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Rams Score 21 in Third Quarter, Beat Texans 33-7

Posted Nov 12, 2017

While the Rams’ offense looked out of sync for much of the first half, Los Angeles outscored Houston 21-0 in the third quarter to take a commanding lead and beat the Texans 33-7.

Updated 11/12 at 6:55 p.m.

Though the Rams endured a slow first half on offense, the club used a 21-point surge in the third quarter to take command of the game and beat the Texans, 33-7.

The victory moves Los Angeles to 7-2, keeping the team one-game above Seattle in the NFC West.

The Rams ended the first half with only 131 total yards, but put up 312 in the second to pull away for their fourth victory in a row.

“[T]here was a lot of things when you look back at it that I didn’t do a very good job of putting our players in good spots. You look at that as your responsibility as a coach and especially as a play  caller,” head coach Sean McVay said of the first-half performance. “But, as a whole, they continued to just stay resilient, mentally tough. Defense played really well throughout the course of the game and that kept us in it when we weren’t playing very well offensively.

“Then you get a little bit of momentum, you’re able to string away some drives and come away [with points],” McVay continued. “And then you look at the field position that we got on a couple of the short fields where we were able to convert that into touchdowns, and that was huge.”

Up 9-7 in the third quarter via three Greg Zuerlein field goals but needing an offensive spark, the Rams found one in wide receiver Robert Woods. On 2nd-and-8 from Los Angeles’ six-yard line, quarterback Jared Goff stuck his arm out on a play-action fake to running back Todd Gurley, before delivering a deep ball about 50 yards in the air to Woods, who used his speed to do the rest for a 94-yard touchdown.

“The Robert Woods 90-plus-yard touchdown was huge,” McVay said. “Great pickup by the offensive line, Todd picks up the corner blitzing off the left side, and then Jared stands in there, delivers a great ball over the top, and then Robert finishes.”

“We had called it earlier and we didn’t get it snapped, or quarter ran out — I don’t remember,” Goff said. “But we got it [again], and I got it in my headset, and I came up to the line, and I see it’s quarters [coverage], and, ‘Alright, here we go.’ And sure enough, we got the look we wanted and I threw it over the top.”

Woods finished the game with a career-high 171 yards on eight receptions with a pair of touchdowns.

“I don’t think we can talk about Robert Woods as a possession receiver anymore after the last couple weeks,” McVay said. 

Goff also ended Sunday with a new career high in yards passing at 355.

“I put him in some bad spots and I thought he just stayed together, stayed the course, didn’t let whatever the previous plays that didn’t work out for us affect his ability to move forward,” McVay said of Goff’s performance. “And that’s what he’s done a really good job of thought the course of the first nine games now — he’s a mentally tough guy that’s unfazed by the good or the bad.”

But Woods’ first touchdown of the day put Los Angeles in clear command, especially given how well the defense had been playing all game. The Rams recorded four takeaways on Sunday, starting with a sack-fumble from defensive lineman Aaron Donald.

For the second week in a row, Donald ended the opposition’s opening drive with a strip-sack. On 2nd-and-8 from the Houston 39, Donald made his way into the backfield and hit his college teammate, Tom Savage. The loose ball rolled backwards where outside linebacker Matt Longacre recovered it, setting Los Angeles up at the Houston 12.

“Just got a one-on-one, won my one-on-one, and then got to the quarterback,” said Donald, who has recorded a sack in each of the Rams’ last four games.

Zuerlein would make his first field goal of the day from 27-yards out to give Los Angeles a 3-0 lead.

The Rams went ahead 6-0 after a Gurley took a screen pass 43 yards to the Houston 28 in the second quarter. Then Gurley received a handoff on the next play, advancing 15 yards to the Texans’ 13. Zuerlein connected on a 33-yard field goal after Goff’s third-down pass fell incomplete.

But after that, Houston took the lead with an eight play, 75-yard drive ending in a 26-yard touchdown pass from Savage to wide receiver Bruce Ellington.

The Texans had a good chance to stretch their advantage later in the period. The Rams elected to fake a punt on 4th-and-7 from their own 32, and though Johnny Hekker completed the pass to Pharoh Cooper, the wide receiver was tackled short of the sticks.

The visitors thus began their series at the Los Angeles 38, close to field-goal territory. However linebacker Mark Barron made sure Houston stayed off the board, intercepting a Savage pass at the 10-yard line and returning it to the Los Angeles 25.

That’s when the Rams’ offense would establish a bit of rhythm, using its two-minute offense to drive 43 yards in 10 plays. Zuerlein would cap the possession with a 50-yard field goal, giving L.A. a 9-7 lead at halftime.

Though they went three-and-out on their first possession after the break, and started their second at their own four-yard line, the Rams got back on the board with the long touchdown to Woods.

Later in the third quarter, Cooper took a punt return 27 yards, setting Los Angeles up at the Houston 36. While the offense lost five yards on its first play, Goff got right back on track with a 24-yard pass to Watkins on the left side. Then, going back to the line without a huddle, Goff found Watkins again on the left — this time with a with a wide receiver screen. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth was there to escort Watkins into the end zone, blocking a pair of defenders.

Goff said the touchdown, “was a great play call, I thought. Just getting him in a screen in the open field with Whitworth running out there.”

It didn’t take long for L.A. to score again, as outside linebacker Samson Ebukam recorded the first sack of his career on Houston’s first ensuing play, jarring the ball out in the process. Defensive tackle Tyrunn Walker recovered the fumble at the Houston 12-yard line.

“I didn’t even know that it was a forced fumble — I didn’t know,” Ebukam said with a laugh. “All I knew was that they left me open and I just took off and just attacked.”

Los Angeles need only one play to extend its lead, as Goff connected with Woods on a short swing pass in the backfield. The wide receiver did the rest, breaking a tackle on his way to the end zone to make the score 30-7 and complete the Rams’ 21-point, third-quarter onslaught.

“I think second half everybody was paying attention, we were focused on details, and I think that’s why we were able to click and those plays,” Woods said.

Zuerlein would add a 33-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to give the Rams their winning margin. And safety Blake Countess ended Houston’s final scoring threat by intercepting the first pass of his career for Los Angeles’ fourth takeaway.

“It helps us win games,” Donald said of forcing the turnovers. “Give the ball back to the offense and let them keep rolling. We’re playing as a team, and we have to stay on track.”

Los Angeles’ victory sets up a showdown with a pair of NFC division leaders in Week 11, as the Rams will travel to the Twin Cities to take on a Vikings team that has a matching 7-2 record under head coach Mike Zimmer.

“We know that, really, after nine games we’ve done a couple good things that give ourselves a chance to still continue to play meaningful football,” McVay said. “And now we’ve got a game coming up against another 7-2 team at their place, where they’re playing really well on all three phases. And it’s going to be a great challenge against coach Zimmer and the Vikings.”