INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The Rams defense has had a habit of making timely, game-changing plays this season.
These plays have helped ignite rallies in both wins and losses, and while the result on Sunday at SoFi Stadium was the latter (23-20) rather than the former against the 49ers, they gave Los Angeles a chance when the game almost seemed out of reach.
"We expect that, you know," Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald said in his postgame video conference, when asked about the unit's mindset when it is put in a position to have to make one of those plays. "We just keep trying to play, trying to find ways to do what we can to get things going, trying to find a way to win."
A first-quarter interception by safety Jordan Fuller – off a pass tipped by Donald – led to the Rams' first points, a 48-yard field goal by kicker Matt Gay. However, with Los Angeles' offense committing three turnovers by halftime, more of those types of takeaways would be needed by the defense to give L.A. a chance to come back – especially with it trailing by 14 late in the third quarter.
Following a 41-yard field goal Gay, the defense came to life and provided one with just over two and a half minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Donald knocked the ball loose from 49ers running back Raheem Mostert, then cornerback Troy Hill scooped up the fumble and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown, pulling the Rams within four.
"Our defense played great all night," Rams quarterback Jared Goff said. "Offensively, we weren't doing much early on especially, and they kept us in it. A play like that was one we needed, a defensive touchdown, and yeah, that definitely sparked us a little bit."
After forcing the 49ers to go three-and-out on the series following the fumble return, the Rams rode running back Cam Akers' carries of 61 yards, 6 yards and one yard into the endzone to regain the lead 20-17.
Though holding the 49ers' offense to a game-tying field goal with 3:15 remaining gave up points, that stand by the Rams defense was still enough to put the Rams offense in position to potentially regain the lead with just a field goal. However, that series ended with Los Angeles punting near midfield.
Wide receiver Cooper Kupp said it's up to the offense to take advantage of those sparks created by Donald and other members of L.A.'s defense.
"I think as an offense, we've got to capitalize on those upswings, when the defense puts us in good field position with momentum," Kupp said. "It gets the defense back out on the field after a short series, and we have to do a better job there."