A day after a humiliating defeat to the Atlanta Falcons, Jeff Fisher was fired as coach with three games remaining.“Our main man was fired,” receiver Tavon Austin said. “We were the cause of that.” Fassel, the special teams coordinator, was installed as interim coach and directed to keep the team together. Fassel took some chances and tried to inject some life into the Rams in his debut. He went for it on fourth down, called for long passes and fake punts and even lined up an offensive lineman in the backfield. But that was hardly enough against the Seahawks.
The Rams lost for the ninth time in 10 games and dropped to 4-10.The Seahawks beat the Rams for the first time in four games and clinched the NFC West by improving to 9-4-1. Before he was injured, Goff continued to struggle on a night when the Rams’ worst-in-the-NFL offense produced 183 yards.
Goff was trying to bounce back from last Sunday’s performance against the Falcons, when he had two passes intercepted — including a pick-six — and had the ball stripped and returned for a touchdown. On Thursday, he completed 13 of 25 passes for 135 yards. He was sacked four times and hit hard on numerous plays. Then came the scramble.
On second down, Goff took off from the Seahawks’ 17-yard line and ran along the Seahawks’ sideline.Coaches and teammates said several thoughts went through their minds as they watched the play unfold. “Get out of bounds,” Fassel said. “Leave the running to me,” running back Todd Gurley said, “leave the running to me.” Goff reached the two-yard line, where Sherman came flying in from the right and knocked Goff out of bounds. “He looked like he was setting up to take a dive into the end zone for a touchdown,” Sherman said, “and we don’t give free meals so he had to feel it.” Said Fassel: “If he’s not out of bounds, it’s a good hit.”
Adding insult to injury: The 15-yard gain was nullified by a holding penalty.It marked the second time this season that Goff ran to make a play only to have it erased by an infraction. This time it also had an added consequence. Goff got up and went to the Rams’ huddle, but officials called a medical timeout and Goff was removed from the game and then escorted to the locker room. “He’ll be OK,” Fassel said, “and that probably won’t ever happen again.” Teammates were impressed by Goff’s effort but cautioned against that kind of play. “He’s trying to score,” tight end Lance Kendricks said.
“I can’t say I blame him, but at the same time, you have to make sure you keep your body safe and make sure you don’t hurt yourself in the process of trying to do something for the team. “He showed toughness and tried to help.” The Rams defeated the Seahawks, 9-3, in Week 2 at the Coliseum, a victory that spurred a 3-1 start. Much has obviously changed since then, capped by Fisher’s firing. Players commended Fassel for his motivation and game plan. “A lot of stuff’s been going on this whole week,” cornerback Trumaine Johnson said.
“But this game today, we wanted to play for each other. “We tried to mete everything out this whole week. ... We just let a couple plays get away from us for touchdowns.” Both teams looked sluggish four days after embarrassing losses on Sunday. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who had five passes intercepted in a 38-10 loss at Green Bay, gave the Seahawks a 7-0 lead in the second quarter on a short touchdown pass to tight end Luke Willson. The Seahawks added a field goal, but the Rams pulled to within, 10-3 with a Greg Zuerlein field goal just before halftime. The Rams appeared to create a break in the third quarter when linebacker Bryce Hager intercepted a pass in the end zone.
But officials ruled that he did not have control of the ball when his second foot came down inbounds. Wilson then tossed a short pass to Doug Baldwin for a 17-3 lead, and added a 57-yard touchdown pass to receiver Tyler Lockett early in the fourth quarter. With two games left in their lost homecoming season, the Rams headed back to Los Angeles. Players said they would remain motivated.
“Guys got to play for their job,” said safety T.J. McDonald, who is in the final year of his contract. “Of course you want to play for each other as teammates and brothers but guys are playing for their future.” Offensive lineman Jamon Brown, who lined up at fullback for one play, said the work would continue and players would lean on each other. “We can’t lose sight of that,” he said, “even though adversity is at its max right now.”
Fassel said he would learn from the experience of his first game, especially as it relates to Goff. When the Rams traded six draft picks to move to the top of the draft, they made Goff their future and primary asset. Fassel acknowledged a responsibility to protect it. “Absolutely,” he said. “It’s a learning experience for me to make sure the kid gets down, gets out of bounds, protects the football, protects his body. “But he knows that.”