of the football.”

But the often self-critical McVay was true to form in his postgame press conference, saying he should’ve made a better play selection. He mentioned that right tackle Rob Havenstein had just gone out with an injury, leaving reserve lineman Darrell Williams in Havenstein’s stead.

“I think when you look at that play right there, it was a great rush by Chris Long — certainly not a great play selection by me,” McVay said. “I’ve got to do a better job of putting our offense in better situations, be smart, have a little bit of situational awareness there and that was a mistake on my part.”

McVay later added that the Rams do always want to be aggressive from an offensive standpoint, but there are caveats to that depending on the situation. The head coach cited Havenstein just going out and L.A. being ahead by a point as two factors that should be factors when it comes to playcalling.

“I don’t regret ever being aggressive, but being more situationally aware and how I can put our team in a better spot, I would say, is probably the more appropriate term and that’s something that I’ll learn from,” McVay said.

Goff, however, disagreed with his head coach blaming himself for the fumble.

“He told me the same thing. He shouldn’t do that,” Goff said. “He’s been doing a great job all year calling plays. Once the play comes in, it’s my job to execute it and unfortunately we didn’t.”

So from Goff’s vantage point, what happened on that play?

“I probably just held on to it a little bit too long,” the quarterback said. “Stepped in the pocket there and Chris Long came around and made a great play. Probably get rid of it a little bit earlier there. And [that’s] one thing that you can learn from for sure.”

“Anytime that plays like that are made, it’s also a credit to the defense being able to create that,”  McVay said. “And there’s a situation where Chris Long — you guys are familiar with him — ended up making a big rush and provided them with a huge play that ended up being the game-winning-type play.”

And in what was a tight game for nearly the entire contest, those kinds of plays end up being the difference.

“I think if we played them 10 times, it would be close every game,” Goff said. “It comes down to, at the end of the game, who makes the play and who doesn’t and who takes care of the ball and doesn’t have dumb penalties and stuff like that. That ends up being the difference in the game, and we did that and they didn’t.

“So, hats off to them. They’re a great team, really good team; complete team. That was a really good atmosphere out there today. It felt like a playoff game and one that we would’ve liked to win.”