INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP)The Los Angeles Rams did enough in the first half to take a lead against one of the best teams in the NFC, only for late defensive breakdowns to send them back to the locker room trailing.
Allowing a 75-yard touchdown drive in the final 32 seconds of the second quarter didn’t just change the tenor of a 23-14 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. It served as another reminder of how far the retooled Rams have to go.
“That was tough,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “And it was almost identical to the way that things played out against the 49ers. In some instances, it was almost deja vu.”
The Rams (2-3) were well-positioned after Matthew Stafford threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to rookie Puka Nacua for a 14-10 lead.
But cornerback Derion Kendrick gave up a 38-yard catch to A.J. Brown on third down with 7 seconds left, compounding his error by committing a horse-collar tackle that moved the Eagles to the Rams 14-yard line.
Kendrick was then called for pass interference on Brown in the end zone, allowing Philadelphia to employ its “Brotherly Shove” quarterback sneak. Jalen Hurts’ 1-yard touchdown run on the last play of the first half put the Eagles back on top.
It was eerily similar to a drive in the Rams’ home opener against the San Francisco 49ers on Sept. 17. The Rams allowed their NFC West rivals to go 75 yards in the final 1:45 of the second quarter, with Kendrick also responsible for two major penalties, and Brock Purdy scored on a quarterback sneak as time expired.
As had happened against the 49ers, the Rams never established any momentum in the second half on offense or defense after their late gaffe.
“I don’t like losing,” cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon said. “I think we’re too talented of a group to keep losing these types of games, coming up close against good opponents. It’s time to start cashing in on W’s, and I think we have the group that can do it. We got to make those changes that’s gonna give us an opportunity to win.”
McVay displayed uncharacteristic emotion during his postgame news conference, at one point pounding his fist on the lectern for emphasis.
“I’m excited about figuring out how the hell we get some of this stuff fixed, and I’m not sitting up here having to rationalize all the stuff that goes on throughout the course of a game because I know we can get this stuff done,” McVay said.
Stafford lamented the lack of complementary football in the second half, pointing to the sequence after Witherspoon made a twisting interception in the end zone.
The subsequent possession stalled out, and Philadelphia responded with a field goal to go up 20-14.
“So there were just opportunities for both sides of the ball to just grab the momentum and kind of run with it, and we weren’t able to do it,” said Stafford, who was 21 of 37 passing for 222 yards and two touchdowns. “We played a really good football team. Knew we were going to be kind of limited possession-wise, and we needed to be a little bit more productive on the possessions we did get.”
Not even the return of receiver Cooper Kupp, who made his season debut after missing the first four games because of a hamstring injury he sustained in training camp, could give the offense a lift in the second half.
Kupp came out strong, making five receptions for 56 yards on the Rams’ opening touchdown march. But he and Stafford just missed on a few deep throws in the second half when it was still a one-score game.
“There’s a few things that I’m sure I’m gonna look at tomorrow and just feel like, ‘Man, just didn’t happen a little bit faster.’ But it did feel good to be out there playing football again,” said Kupp, who finished with eight catches for 118 yards.
The defense didn’t fare much better in the critical moments, allowing the Eagles to go 13 of 18 on third downs. Hurts had two key scrambles to extend scoring drives.
“You’re out there covering, and you look back and he’s running and he’s making people miss tackles,” Witherspoon said. “It’s just we got to find a way to rush better, we got to find a way to cover better, and find a way to get him down. It’s just a whole collective effort.”
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