It was yet again the same old story for the Los Angeles Rams on Christmas Eve falling to their sixth straight loss in a frustrating 22-21 defeat at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers.
The Rams held a 14-7 edge throughout much of the game after a pair of first-quarter rushing touchdowns by Todd Gurley and Tavon Austin. In fact, the latter came on a 30-yard run from Austin following a 29-yard interception return by Cody Davis.
Los Angeles had increased the deficit to double digits early in the fourth quarter on a two-yard touchdown pass from Jared Goff to Tyler Higbee putting them ahead 21-7 with just over 10 minutes left in the game. However, the momentum completely shifted following that point for San Francisco responding with a pair of touchdowns on back-to-back drives that each spanned at least 10 plays along with totaling 70-plus yards.
The final score came on a drive that took just over two minutes to get into the end zone. Colin Kaepernick was responsibility for all but two yards completing seven of eight passes for 71 yards ending with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Rod Streater. Kaepernick capped off the comeback with a two-yard scramble for the two-point conversion to put them ahead 22-21 with 31 seconds left in the quarter.
“I even looked at the scoreboard and said, ‘we got a two-score lead, our defense is playing good, got a little momentum scoring a touchdown, let’s finish it,'" Interim Head Coach John Fassel. "We kept life in them at the end of the game by not getting a couple extra first downs and burning more minutes or burning their timeouts. They scored two touchdowns. It flips quick.”
Despite a strong return by Pharoh Cooper to their own 42-yard line on the ensuing kickoff, Goff threw his second interception of the game two plays later to seal his team's fate falling to their 10th loss in the last 11 games.
Los Angeles strung together three scoring drives, but there wasn't much flow to the offense for large portions of the game. The offense was forced to punt on seven consecutive drives that went through the entire and second third quarters. It was another inconsistent offensive performance with the Rams totaling just 177 yards along with just 13 first downs. Gurley was also limited to just 67 rushing yards on 23 carries.
“A lot of reasons. It’s a collective effort, but ultimately, offensively, it’s been the story all year, we need to play better," said Goff, who completed 11-of-24 passes for a career-low 90 yards and one touchdown. "Our defense is pretty damn good when they’re off the field, and get some time and we’re not going three-and-out every time. Ultimately, the offense needs to play better – it starts with the quarterback, it starts with me. As the leader of the team, the leader of the offense, I need to be better – better than I was today, for sure.”
It has been a difficult stretch of games for Goff throwing at least one interception in four out of the first six career starts while compiling fewer than 200 yards four times. That said, the first overall pick of the 2016 draft has strong faith that he will perform better.
"I’ll say this, to all the fans and everybody that came out today, we’re appreciative and understand where we are," Goff said. "We know that they understand where we are. It’s just hard, I know they see it – it’s hard in the locker room, it’s hard for all of us. But I promise you guys it will get fixed – everything in my heart and soul to get it all fixed.”
In the loss, there were a few major individual milestones achieved by Rams players with Kenny Britt becoming the first receiver to amass over 1,000 yards since Torry Holt in the 2007 season. Johnny Hekker also established a new NFL single-season record with 50 punts downed inside the opponents 20-yard line breaking the previous record held by former Arizona Cardinals punter Dave Zastudil.