SEATTLE — To describe it as politely as possible, it was a... "gutsy" call.
The Rams got the ball back up 33-31 with 3:28 left. Running back Todd Gurley took a second-down handoff ostensibly for a first down, but the ball was spotted a yard short. Then Gurley took a third-down handoff and the ball was spotted about a foot short of the line to gain after a measurement.
Seattle head coach Pete Carroll took his third and final timeout with 1:39 remaining. That’s when things got — as we're going to keep calling it — gutsy.
“I think we got the first down on every single carry,” wide receiver Robert Woods said. He wanted a better spot on those third- and fourth-down plays.
Los Angeles’ punt team was on the field when Carroll used his timeout. Even though L.A. was close to the line to gain, it would’ve been the safe football move to have punter Johnny Hekker boot the ball down the field, forcing the Seahawks to drive down the field with no timeouts to score.
But hearing head coach Sean McVay tell the tale, the Rams’ offense was adamant — the unit wanted to stay on the field to win the game.
“Initially we talked about punting it,” McVay said postgame. “You look at the belief that they had and how much they wanted to do and because of their belief, it made me feel confident — it made us as a coaching staff feel confident to make that decision.”
What was that mindset like?
“We wanted to go for it,” right tackle Rob Havenstein said plainly.
So, decision made. The Rams would go for it.
But even though some members of the offense were on the field and ready, others weren’t.
“I can’t remember why — I think during a T.V. timeout, maybe they called a timeout — I can’t remember, we had a lot of time to decide,” quarterback Jared Goff said. “He was kind of going back and forth. I was off [the field] — I thought we were punting. I went back on the field just to talk to one of the officials about something and as I’m turning around, the offense is running back on. So I was like, ‘OK, I guess we are going for it.’”
“I was actually sitting on the bench with my helmet on the ground, then I realized the whole offense was out there, so I took off running,” left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. “I was already pouting — I was in full pout mode on the sideline and then realized the whole offense was out there, so I took off running.”
“We were all off the field and then I just see Goff running back on, and I’m just like, ‘Oh snap,’” Gurley said. “So we just kind of did that and everything took care of itself.”
So maybe it wasn’t as simple as McVay and Havenstein made it seem. But the Rams got in an offensive huddle for one play to get to 5-0 — a quarterback sneak.
Check out in-game photos from the Rams week 5 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks.
“There wasn’t a message [in the huddle],” Whitworth said. “I think every single guy, as soon as Sean called it — you could feel the energy and we knew he would get it. So nothing was really said. He said we are going for it and we knew we were going to get it.”
“We knew we were going to get it,” Gurley said. “We should’ve got it the previous two plays. But, you know, that’s why we play ball.”
“He was super calm,” left guard Rodger Saffold said of Goff, “which speaks volumes about him. He had a lot of poise in there. We were very intense, but we were very poised and calm. And I think that’s how you’re able to win in those situations.”
Once at the line of scrimmage, McVay noted that Goff varied his cadence a bit, and then “found a way not to be denied” by carrying the ball over the right side for a two-yard gain. Goff was able to get into the space created by right guard Austin Blythe and center John Sullivan for a clear first down.
“Yeah, that was the game,” Goff said. “They have a good field goal kicker and if we don’t get that first down there, they have a good chance to make it, and if we get the first down, the game is over. So it was all riding on that one play and we got a really good jump on them up front and really just fell forward, no push — just fell forward — first down.”
“We knew that he would probably have a better chance running off to the right,” Saffold said. “The big thing was just knowing that John was going to be going to the right as well — so [we had] to make sure that me and ‘Whit’ were really able to squeeze down and win our one-on-ones.”
As gutsy as the call was, even defensive players had a good feeling about the way things would turn out.
“Man, that offense has [stones], and we’re riding behind them,” defensive lineman Michael Brockers said. “When we saw it, defense was ready to go if we needed to. But we had confidence in the O that we know they’ll get the job done.”
Even though he made the decision to go for it, McVay made it clear that he didn’t do it because of any loss of confidence in the club’s defensive unit.
“I think really if you look at how much space there was — it was six inches,” McVay said. “While you do have confidence in our defense’s ability to close that out and win it, we felt like as a coaching staff and as a team, that if you have to get six inches to win a football game, what better opportunity is there going to be, rather than punting and the variables that can come in. When we felt like we had an opportunity to close that game there, that’s what we felt like was best. It goes back to the players’ ability to deliver.”
And deliver they did.
“You need these,” Gurley said. “It’s very hard to win in this league, and you need to know that when these days do come around — can you finish? And that’s what we did today.”