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Goff Has Career Day as Rams Down Vikings on Thursday Night Football, 38-31

Quarterback Jared Goff had a career day on Thursday Night Football, passing for over 450 yards with five touchdowns en route to a Rams 38-31 victory in primetime.

Goff became the first Rams quarterback to pass for five touchdowns since 1999 — when Hall of Famer Kurt Warner did it in October of that year against the 49ers. He registered career highs in yards passing and touchdowns in the contest.

The defense did have a tough time slowing down Minnesota’s offense throughout the game, as the visitors registered over 400 yards. But the defense made enough plays in key situations to walk away with a victory.

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The Vikings scored first on their opening possession, converting all three of their third-down opportunities to move down the field 75 yards ad score on an 11-play drive. Quarterback Kirk Cousins completed six of his eight passes for 68 yards on the series, finishing with a 16-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-10 to wide receiver Aldrick Robinson.

Down 7-0, L.A. started its first possession at their own 25-yard line following a touchback and responded well. The offense converted its first third-down opportunity with quarterback Jared Goff firing a nine-yard pass to wide receiver Brandin Cooks on 3rd-and-8. Later on 3rd-and-4, the club received the benefit of a defensive holding call to keep the possession alive.

And on 2nd-and-7 from Minnesota’s eight, Goff sizzled a throw in to running back Todd Gurley on the left seam for a touchdown. Gurley outran Vikings star linebacker Anthony Barr in the end zone for the play.

After the Vikings score a field goal to go up 10-7, the Rams quickly got back on the board with great play design and accurate throw from Goff to wideout Cooper Kupp. On 2nd-and-5 from their on 30, Goff dropped back and fired a perfect strike down the right side to a wide open Kupp. The Vikings had linebacker Anthony Barr lined up against Kupp, and the wideout outran him down the seam on what looked like a wheel route. The touchdown put L.A. back on top, 14-10.

The lead would be short lived, as the Vikings took only three plays to go 75 yards and score. Minnesota took advantage of Los Angeles’ aggressive defense on the first play of the possession, as a screen to wideout Stefon Diggs went 34 yards down the right side. A play later, Cousins connected with Robinson in the end zone again — this time for a 17-yard touchdown.

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Though the two teams traded punts for the first time in the first half, Los Angeles went right to work after getting the ball on its own 29. Goff connected with wide receiver Robert Woods for 36 yards to move the home team up to the Minnesota 19. And then Goff made one of the best passes of his young career.

The Cal product got flushed out of the pocket to the right, then launched a pass on the run to Kupp who caught it in the back-right corner of the end zone for a touchdown. It was another off-schedule play to show the connection between Goff and Kupp for the second consecutive week.

The defense got another stop, setting up the Rams for a two-minute drive with 1:41 left in the first half. But Goff and the offense barely needed any of that time to put more points on the board.

L.A. got the drive started with an 11-yard pass from Goff to Kupp over the middle of the field — and a Minnesota unsportsmanlike conduct penalty gave the home team 15 extra yards. Then on 1st-and-10 from the visitors’ 47, Goff dropped back and launched a deep pass to Cooks on a post route. The pass was on target, landing in Cooks’ hands as he crossed into the end zone for Goff’s fourth touchdown of the half.

Per NFL Research, that marked the first time a Rams quarterback has passed for at least four touchdowns in the first half of a game since 1999 when Hall of Famer Kurt Warner accomplished the feat.

Getting the ball back with plenty of time, Minnesota drove down the field and kicked a 39-yard field goal to cut the home team’s lead to 28-20 after 30 minutes.

Los Angeles moved the ball well to start its first possession of the second half, but then got slowed by a run stuff and a nine-yard sack. The Rams couldn’t convert the 3rd-and-20 with a screen pass to Cooks, and with the ball at the 36-yard line, the club tried a fake punt. Johnny Hekker lined up, looked left, then came back right and tossed a deep ball to wide receiver Josh Reynolds who couldn’t reel it in as the pass fell incomplete.

The Rams’ defense picked the offense up, forcing a punt as Cousins misfired to Stefon Diggs on 3rd-and-10 from the L.A. 46.

Starting with the ball at their own 16-yard line, the Rams moved into scoring range with a well-timed play call by head coach Sean McVay. On 2nd-and-1 from the L.A. 25, Goff tossed a screen to Gurley on the left side, and he had a lot of green space in front of him — going 56 yards down to the Minnesota 19.

Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley celebrates after a touchdown by wide receiver Brandin Cooks during the first half in an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Kicker Sam Ficken would drill a 34-yard field goal to increase Los Angeles’ lead to 31-20.

Cornerback Sam Shields — starting his first game since 2016 — nearly ended the ensuing Minnesota possession when he got two hands on the ball on 3rd-and-10, but Cousins’ pass slipped through his fingers and into the hands of Diggs for a 24-yard gain. Two plays later, Cousins connected with wide receiver Adam Thielen for a 45-yard touchdown down the left seam. Cousins completed a pass in the right flat to running back Latavius Murray for a two-point conversion, making the game 31-28, L.A.

That score wouldn’t hold for long, as the Rams used Gurley and Woods to get down the field quickly for Goff’s fifth touchdown. On consecutive sequences, Goff handed off to Gurley then used play action to fire a strike to Woods — moving up to the Minnesota 31.

Then McVay used a bit of a wrinkle, coming out in 13 personnel — one running back, three tight ends, one wide receiver — for likely the first time all night. The Rams shifted to an empty set with Goff in shotgun and the rest of the eligible receivers split out wide. After the snap, Goff fired a strike down the seam to Woods who reeled it in for a 31-yard touchdown.

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After the defense forced another punt — on a drive where defensive tackle Aaron Donald got his first sack of the year — the Rams were in position to extend their lead after a drive went from the 15 to deep in Minnesota territory. But Ficken would miss a 28-yard field goal wide right, keeping the score at 38-28 with 8:21 to go.

The Vikings began their ensuing possession from their own 20, and cut through the Rams’ defense to advance to the red zone. But defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh recorded his second sack of the season when rushing off the edge on 3rd-and-6 — taking Cousins down for an eight-yard loss. Kicker Dan Bailey drilled a 40-yard field goal through the uprights to cut Los Angeles’ lead to 38-31.

The Rams could not move the sticks on their ensuing possession, forcing Hekker to punt for just the second time in the game. After the punt was downed at the Minnesota 34, Donald wasted no time in getting his second sack of the game, spinning Cousins down on 1st-and-10 for an eight-yard loss.

Cousins completed an eight-yard pass to wideout Laquon Treadwell on second down, and then a 13-yard pass to his same receiver, however, to get a first down at the Minnesota 49.

But that was all Minnesota would get, as rookie defensive end John Franklin-Myers would record a sack/fumble on Cousins with Suh recovering the ball at the Minnesota 44 to effectively end the game.

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